Fast food and good health are rarely put in the same sentence but if you grow some Asian veggies, you can simply chuck them in a wok with a dash of soy sauce, ginger and herbs and within minutes you’ll have an authentic, tasty, nutritious meal that can cost just pennies to produce. Growing your own Asian veggies will be challenging and fun, so if you’re looking to try a new healthier diet in 2018, then I suggest that you give them go.
Essentials like ginger and lemon grass are relatively easy to grow. All you need is an unheated polytunnel with open sides for ventilation, although you might get away with them in a sheltered, sunny garden if the plants are well mulched with straw in winter.
Ginger can be started off from tubers picked up from the supermarket – look for plump tubers with buds on them and simply pot them up in well-draining, gritty compost and within six weeks shoots will appear
Planted out inside your polytunnel and left to their own devices for up to a year, the plant will produce pale yellow fragrant flowers, which if picked before they open can be used to flavour soups. The roots can be used fresh within four months after planting but if you want to store them it’s better to leave the plant until after it has flowered and the foliage died back.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could also try growing the unusual sub-tropical pond marginal taro. The taro tubers are frost sensitive and must be brought indoors for the winter.
The narrow heart-shaped leaves, which not unlike the shape of elephant’s ears, make an attractive pot plant – simply stand it in a saucer of water to keep the soil moist
When planting taro or colocasia tubers, they should be watered sparingly until the young shoots have formed leaves – tuber rot can result from excessive cold, damp soil conditions that can occur when the roots are not developed enough to remove moisture from the soil.
Taro tubers, which are roughly the size of a tennis ball and covered in brownish hairs, can be cooked like potatoes and have a sweet flavour and doughy texture. The leaves and young stems are also edible
To succeed with lemon grass, the secret is to buy a fresh root from an ethnic market then start it off in water and wait six weeks for roots to appear then after eight pot up. It’ll thrive in a sunny spot providing that the temperature doesn’t fall below 8C for any length of time in the winter but even a tatty, weather worn plant should recover well enough to produce an abundance of grassy leaves and swollen stems that can be used to give food a lemony flavour that is sometimes described as ‘sweet and sour’.
Brassicas like Chinese cabbage, mustard greens and pak choi are already established plants in many kitchen gardens throughout Britain
You can grow Chinese greens as cut-and-come-again seedlings and semi-mature crops in spring or left to produce mature heads and flowering shoots in summer. With the help of a cold frame or polytunnel, crops will also come through a typical British winter unscathed.
The seed germinates fast and you can almost see the plants grow – it takes less than two months to have a mature crop ready for the kitchen, so you have to watch them, and especially if the summer temperatures take a nose dive, as they have a tendency to bolt.
Perilla ‘Shiso Green’, was popular with our Victorian fathers who also used to grow the red-leaved form in their flowerbeds!
Perilla is grown as a half-hardy annual and whilst the seedlings are used as garnish the mature leaves are cut fresh as and when required to give dishes like stir-fries a sweet, tangy flavour. Cultivation is very easy Perilla prefers light to medium moist well-drained and rich soil in full sun. It is also a very attractive plant for the garden as the leaves have a strong minty smell and the flowers attract butterflies.
Oriental beans are a good choice for adventurous gardeners and the ‘yard long’ or Chinese beans, really do produce pods 90cm long, although they rarely reach this size in Britain, so are usually picked when about 45cm long. They are related to black-eyed peas, but taste and look like green beans. Like French beans, they’re a bit risky outdoors as they need a warm summer to thrive but a crop under polythene is bound to work in even chilly areas. Dig in plenty of well-rotted manure for maximum yields and give them a strong support for in a good summer they’ll climb up to 2.5m.
Soya ‘meaty’ high protein beans are packed with goodness. They can be simply steamed, mixed into stir-fries or used as a substitute in recipes calling for broad beans
Look for quick-maturing varieties of Soya beans, and especially for growing in northern gardens, to guarantee a crop before the frosts come. Plant them out in early summer. It takes about 75 – 80 days for the beans fully mature.
When the seeds are mature, the upright vine and foliage begin to shrivel and the leaves fall away. Harvest must be completed before the pods shatter and burst open. Leave the roots in the soil when the haulm is cleared as they return nitrogen to the soil.
Bottle gourds, easy to grow from seed and best grown up trellis or over a pergola to help retain their shape, if left to grow on the ground they may flatten on one side. They make excellent birdhouses, just leave them to dry, drill an access hole for the birds add a drainage hole or two and hang them up. Dried Bottle Gourd can also be decorated for ornaments and musical instruments
Gourds and squashes are found in abundance in Asian food. The edible bottle gourd can be used in very much the same way as a courgette and the leaves and shoot tips can be cooked as greens.
Gourds love heat, moisture and a rich diet so it is important to plant it in a moisture-retentive fertile soil and give them some protection from cool, drying winds.
In all but the warmest seasons gourds and squashes are best grown under cover and treated like you would ordinary cucumbers. The fruits develop on the lateral shoots as well as the main stems making them a good choice for growing over decorative arch or pergola. Expect growth to be rampant and don’t be afraid to trim them back if need be.
Amaranthus Red Army or Chinese spinach is another decorative plant and a great choice for growing in the flowerbeds. The leaves are very nutritious, rich in protein, iron and vitamins and have an excellent and distinct flavour. Treat as you would Spinach but don’t overcook, or pick when very young to add colour to your salads
Amaranthus comes with decorative leaf variegations that are dark green, brown, red and golden yellow plus flowers range from deep yellow green through biscuit shades to deep red, which is a real plus for flower arrangers. Grow it as a ‘cut and come again’ crop and use the young leaves raw in salads. If the plant is left to mature then serve it steamed or in stir-fries. In Asia, Amaranthus is also widely used in soups.
Shop around for seed www.chilternseeds.co.uk, www.marshalls-seeds.co.uk, www.realseeds.co.uk, mr-fothergills.co.uk, www.simplyseed.co.uk, www.nickys-nursery.co.uk, www.seedparade.co.uk and www.unwins.co.uk all offer an Oriental range or buy your veg from Asian supermarkets and save some of the seed to sow later.
Ginger is grown in Asia, East Africa and the Caribbean. It’s a perennial plant, producing bright red flowers that come in different shapes such as torch and honeycomb.
Dare to experiment and keep good records, noting which varieties, what sowing times and the growing conditions that worked best.
Invest in a polytunnel for guaranteed crops, especially of Amaranthus and Yard Long beans.
Remember that brassicas have a tendency to bolt, so delay sowing until late summer and when cutting mature brassicas, leave a stump behind and cut a cross in the top of it for several small heads to form.
Broadcast sow ‘cut-and-come-again’ seedling crops in wide drills. The first cut should be made when the seedlings are 2.5-7cm high, using scissors. Snip them just above the first, tiny seed leaves to encourage a second crop.
Snake beans, known as Chinese long beans produce pods up to 90cm long although they are normally eaten when pods reach 30cm
Long beans are an ideal plant for the children to grow. Seed should be started off in pots on the windowsill then after the rik of frost it past, plant them in a sheltered sunny spot ideally against a south facing wall. Space the plants 15cm apart with 60cm between rows and provide support. They will start to flower and form pods after mid-summer. In cooler climates yard long beans can be grown in a conservatory or tunnels and are best picked when young and succulent, cut to 3-5cm in length for cooking.
Healthy recipes to try…
Tofu and Pak Choi ‘pick-me-up’ Soup
This tasty soup is so warm and comforting and savoury, with perfect little bites of tofu and seaweed in every spoonful…and it only takes 15 minutes to make
4 cups water
1/2 cup chopped green chard or other sturdy gree
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup firm tofu, cubed
3-4 tbsp miso paste
Optional: 1 sheet nori or dried seaweed, cut into large rectangles
If you want a bit more emphasis on the greens, add some green chard and lots of green onion to the mix
Place water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a low simmer.
Add nori and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
In the meantime, place 3 tbsp of miso into a small bowl, add a little hot water and whisk until smooth. Then add to the soup and stir. (Miso is made from fermented soybeans and is a thick paste-like substance which has a great umami flavor)
Add remaining ingredients to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Taste and add more miso or a pinch of sea salt if desired. Serve warm.
This hot, hot ginger tea – the perfect way to increase your sex drive!
Ginger can be made into a winter-warming tea, which not only tastes good and help alleviate an upset stomach but is also an aphrodisiac and one cup a day is thought to stimulate your sexual appetite and ignite strong feelings of lust and desire.
A cup of ginger tea improve sexual performance in both men and women!
finger length piece of fresh raw ginger
2 cups water
Juice from lemon or lime, to taste (optional, but delicious)
First, prepare the fresh ginger by peeling it and slicing it thinly to maximize the surface area. This will help you make a very flavourful ginger tea.
Boil the ginger in water for at least 10 minutes. For a stronger and tangier tea, allow to boil for 20 minutes, or longer, and use more slices of ginger.
Remove from heat and add lime juice and honey to taste.
IT’S A FACT!
Queen Elizabeth I, invented the gingerbread man in the 16th century, when she had the made to resemble respected guests at a Royal ball