conservation fruit and veg gardening grow your own

Odd Harvests

In the last few weeks of last year we harvested two plants that we have rarely harvested before but for very different reasons.

The first crop came from the greenhouse where the plants had been growing away all summer in growing bags after being sown in the propagator early in the spring. We were given the seeds and having never tried them before we decided to give them a go. Tomatillos – the name sounding somewhat like tomatoes and the plants and fruit ending up looking somewhat like cape gooseberries.

Here is the crop, now we had to decide what to do with them. Chutney seemed to be the only answer, but I decided to turn to Google for ideas and perhaps if we were lucky, recipes.

And here they are closer up, thin pale green papery sheaths around fruit like green tomatoes. They didn’t look ready to harvest but we had heard somewhere that this is the stage to pick them and as the plants were suffering as temperatures cooled down, we went ahead and plucked them from the stems.

O.K. Back from a Googling session and I now knew that the botanic name for tomatillo is Physalis philadelphica, which makes it a relative of the Cape Gooseberry and a member of the Nightshade family. It originates from South America. In Mexico it is a staple food of the diet and is often used to make green sauces. Here they are called “Tomate Verde” and are most appreciated for their green colouring and sharp taste.

I found recipes for soups, stews, salsas and yes, chutney.

The second “odd” crop is bamboo, odd because it doesn’t often seem to be grown in the uk for anything but decorative reasons and because it is the first time we have seriously harvested our bamboo to use as garden canes. We grow three different bamboos for their different stem colours and originally planted them for their ornamental value, tall and graceful, moving gently adding sound to quiet days.


Growing your own garden canes is a good way of helping the environment. Importing them from China seems a terrible waste of resources.

It was mostly the black stemmed variety that was ready this year. Their stems are tough so I struggled with secateurs before turning to a pair of nicely sharpened loppers and getting the job done. The range of colours is very wide as the photos below shows.


Similarly we harvest our prunings, utilising the large shrubby ones for beanpoles and the scrubbier smaller ones for beansticks. We started to harvest these last week and will continue as we sort out the garden in readiness for the coming growing season.



Peas and beans seem to like to twine themselves around these rougher sticks and poles in preference to the bamboos available in garden centres. And of course we must remember they are self-sustaining, so there is no cost to the environment.

By greenbenchramblings

A retired primary school head teacher, I now spend much of my time gardening in our quarter acre plot in rural Shropshire south of Shrewsbury. I share my garden with Jude my wife a newly retired teacher , eight assorted chickens and a plethora of wildlife. Jude does all the heavy work as I have a damaged spine and right leg. We also garden on an allotment nearby. We are interested in all things related to gardens, green issues and wildlife.

7 replies on “Odd Harvests”

very interesting! The tomatillos look great. Hope to hear about how the chutney turned out! Have you found the bamboo to be invasive? I think about planting it but I worry that it will take over.

The tomatillo chutney has proved very popular and full of taste. The bamboos can be invasive so we grow some in large containers but those in the open ground have to be dealt with annually. We dig around the plant severing any spreading roots and harvest the oldest stems as canes.

Oh, I have questions. What is a propagator? Is your bamboo tall enough to use with tomato plants? If you were going to plant one variety of bamboo which one would it be? And, I can’t wait to hear how the Tomatillos taste. Informative post.

We find that the bamboo varieties Phyllostachys aurea and P. nigra give good canes, long and strong. We get canes up to 6 feet long from ours. They can be invasive so we grow some of them in big stoneware containers. We have to dig around the nigra grown in the open ground each year to sever spreading roots and cut out the oldest stems as canes.
I use a hand made propagator as I wanted a large space. I made a box about a metre squared and 9 inches tall, added a 3 inch depth of damp sand into which I zig-zagged a heating cable. This is controlled by a thermostat so gives constant bottom heat. In it I sow plants that need high temperatures to germinate- usually set at about 20 centigrade.

I fancy growing my own canes – good tip about planting it separately due to it’s invasiveness (I’m not sure if that’s a word but I’m sure you know what I mean Malc!!!).

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