Archive for Propagation

Growing Ginger In Virginia


Nothing could be simpler than growing ginger in Virginia.

It’s almost true.

Just dug baby ginger in the fall


Ginger is reasonably ornamental – a reed-like plant with clear green leaves. While it can be grown in the vegetable or herb garden, it is not out of place with ornamental plants – provided you can dig them out easily enough — without damaging bulbs or perennials. Don’t plant them with daffodils!

A small clump of ginger growing with other tropicals and annuals


So yes, it is tropical – but that not necessarily a reason not to grow it. We grow many other plants from the tropics and treat them like annuals. You can do the same with ginger.

I have grown it for years in my garden – small yield but it was mine! Ginger requires a long frost-free growing season — about one year for mature ginger, 8 months for baby ginger. That’s more than our climate allows… except that you can start ginger indoors. farmers do it in high tunnels (aka hoophouses). I start it my greenhouse, but a very sunny window or sun room will work. With a warm early start in late winter, appropriate temperatures at all times, abundant water, and judicious shade, you can grow ginger to a harvestable size. Read more

Growing Chayote in Virginia

Growing what?


You know… “chayote” (sometimes spelled “chayotte”), also known as chouchou, chocko, christophine, mirliton, vegetable pear. You don’t know? Time for today’s lesson, then: Sechium edule, a member of the cucurbitacea family (or if you prefer a cousin of squashes and cucumber), originates from Mexico and Central America and was already cultivated there when the Spaniards arrived. The word chayote comes to us from a Spanish word derived from the word “hitzayotli” in the Nahuatl language where it designates both the plant and the fruit.

The plant is viviparous, as was discussed in the post on starting chayote, meaning you need a fruit to start the plant: the smooth large whitish seed (perfectly edible and considered a delicacy by the chayote connoisseur) must germinate inside the fruit.

Chayote is perennial in its native climate and in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world where it was exported and made itself at home (like here)- which is why you find it on the menus of cuisines as diverse as Vietnamese, Australian, Reunionese, Louisianan, Nigerian etc. In the mid-Atlantic area, it will be killed by a hard frost, although it will stand to a light one: in my garden it is killed by the same type of frost that kills my dahlia tops (another garden denizen that hails from Central America). If a plant were several years old it would have had a chance to form tuber-like roots, and like dahlias, would send new shoots up when more clement weather arrives. In the Northern Piedmont, though – as in the entire mid-Atlantic area – the winters are too harsh and the plant must be considered an annual. Read more

Starting Chayote in Virginia

A while ago, I posted a recipe for chayote shoots, this unusual green that’s easy to grow and that is wonderfully silky in stir-fry and braised dishes. It makes good quiches too – a racy alternative to spinach or Swiss chard. You have probably seen the fruit in the exotic section of the supermarket. In the US it’s imported more than likely from Mexico. Green and vaguely pear shaped and sized, it’s in the squash family and looks like this:


There are more types of chayote around, some weight close to 2 pound and some are thorny with a more vigorous taste and a fleshier texture. But the smooth green smallish chayote is all that I have ever seen around here be at the supermarket or in Hispanic markets. You’ll have to travel to see and eat the other kind.

I ahve also never seen the greens for sale here, although they are really good – in many way a lot tastier than the mild (but versatile fruit). While I am trying to get fruit from my vines, I am under no illusion that’s practically a lost cause in the Virginia Northern Piedmont. Practically, mind you, which means I am still trying. It’s however a breeze (at least compared to other veggies) to grow chayote successfully as a leaf (and stem) vegetable. Read more