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In the summer and autumn of 2013 Kew Gardens celebrated the amazing bounty of the plant world, inviting visitors to experience first-hand a selection of the 12,000 species we humans can feast on. Throughout the festival people from all over Kew contributed to this blog, sharing their behind-the-scenes experiences of creating festival attractions as well as shedding light on the wonderful world of edible plants.

Ever eaten a cashew apple?

By: Wolfgang Stuppy - 24 Jun 2013
For the IncrEdibles festival Kew’s resident seed specialist Wolfgang Stuppy is contributing bite-size features about weird and wonderful edible plants from around the world. In the first of the series – the incredible cashew apple!
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Most of us know and love cashew nuts - but how many people know about the incredible fruit they originally come from?

  • Bright & beautiful Cashew nuts come from wonderfully colourful fruits that grow on trees with large, beautiful, bright green leaves.

Photo of cashew fruits

The vibrantly colourful fruits of the cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale)

  • Native to Brazil The cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale, Anacardiaceae) is originally native to the coastal plains of north-eastern Brazil, where it forms part of the so-called restinga vegetation, though it is nowadays cultivated and naturalised almost all over the tropics. (Restinga is a distinct type of tropical and subtropical forest found on acidic, nutrient-poor soils on Brazil’s Atlantic coast.)
  • The origin of 'cashew' Long before European colonisation in the sixteenth century, Brazilian Indians relished the delicious fruits. Called ‘acajú’ by the members of the Tupi tribe, the name was converted by the Portuguese into ‘cajú’ and eventually became ‘cashew’ in English.

Main image: young cashew fruits with their stalks starting to swell. Inset top right: cashew flowers.

Main image: young cashew fruits with their stalks starting to swell. Inset top right: cashew flowers.

  • Cashew apples and cashew nuts From very humble, tiny whitish-pink flowers (see the inset photo, above) form the rather large, brightly-coloured and somewhat weird-looking fruits (see photo below). When ripe they resemble a very soft pear with a hard, kidney-shaped nut tucked in at one end.

Cashew fruits on the tree

Ripe cashew fruits on the tree

  • Apples or pears? The pear-like part, also called ‘cashew apple’ (whoever came up with that name has never seen an apple next to a pear!) is extremely juicy and sensitive to pressure which is why you can’t find them in our supermarkets. In Brazil I have seen them offered on roadside stalls carefully displayed in egg trays.

Photo of cashew fruits in an egg tray

 'Cashew apples' are so soft, they need to be treated like raw eggs (here, in a roadside stall in Lindóia, Brazil)

  • How to eat cashew apples Should you ever be lucky enough to encounter fresh cashew fruits on a holiday in the tropics, remember, the amazingly succulent cashew pear, er... apple, is best enjoyed by sucking out the sweet juice and discarding the stringy-fibrous residue.

Read more about the amazing cashew fruit on the Millennium Seed Bank blog

 


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Spinach! Spinach! Spinach!

By: Aaron Marubbi - 17 Jun 2013
If you’re looking for something that’s incredibly easy to grow and gives quick gratification for your efforts than look no further than spinach! Like radish and lettuce, spinach should be at the top of anyone’s list for quick reliable growers that give bumper crops with very little effort.
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Right now on the student vegetable plots we’re harvesting tons of the stuff. On my plot it was the first thing to be harvested. I picked the first few leaves when they are softest and least bitter in the first week of May and I’m still harvesting now. Even with the unpredictable and ridiculously changeable weather we’ve had here at Kew, it’s pulled though and given me a reliable crop each week.

Why should you grow spinach?

It's really easy to grow, it doesn’t take up much space and, if you don’t have space, it's perfect for pots and containers too. From sowing to harvesting you only have to wait 4 weeks. Much like lettuce, spinach is a ‘cut-and-come-again’ crop, and I would recommend using it like this! Pick the leaves as soon as they are big enough, pick little and often, and you’ll always have a supply of leaves. You can keep picking like this for from 10 to 12 weeks. Spinach is a hard worker, and definitely pays for its place on any plot.

Photo of a robin keeping a close eye on the spinach at the student vegetable plots

A robin keeping a close eye on the spinach at the student vegetable plots (Photo: A.Marubbi)

Which variety?

We have been growing a spinach variety called 'Amazon', not the most exciting variety but a good reliable cropper. In the past I've found 'Palco' to be a good variety. It's slow to bolt and mildew-resistant which makes it ideal for early sowings and repeat sowings through the summer. It's also been given an award of garden merit from the RHS, so has a good track record.

Spinach 'Amazon'

Spinach ‘Amazon’ growing happily on the plot in May (Photo: A.Marubbi)

How do you grow spinach?

Sow the seeds directly into the soil, spinach isn’t fussy. You can start sowing outside from February, and carry on repeated sowings throughout the summer. As soon as the first seedlings start showing their heads, do another sowing, this way you can get successive crops and an uninterrupted supply of leaves through the season. They don’t need too much space between each plant, 10cm will do.

What can you do with spinach?

To be fair, it’s not the most glamorous of veggies... but it’s very versatile. The young leaves are perfect for salads, they’re soft and sweet, but still have a bitter kick like rocket. The older leaves are much more bitter but great melted in pasta dishes or cooked on their own with a little butter – this is definitely my favourite way of eating it! And there is only one possible way to deal with a glut of spinach – spinach cake!

Recipe for spinach cake

I’m harvesting big bags full every week now, so I’ve had to get inventive with it. Last year at home my mum and I experimented by making a savoury spinach cake. Since then I haven’t looked back and every chance I have to make it - I DO! If you only grow spinach to make this cake then all your efforts have been well worth it. This recipe gives you a moist, savoury, cheesy, almost quiche-like filling; it's light and just as good eaten hot or cold!!

Ingredients
600g spinach leaves
5 spring onions
30g butter
5 eggs
1 large courgette
100ml white wine
250ml crème fraiche
50g grated parmesan
Freshly grated nutmeg
Black pepper & salt

Method

- Dice the courgette and spring onions. Sauté in the warm butter until soft and slightly coloured.
- Raise the heat a little and add white wine (or water). Allow to reduce, letting the courgettes bubble in the liquid.
- Wash the spinach, remove the thick stalks leaving only the leaves, and wilt in a large hot pan with only the water that clings to their leaves when they were washed. This takes seconds to cook.
- Drain and squeeze the spinach of all the remaining water. Roughly chop and add to the spring onions and courgettes. With a hand blender ‘blitz’ the mix into a green paste.

Spinach cake batter

No other cake batter like this one (Photo: A.Marubbi)


- Add the cream, eggs, salt, pepper, parmesan and nutmeg and blitz again to give a lovely thick green batter.
- Pour this into a buttered 10 inch cake tin and bake for 30 minutes at 170C, until the cake is set but still with a little wobble in the middle.
- Stand for 30 mins and serve... Delicious!

Spinach cake batter

Spinach cake straight out of the oven (Photo: A.Marubbi)

So - make a space on your plot for wonderful, versatile, easy-to-grow and yummy spinach!

- Aaron -


 

Student Vegetable Plots and weekend 'grow your own' surgeries

Admire our extensive vegetable plots, managed by students from Kew's School of Horticulture, and be inspired to get planting yourself! At the weekend, students and apprentices will be around to offer visitors advice about seed sowing, transplanting and proven techniques, so you can get the most out of your garden. They'll also be available to answer your questions.

  • When are the student vegetable plots open? - all day, during Garden opening hours
  • When are the 'grow your own' surgeries' open? - Every Saturday and Sunday, 11am - 4pm
  • Price -  free, with admission to the Gardens
  • Where are the student vegetable plots? - The student vegetable plots are behind the Davies Alpine House at the bottom right of the map - Plan your visit with the IncrEdibles Voyage map (pdf)

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Related links


 

Tags: edible


2 comments on 'Spinach! Spinach! Spinach!'


How we created the IncrEdibles bag for life

By: Imogen Driver - 13 Jun 2013
Here in the Kew Buying Team we decided it was time to add some fun to our Summer range and the IncrEdibles festival has given us the perfect excuse!
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Brainstorming

We knew we wanted to offer our customers a new and exciting bag for life so, as with a lot of our projects, we started with an office brainstorm. Our first thought was to use the marketing poster - big, bright and bold! But, after some thought, we realised we wanted to offer something a bit different from the main festival imagery.

The IncrEdibles poster

Image from the IncrEdibles festival poster

The pineapple logo

So we then commissioned one of our Kew design staff to come up with a design but, once again, it was still heavily tied to the festival imagery. Both felt too busy, too cluttered, to make the simple, bold statement which a bag requires.

In the team discussions we'd learned that the dad of Jess (our Horticulture Buyer) is a freelance designer, so we contacted him with a brief that he use an image from the festival but keep it simple and uncluttered. To our delight he designed a fantastic pineapple, inspired by the giant pineapple which is the centrepiece of the Tuttii Frutti boating experience, and which we can see out on the Palm House Pond from our office.

The pineapple logo

The pineapple logo

Which colour?

We then had the idea of playing on the New York I ‘heart’ NY t-shirts which are so iconic, so we briefed this to our UK bag supplier. We asked them to try different colour options, initially thinking blue would be good. However, it felt a bit dark for what is meant to be a summer festival (weather permitting!):

The Kew bag for life in navy blue

The Kew bag for life in navy blue

Pretty in pink

Finally, the best choice became obvious and, as a team, we decided on the bright pink. Our bag for life was born! We emailed our supplier our approval of their artwork and the go-ahead for them to start the printing and just two weeks later the stock began arriving in our warehouse.

Photo of Kew's pink pineapple bag for life

Kew's pink pineapple bag for life

Buy now!

As you can see the design process takes many attempts and is a real team (and family!) effort.

And, as luck would have it, it seems pineapples are really on trend this year – we keep spotting them everywhere. Originally they were a symbol of aristocratic wealth but we like Kew’s funkier approach.

Supporting UK businesses is very important to us at Kew so we printed a limited edition of 500 of these bags here in the UK out of 100% cotton. At £3.50 they are a bargain and can be bought on our online shop or in any of our shops at Kew Gardens. Grab one while you still can!

 

- Imogen Driver -

 


 

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Growing IncrEdibles in Kew’s Decorative Nursery

By: Ginny Malmgren - 07 Jun 2013
Part of Kew's IncrEdibles festival is the 'Vegetable Medley' on the Palm House Parterre which is being prepared by the Decorative Nursery team.
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Some highlights

Over 13,500 plants are currently in the glasshouse for the Palm House Parterre alone – all grown from seed in our nursery. Each of the plants being grown for the festival requires different growing conditions, for example:

Bell peppers (the cultivar we are growing is Capsicum annuum ‘Topepo Rosso’) require very high temperatures to germinate. We have found that emergence of the cotyledons happens fastest when we can get the soil temperature up to about 30°C. To achieve this we put the seed trays on our heated bench inside large propagation cases with the lids shut so that heat cannot escape.

Celeriac and celery both originate from the species Apium graveolens which naturally thrives in boggy conditions and so we have made sure these plants get plenty of water. Cultivars that will be on display in the Parterre are A. graveolens subsp. rapaceum ‘Prinz’ and A. graveolens ‘Victoria’.

Other plants such as aubergines (Solanum melongena) need to be kept on the drier side, particularly with the coir-based growing medium that we use. Three cultivars will be on show in the Parterre bedding this year: ‘Giotto’, ‘Ivory’ and ‘Slim Jim’.

Leeks need a long growing period if they are to make any impact in the bedding display and so these were the first seeds to be sown in February. The cultivar we have chosen – Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum ‘St. Victor’. This particular cultivar has a beautiful purple tinge to its leaves and is decorative as well as delicious.

Joanna Bates watering

 Joanna Bates watering newly potted on runner beans with celeriac and kohl rabi in the foreground (Photo: Ginny Malmgren)   

Capsicum annuum ‘Super Chilli’ has lived up to its name and has romped away and is definitely ready to be planted out in the Parterre.

Capsicum annuum ‘Super Chilli’ 


Capsicum annuum ‘Super Chilli’ growing in the Decorative Greenhouse (Image:Ginny Malmgren)

Hardening off

Plants were moved to the polytunnel for hardening off two weeks ago. The doors were kept open during the day to allow the plants to slowly acclimatise to outdoor conditions after their cosy start in life inside the nursery. After about a week they were gradually moved to our standing out ground for a further week.

Planting out

The Victoria Gate team, with the help of our diploma students, started removing the spring bedding display on Monday 3 June. They then carefully levelled and profiled the Parterre beds ready for planting out. The planting out started on Monday 10 June and about one third of the northern half of the Parterre has already been completed with the assistance of Kew’s trainees and apprentices. It is worth a visit just to watch all the work and precision that goes into this process.


 

Palm House Parterre: Vegetable Medley

From July onwards the Palm House Parterre will be transformed into an edible display including aubergine, chillies, celeriac, celery, kohl rabi, aubergines, leeks, sweetcorn, bell pepper, beetroot, florence fennel as well as a few runner beans, tomatoes, kale and chard. Visitors who feel inspired will be able to pick up top growing tips from Kew’s horticulturalists.

In the nearby Broadwalk kidney beds, from mid-June we will be planting out pumpkins and squashes which will be well under way by mid-July, with fruits forming through to the autumn.

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Welcome to the student vegetable plots!

By: Jack Clutterbuck - 26 May 2013
Over the next few months you will find regular updates from the newest batch of Kew Diploma students, all about our very own 1.8 x 8 meter area of royal soil, and hopefully, all about the earthy fruit and vegetables that we have managed to grow.
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The veg patch

As 1st year Kew Diploma students, one of our projects is to plan and tend to our very own vegetable plot. Soil must be dug, seeds be sown, and a whole variety of fruit and vegetables grown to the highest of standards. Each month, battling against the grey skies and army of pigeons, we are assessed on the quality and quantity of veg produced. Paper work aside, this is a chance for us all to escape the stuffiness of the classroom and do what we know best.

Photo of horticulture students veg plot

The student vegetable plots (Image: RBG Kew)

Open to all

The Student Vegetable Plots are open to all, so on your visit to Kew Gardens, come and drop by to see what we’ve been up to. Over the weekends, students will be on the plots to give you advice on all aspects of how to "grow your own", and there will be activities for all shapes and sizes to inspire the art of growing.

Friday veg sale

On a Friday lunchtime, 12-1pm, we will be selling our weekly best of greens, roots and fruits, so if you’re ever about, come and find us for some tasty home grown treats.

- Jack Clutterbuck, 1st Year Kew Diploma Student -


 

Student Vegetable Plots and weekend 'grow your own' surgeries

Admire our extensive vegetable plots, managed by students from Kew's School of Horticulture, and be inspired to get planting yourself! At the weekend, students and apprentices will be around to offer visitors advice about seed sowing, transplanting and proven techniques, so you can get the most out of your garden. They'll also be available to answer your questions.

  • When are the student vegetable plots open? - all day, during Garden opening hours
  • When are the 'grow your own' surgeries' open? - Every Saturday and Sunday, 11am - 4pm
  • Price -  free, with admission to the Gardens
  • Where are the student vegetable plots? - The student vegetable plots are behind the Davies Alpine House at the bottom right of the map - Plan your visit with the IncrEdibles Voyage map (pdf)

Book tickets button


2 comments on 'Welcome to the student vegetable plots!'


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Week by week horticulturalists, botanists and attractions organisers from all around Kew Gardens wrote for this special IncrEdibles blog, describing behind-the-scenes experiences and sharing insights into the amazing world of edible plants.

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