Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Mystery growth

A few months ago I planted an entire bed of my dad's garden with brussels sprouts. My dad's garden beds are so luxurious - he has installed a drip irrigation system on a timer! That means he doesn't ever have to go out there to water anything. Revolutionary, I know. Anywho, I stuck the seeds in the dirt along with some compost from my compost pile and proceeded to ignore them, taking full advantage of the self-watering feature. When I finally made my way out there to check on things, the brussels sprouts were doing wonderfully. There was also a mysterious other plant growing amongst the sprouts. It was growing much more quickly and blossomed with a bunch of medium-sized yellow and white flowers I had never seen before. It was not like any weed we have ever grown up here, either. For a little while I thought (wistfully) that somehow my okra seeds had gotten mixed in with the brussels sprouts seeds and I was going to have an okra crop after all. My dad was sure they were bell peppers. Well, over the weekend I headed back out there and this is what I saw:

It is Chinese Lantern! Holy exotic accidental cultivation! Never in a million years would I have grown Chinese Lantern on purpose. I DID buy fake Chinese Lantern at Pier 1 and used it to decorate my living room, but grow it??? I guess some of these seeds got accidentally mixed into my brussels sprouts packet, and I am SO glad they did.

I did a little research and it seems that while most people grow Chinese Lantern because of how pretty it is, the "lanterns" eventually develop a Chinese Lantern Berry inside, which can be harvested once the husk dries out. It reportedly tastes like a green tomato and can be used in both savory and sweet preparations. It is very rare to happen upon Chinese Lantern Berries, too, as you can imagine.

So now I am trying to decide if I should let the plants continue to grow and develop their rare berries, or if I should pick these beautiful flowers and try to dry them. Then I could ditch my plastic Chinese Lanterns and decorate with the real thing. Any suggestions?

While admiring my surprise flowers, I also noticed that my brussels sprouts have a terrible infestation of aphids. Aren't they ugly?

I took this picture after I had treated them with insecticidal soap. Sounds sophisticated, but all I did was mix 1 tablespoon of liquid soap with 1 quart of water, put it in a washed-out Windex bottle, and sprayed it everywhere I saw aphids. I read that when it is wet the soap acts as a toxin to the bugs but doesn't harm the plants. The only bad thing about using insecticidal soap is that it kills good bugs as well as the bad ones. So I think I will do one more round of soap spray, then buy a little container of lady bugs at OSH to replenish my good bugs. I'll keep you posted on whether or not it works. I'm determined to keep this garden organic!

P.S. The dog is doing much better, thanks for asking. His wounds are healing nicely, almost as quickly as his pride. He's back to running around the farm with us and getting into trouble.

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