Thursday, October 1, 2009

Coming of age

A short while ago it occurred to me one morning, while harvesting my next batch of vegies, that I don't really know what a lot of my vegies look like as mature, adult plants. All vegies are harvested relatively early in their real life-cycles – usually well before they flower, for example – and that led me into my latest little garden project. As I love growing shallots (also called scallions, green onions or spring onions, depending on where you live) I ended up with too many. And so I decided to let one little batch go all the way through to flowering. Here's what happened.

Traaa daaaa! Hardly the world's most spectacular flower, but a fairly pleasing white flower typical of the allium family, nevertheless. Other onion family members have groovier colours, such as the purple of some garlic varieties and the pretty mauve of chives, but at least I now know what my shallots look like, as adults. In fact, the best part of this flower, for me, was watching it develop, rather than the final bloom itself.

It was the sight of this neglected shallot plant sending up this flower bud that made me decide to see it through to flowering.

While the normal shallot/spring onion is a straight, single stalk, the adult plant looks more like a candelabra. Its 'branches' are hollow and glow the most beautiful light lime green when backlit by the morning sun.

As the flower approaches bursting point the translucent sheath around the bloom shows the contents inside. Hundreds of tiny flowers, waiting for release from their papery confinement.

I almost hit the panic button on the day the first bloom opened, as it was also the day that huge, red dust storm hit Sydney last week. At least the dust storm provided an interesting filter for my camera that day!

Then, as a mild anti-climax, it did not a lot for the next day or two. It just stayed like this, looking like an oniony nun with its little headdress cowling its face.

Following the dust storms we then had a whole weekend of strong, blustery, gusty winds that threatened to blow the shallots down. I had to race out and mound up soil around the base to prop them up, just so they could complete my experiment/their flower show.

At last, the wind has died down, the dust has settled and the shallots have bloomed.

Elsewhere in the garden the next crop of shallots is already being harvested. As mentioned earlier, they look great when backlit by the sun, but within the general garden design, their small forest of upright green stems does break up the wider-leafed uniformity of the vegie patch. I love growing these vegies as you can harvest them one-by-one, as needed, they last for weeks in 'ready to use' condition without deteriorating, and yes, they just look and taste great.

I have left other vegies to grow to maturity before, and it's an interesting thing to do. You'll discover that lettuce are actually members of the daisy family. Several lettuce varieties grow into rather nice looking, tallish cones, from the top of which sprout clusters of little yellow daisies. Cauliflowers and broccoli are of course flowerheads, but that would be a bit of an extravagant waste to let one of those big beauties go to flower and seed.

Fortunately, with my 'adult' shallots, I've been told by a friend that they're still usable in the kitchen, not as an uncooked salad onion (they'd be too strong-flavoured for that) but as something closer to a leek, which of course you'd need to cook. And that's what I'll do, once the flower show is over.


Lanie said...

Such beautiful photos of the stages of the shallot flowering. Last year my leeks flowered (mainly because they weren't too successful with kind of skinny bases) but the flowers were lovely. I may just do the same with a few other things.

howtoshuckanoyster said...

Your photos are gorgeous, Jamie. Very lovely and the one with the pots in the background oddly reminded me, for some reason, of Derek Jarman's garden - have you seen it? The book is lovely but the pix are online here - your garden much lusher than his strangely beautiful barren one, but I thought you might like to see it anyway.

Urban Green said...

Nice pictures...!
What also caught my eye were the other containers in the background. You seem to have a whole bunch of succulents.

Jamie said...

Charlotte: Derek Jarman's garden is amazing, isn't it? Maybe it's his and my liking for yellow and orange flowers that sparked the comparison in your mind? Nevertheless, his design is such a wonderful idea for an English setting. It has that touch of Arizona to it, which is remarkable, given its setting.

Urban Green: yep, I love succulents. I've blogged at length about them here:
and here
and a little bit more, here

So yes, I guess you could say I like succulents! Thanks for your comments.