Tag Archives: grow your own food

Growing spinach in the containers

I grew up watching Popeye eating spinach as it was a favourite cartoon of my brother and my dad. I wasn’t into muscles and silly humour, but I watched it with them anyway. I loved hanging out with my brother when I was little. Well, I still do now, just it’s more difficult when we live in two different countries.

For my whole my childhood I thought spinach was a made-up vegetable as it was translated as “duck feet vegetable” (rau chân vịt) in Vietnamese. Come on, no real sensible vegetable could be called that.

Then I grew up, learned to speak English, watched the original show and found out that spinach is the real thing.

When I came to live in England, I tried the veg. Guess what, its taste is similar to one of my most-loved greens in Vietnam. I don’t think they are the same, but perhaps they are related. Popeye was much closer to home than I thought.

Last year, when I decided to expand my garden capacity, going beyond herbs, fruits and moving into vegetables, spinach seemed like an obvious choice.

I started the first crop in late summer. The harvest wasn’t amazing, but I had some leaves to use in a Vietnamese dish as a replacement of the green I mentioned early: “mùng tơi”. The dish was delicious, and I fell like Popeye for the first time.

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Sowing time

Spinach seeds can be sown as early as February. In fact, I just started my first container for this year last weekend. If you leave the pots outside, you might need to cover them up during some freezingly cold February days. (It is -4 Celcius degrees where I am right now).

You can keep sowing spinach seeds for the summer harvest until the end of May.

For a winter crop, scatter the seeds in August and September.

Seeds should be about 2.5 cm deep, and the seedlings can be thin out to 7.5 cm apart. Choose the size of your container accordingly!

Care for & harvest spinach

I find spinach rather easy going. You just need to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out. Water it well during the dry period in the summer. During the winter’s coldest months, protect the plants with straw mulch and cover any container with fleece.

You can harvest the leaves of each plant layer by layer. Do it alternatively among your plants, and you can have spinach almost all year round.

Cooking Ideas

Spinach is very healthy. It’s an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, potassium and vitamin C. A long list, right?

The vegetable is versatile, too. You can eat the leaves raw in salads, or use a large quantity in vegetarian stews, Indian curries, quiches, crepes, lasagna and green smoothies. Basically, a lot of food. I use my home-grown spinach to make “canh” – a broth with dried prawn, which I eat alongside sticky rice. And it’s the best.

 

 

 

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Growing Potatoes Not in the Ground

I started growing potatoes mostly for fun. It’s not the same fun as waiting for lily or narcissus. It’s the excitement of experimenting.

When I searched for new things for my balcony garden, I found a YouTube video showing how to grow potatoes in containers. I’ve heard about growing potatoes in rice sacks before, but containers? It was the first. So, to satisfy my curiosity, I set out to make my own potatoes in both pots and big bags.

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For both options, you can use with any potatoes you buy from a supermarket. Leave a few to sprout and then you can start.

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Easy-Peasy Spring Onion

Spring Onion is my discovery this growing season. Even though, it’s not at all difficult to buy spring onions in Dutch supermarkets, growing them has some plus points.

I don’t remember how I came up with the idea of planting this common ingredient of Vietnamese cuisine. It seemed like one day I watched a tutorial video on YouTube and BAM.

I followed the guide and put the white stalk with roots into a glass of water. The water needed changing every other day, and that’s what I did. They grew longer root and taller on the top. When Ian saw my glass, he suggested that I should put the spring onions in the soil as it surely would be better for the plant. He was right.

Soon enough, small pots of spring onion dotted around our garden. Instead of buying a bunch every week, I now only get supermarket spring onions if a recipe asks specifically for its white parts. My spring onion might not be as mighty, and in oversize as the one I get from Albert Heijn, the biggest supermarket chain here, but it tastes a lot better being freshly cut from my little balcony garden.

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Growing Chillis Up North: Success and Failure

What is your most favourite type of chilli?

Mine is pickled jalapeños. It’s something I only discovered eight years ago when I moved to England. Back in Vietnam, I knew one type of chillies. We called it sky-pointing because of the direction the fruits grow (aka upwards). In England, it’s called bird’s eye chilli and known for being hot.

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Bird’s Eye Chilli or Ớt chỉ thiên

Personally, I can’t tell if bird eye is spicier than jalapeño or not. They are just different. However, there is a Scoville scale which measures the spicy heat of chilli peppers. It varies from zero (the level of bell peppers) to somewhere near two million five hundred (for the likes of Komodo Dragon Chilli Pepper and Naga Viper Pepper). According to this scale, bird’s eye chilli could be 100 times hotter than jalapeños. I found that shocking. Perhaps my taste bud is well off.

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