Here are six favourite food plants to add to your sowing list in 2020!
Comfrey | Symphytum officinale
There are various varieties of comfrey, but a favourite among many food gardeners is the Russian variety Symphytum x uplandicum. It produces masses of leaves that are jam-packed with potassium. Potassium is the crucial element responsible for flower and fruit formation. Comfrey can also be used as an ingredient in compost tea or liquid fertilizer because of the high potash content. Comfrey can be added to the compost heap as an activator and the surplus foliage can be used as a mulch.
Broad bean | Vicia faba
Broad beans are hardy legumes that thrive in winter when most of the garden has gone into dormancy. Broad beans have rhizobium-bacteria on its root system that effectively fixates atmospheric nitrogen, thereby replenishing soil-nitrogen levels. Plant this versatile crop under your fruit trees in autumn, harvest the beans at the end of winter, and watch your fruit trees thrive in spring due to the extra nitrogen in the soil. Only remove the above-ground stem after the growing season and leave the roots to remain in the ground.
Borage | Borago officinalis
Borage is an essential addition to any garden. It is able to grow through tough winters and is a wonderful source of green material when other plants are taking strain. The blue star-shaped flowers create an exquisite display and attract birds and bees to the garden. Borage has an important place in both food and medicine. The hairy flowers are edible with a cucumber-like flavour and can be added to cordials, salads and desserts. Traditionally, the flowers were consumed as a tea to act on colds and flu. The plants are very prolific and readily seeds itself.
Artichoke | Cynara scolymus
Artichoke is one of the first flowers to greet the spring season. The fat juicy buds are edible and can be steamed, cooked, roasted, pickled, fried, grilled and baked. This much-loved plant is native to the Mediterranean and thrives in warmth and sun, and prefers richly composted moist, loamy soil. The enormous leaves can be used for composting and as a mulch.
Origanum | Origanum majorana
The entire oregano family is a mainstay in the garden. A special favourite is Sweet marjoram which grows through summer and winter. The dainty white flowers attract beneficial insects to the garden, especially predatory wasps that aid in pest control in the food garden. Oregano is aromatic and has a sweetly spicy flavour that enhances fish, salads and dressings, stews and herb butters - a mainstay in the kitchen as well. This perennial is suitable for growing in containers and is at its best in sunny spots and well-drained soil.
Leaf Amaranth | Amaranth
It's been said that Amaranth might just be the new kale. This broad-leaved annual plant is a very nutritious leaf vegetable and grain and has been used for centuries. The leaves are often enjoyed as a substitute for spinach and also used in salads, and seeds are considered a very important staple grain. Amaranth is a very hardy plant and can cope a lot better with heat and dry conditions compared to other leafy greens. Amaranth loves rich soil, maintained moisture and a good supply of nutrients, especially nitrogen.
A few posts by our fellow gardeners on these multifunctional favourites: