I have recently started reflecting on where plants in our garden are originally from, because people often ask me the same question about myself. Most of our flowers, fruits, veggies and herbs in the garden are from other countries. I have started writing a series of blog posts to explore some of our favourite flowers and edibles we have grown over the years which are from overseas. In this post, I would like to cover some edibles we have grown in our garden that are thought to originate from the Middle East. I didn’t come across many edible plants that are native to that region, but that is not to say that a wide range of veggies are not grown there these days. My excellent GP is from Iraq. I have sometimes given him bunches of flowers from the garden and produce. He told me that he is actually a farm boy and grew up in a rural area. He also really likes gardening and has planted a lot of fruit trees on his property in Auckland.
We enjoy growing both regular peas and snow peas. As peas climb, they benefit from some support. I use plastic trellis, which is nailed to a six foot fence. More recently, I have come across a dwarf variety called Tom Thumb which can be grown in containers and do not require staking. It can be harvested immature as a snow pea or left to pod up and harvested as a regular pea.
Peas can be sown in autumn and spring. I recommend sowing seeds direct to the ground as peas resent being transplanted. It is also a very fiddly job and you risk damaging the roots in the process, which might cause the plants to die. I recommend harvesting peas as they become ready, in order to encourage further cropping.
Spinach is native to the Middle East and is a staple in our veggie garden. It is very nutritious and easy to grow. It performs better in cooler conditions and tends to bolt to seed as it gets warmer towards spring.
We have a few different fig varieties which I planted in large containers in our mini orchard, which is in a garden bed along the pathway as you walk up to our front door. Figs can be grown in the ground, but be very careful as the trees can become enormous. If you plant them in containers, the roots are restricted so the growth is somewhat contained. In saying that, the roots have travelled through the holes at the bottom of the containers and settled into the ground, which is covered with weed mat and bark (but there is soil underneath the weed mat). In the past year, our trees have become very large so in autumn I spent an afternoon pruning them back so they are more manageable. Sometimes when fruit trees become so large and have not been pruned, they don’t produce as well. Since I pruned the trees back heavily this year, they might not crop that well next summer but hopefully we will be better off in the long run.