Sunday, 10 June 2018

Home Grown Exotics

Grow exotic houseplants from fruit and vegetables bought from the greengrocer

There are many fruit and vegetables we can easily buy at the greengrocer’s or the fruit and veg section of the local supermarket, that can be grown as unusual and exotic houseplants.

Pineapple flower

Homegrown Pineapples

The pineapple (Ananas comosus) is one of the best tropical fruits to try growing at home and with a bit of care it will even produce fruit.

I speak from experience, because many years ago when I was still living in Cardiff, I made the HTV News at Christmas with my homegrown pineapple. I was filmed watering my pineapple plant and talking about how I had cultivated it. I said I used soil from the back garden and water from the tap, and that I repotted it when the plant got too big for the pot it was in, but that was all I did. An expert from the Welsh National Botanical Centre praised my achievement, and I was proclaimed as the first Welsh pineapple grower.



All you need to do to follow my example, is to twist the spiky rosette part off from the top of a pineapple, and then remove the leaves at the base to leave a stump. Leave this to dry for a few days before planting by pushing gently into a pot of damp compost. If you are in luck, there may already be tiny roots sprouting from this stump before you plant it.

Once well-rooted the pineapple will grow into a large rosette of spiky leaves and after a few years, all going well, it will produce a flowering stalk right in the centre. Mine took five years to flower but that was in a house with no central heating in Wales! The tiny flowers are a pretty lavender shade and surrounded by reddish spiky bracts.

After the pineapple has ripened and been removed side shoots will form on the main stem. These can be removed for further pineapple propagation or if left on the original plant long enough, they can flower and produce a second crop. I managed to grow another pineapple like this.



Taro or Inhame

The taro (Colocasia esculenta)  is a root vegetable that is sold as “inhame” in Portugal, and ñame” in Spain and the Canary Islands. The corms are cooked by baking, roasting or boiling, but what many people do not realise is that if planted these corms will produce a most attractive houseplant if given the chance. In fact, the taro is often grown as an ornamental plant known as “elephant’s ears.” It gets this name because it has large heart-shaped leaves.

Elephant's Ears

The taro likes a very damp compost and will grow submerged. You can often see these plants growing in fountains and water gardens. I have grown taro in a pot of compost I stood in a bucket of water.

Kiwifruit

Steve Andrews in the South Wales Echo

You can grow kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) vines from seeds from kiwis you have bought. It takes a long time for the plants to grow big enough to produce flowers and fruit but it can be done. I managed this when I was living in Wales still and followed up my pineapple story in the local media with my success at harvesting kiwifruit in my back garden. I admit it took five years before I had any fruit on my vines but I felt a real sense of achievement when I had my first crop of seven kiwifruit and my picture in the South Wales Echo. If I can grow kiwis in Cardiff, think how much better they would do here in Iberia!

Avocado

Avocado Tree

The avocado (Persea americana) is another fruit that can be easily grown. Just plant the large pits in a pot of compost and wait for them to sprout. Many people think you need special techniques for getting them to germinate but I have never found this to be the case. Simply burying a pit in a pot of damp soil has worked for me.  Your homegrown avocado will make an interesting houseplant when it is young and can be moved outside in Iberia when it gets bigger. Eventually it will form a large tree.

Ginger

Ginger

Another easy plant to grow is ginger (Zingiber officinale). This root vegetable is commonly used as a spice for curries and other hot dishes, and in herbal teas. Fresh ginger roots or rhizomes are easy to find in supermarkets. They will often start sprouting green shoots when in storage, almost as if they are inviting you to plant them!

All you need to do is to break off sections and plant them in a pot of compost. The shoots will take a few weeks to really sprout but will then keep growing into a plant with long narrow leaves. You can harvest your first crop of ginger later the same year, and fresh ginger you have grown yourself is so much fresher than the ginger you can buy.

There are many more fruits and vegetables that will grow from seeds, pips or roots of shop-bought produce.  Why not see what you can get to sprout? It can be a lot of fun finding out what can be grown and what the plants actually look like!

NB: The text for this article was originally published in Mediterranean Gardening & Outdoor Living Magazine, Issue 22, February 2016.

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