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Exotic Edible Section

Our Selection of Unusual and Exotic Vegetables and Flowers

If you are looking for the common names of some of the more unusual Exotic Vegetables and Flowers we thought the following list might help identify some of the plants correctly. You might also have a look at our Tropical Fruit section for other ideas?

Acmella oleracea

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Toothache Plant or "Electric Daisies" Aprx 25 seeds

Acmella oleracea is a native to the tropics of Brazil, where it is called Jambu, and is grown as an ornamental and as a medicinal plant in various parts of the world. A small, erect plant, it grows quickly and sends up gold flowers with a red centre. Both fresh and cooked leaves are sometimes used in stews but eating a whole flower bud results in a grassy taste, followed by an extremely strong tingling or numbing sensation. These buds are known as Buzz Buttons or electric buttons and the numbing effect helps toothache. Best grown as a tender annual in the uk. James Wong refers to this as Electric Daisies but it has been known for many years as the Toothache Plant because of the numbing effect in the mouth reducing any toothache pain.

Actinidia arguta "Issai"

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Hardy Kiwi Fruit  or "Cocktail Kiwis" 10 seeds җ җ
Actinidia arguta Issai is a self-fertile variety of the mini-kiwi. Unlike the species it does not need a male and a female plant to produce fruit. It bears smooth-skinned fruit of the same taste and shape like kiwi but smaller to 4 or 5 cm. They are green and ripen gradually from the end of September until end October and the sweetest when picked after they have softened a little. Kiwis need a sunny and warm site with semi-fertile, acidic, fresh soil. This variety is a small vine than the normal Kiwi and was bred to sustain frosts of up to -29°C - even that should be enough for our recent winters! From experience the plants may take quite a few years to reach fruiting maturity.

Amaranthus dubius

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Callaloo aprox Aprx 50 seeds
Most leafy Amaranthus varieties are edible but as far as I can determine this one is the true "Callaloo" An erect herb up to 1.5m tall with a branched stem and oblong dark-green leaves. Its mainly used as a leafy vegetable like spinach and is the "Callaloo" used widely in the Caribbean. This annual herb may be harvested 30-50 days from sowing and planted out after all frosts have passed - best in a sunny warm position. We also sell many ornamental Amaranth in our annual seed section with stricking flower bracts or giant 6ft sized plants but they are not the true Callaloo of the Caribbean.

Cajanus cajan

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Pigeon Pea 20 seeds

The pigeon pea originated in India then through Africa to the Caribbean, cultivated for its food crop and as a green manure. Now widely cultivated in tropical regions throughout the world. The peas can be eaten fresh like garden peas or dried like lentils.

The plant is a short lived perennial shrub growing to 2 or 3 metres, living for about five years in tropical conditions. The fruits are pea like pods, containing four to five seeds. Best grown as a greenhouse or polytunnel as an annual crop in the UK with heat early in the year to encourage growth. Alternatively grow in pots under glass and transplant outside in a warm sheltered position in full sun after all frosts have finished.

Camellia sinensis

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Tea Plant 10 seeds

Always wanted to grow your own tea and coffee? Well here’s your chance, with this plant grown for tea in Sri Lanka and India. Camellia sinensis is a member of the Camellia family with white flowers preferring warm damp conditions but no frost. I have read that the first commercial tea plantation is being considered in Cornwall now taking advantage of Global warming.

Canna Seed Mixed

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Indian Shot Large Hybrids Mixed  10 seeds җ
Canna lilies have a hard seed (hence Indian Shot!) and will need scratching and soaking before sowing. If you want named hybrids though please see our plant section, but you may be lucky enough to raise a brand new hybrid from this seed collection! Most of these Canna seeds have been collected from our own plants and 90% seem to produce useful large flowered plants either similar to the parent or a hybrid cross. The roots of some Cannas in particular Canna Edulis are much larger than modern hybrids and sometimes called Queensland Arrowroot that can be cooked and eaten. Not tried it myself so cannot recommend the taste. We sell the plants of Canna Edulis on our Plant site www.junglegardens.co.uk

Chamomile Herb

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Matricaria Chamomilla Aprx 2000 seeds
Chamomile is famous for its flowers that are picked, dried and used for the famous chamomile tea which is said to aid digestion and treat insomnia. The plant is rich in calcium and also used in hair rinses.

Coccinia grandis,

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Ivy Gourd  (5 seeds Pr Pkt)
Ivy Gourd or Dondakaya is a widely consumed vegetable in India, rich in beta-carotene, and available in India through out the year, large numbers are now imported daily to the UK.  The small, stubby, green coloured vegetables which grow on aggressive perennial vines are used to prepare delicious stuffed curries, stews, pickles, salads and stir fries. can be harvested at the green unripe stage or when red. The young shoots and leaves of Coccinia grandis can also be eaten as greens and the fruits can be eaten raw. Worth a try as an annual crop in a warm sheltered spot in the UK.

Coffee arabica

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Coffee Bean Tree 10 seeds
Such a well known commodity! But did you know that Coffee arabica make interesting house or conservatory shrubs with dark glossy green leaves, small white scented flower clusters followed by bright red coffee beans. Don't get too excited though about grinding your own coffee from the seed - it tastes awful if you do not dry it correctly!

Cucumber Poona Kheera

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Rustic Cucumber 10 seeds

Poona Kheera is an unusual heirloom and very productive early cucumber from India Cucumber It has a crisp, crunchy and extremely tasty flavour. The young fruits are yellow but mature with a brown skin like a potato growing to 4 or 5 inches long. Seen as a gourmet variety it has the best flavour if harvested just as the rosy blush begins.

Cucumis anguria

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West Indian Gherkin Cucumber or bur cucumber 12 seeds

This relative of the cucumber produces wonderful 5cm oblong spined fruits produced in quantity on 6ft tall climbing/scambling plants. The baby gherkins are good to eat fresh or pickled and taste exactly like a good cucumber with no bitterness. The spines are harmlessly soft and totally edible, so no need to rub them off. Best grown under cover though as these are a tropical plant and very popular.

Cucumis melo Golden Sweet

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Oriental Melon  10 seeds
Cucumis melo is an unusual small Oriental melon, with oblong-shaped melons 3-4 inches long, these fruits have a smooth, golden skin and a very crisp, sweet white flesh.  Plant grows vigorously in warm climates. This melon is very prolific and is very popular in Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Sow seeds in seed pots in spring and transplant to a greenhouse border or warm frame when large enough. The plant begins to set fruits 40 days after transplanting.

Cucumis metuliferus

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Horned Melon  10 seeds
Cucumis metuliferus, or ‘horned melon’ is a fast growing annual vine related to the cucumber family that is best planted in a greenhouse as our summers are not really warm enough for it. Prized by some for its slightly bitter papaya and watermelon flavour. Beware though the fruits have thorns and the leaves have very small spines. Best grown for its novelty value.

Cucumis sativas Suhyo

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Oriental Cucumber Suhyo  10 seeds
Cucumis Suhyo is a long-time favourite cucumber in Japan, that produces long slender cucumbers, 1” x 18”. The cucumber skin is dark green and has small spines. The flesh is firm, crisp and delicious. A very productive variety.

Cyclanthera pedata

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Achocha, Caigua or Stuffing Cucumber 10 seeds 

Achocha is a slender tropical vine from South America from the cucumber family. It produces a pale green, semi-flattened fruit resembling a cucumber that is 4" to 6" long. However unlike a cucumber, the inside of the ripe fruit is hollow and eaten much like bell peppers - either raw or cooked (after the seeds are removed). They are also prepared as stuffed peppers; stuffed with meat, fish or cheese and then baked - earning it's name "Stuffing Cucumber". Research conducted in Peru has reported that caigua can lower cholesterol levels in humans by up to 20% and is becoming popular in the USA as a health food.

Cymbopogan citratus - Lemon Grass

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West Indian Lemon Grass  10 seeds
This is the type Lemon grass used for cooking - an excellent aromatic clumping tropical grass growing to 6' tall.  When the leaves are crushed the fragrance resembles the scent of lemon. The stem and leaves are used for cooking in the Asian kitchen but it is also used to make a refreshing tea and for perfume, oil and medicine. Easy to germinate in a controlled propagator.

Dahlia Cactus Flowered Mixed

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Cactus Bedding Dahlia Aprx 50 seeds җ
Dahlia Cactus Flowered produces superb bold flowering dahlias with large, spiky 'cactus' blooms in a range of attractive colours. They are quite tall plants to 4ft, making them ideal for creating a statement in bedding displays or herbaceous borders, where they are particularly useful for filling in gaps that appear as other plants go to seed. They are frost tender, but can be re-used each year if the tubers are lifted in the autumn and stored in a frost-free place. Some people reckon that you can cook and eat the roots of these large cactus types like sweet potatoes but the flavour may be somewhat questionable?

Edible Flower Collection

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Annual Edible Flowers for Salad Decoration

Edible flowers can add a really nice touch to summer salads and I have put together here an annual mix for anyone wanting to try them out. Don't forget that most herb flowers are also edible i.e. mint, rosemary sage etc. My own favourite if you have any in the garden are day lilies with a crisp sweet flavour and a slight peppery after taste. (Please note that in for the Clary "flowers" it is actually the colourful leaf bracts in pink or blue that are eaten not the small true flowers)

Our mix includes:-

Calendula officinalis - Pot marigold
Chrysanthemum coronarium - Garland Chrysanthemum
Borago officinalis - Borage flowers
Nasturtium Blue Pepe - Nasturtium
Basil Genovese Sweet - Basil
Salvia horminum Monarch - Clary leaf bracts
Bean Runner Hestia - Scarlet runner bean flowers
Courgette F1 Midnight - Zuchini flowers

Elettaria cardamomum

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Cardamom 10 seeds
Elettaria cardamomum is a member of the Zingiber family, this well known tropical spice from India can grow to 12ft with typical ginger leaves. They need warm conditions and must not dry out and love rain nearly every day in their natural habitat. The Cardamom pods are not likely to develop in greenhouse conditions though but the plant is aromatic throughout the stems to leaves. Slow and erratic germination because of the hard seed coat.

Eucalyptus citriodora

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Lemon Gum 20 seeds 

Eucalyptus citriodora is a tall water hungry tree to 50m in warm climates but can be kept pollarded if grown in a pot for the UK. It is not frost hardy and not suitable for growing outside all year round in mainland England. The lemon scented leaves are used to produce an essential oil used as an antiseptic or insect repellent. A herbal tea can be made using an infusion of the leaves for treatment of fever. I have seen it mentioned to use as a herb on food but Eucalyptus oils can be mutagenic and it would not be my advice to use it this way. On the plus side and quick from seed it will make an excellent highly lemon scented patio pot plant for the summer with long lance shaped bright green leaves.

Feijoa sellowiana

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Pineapple Guava 15 seeds  җ җ
This interesting small shrub will take some frost to perhaps -8°C, therefore fully  hardy in some gardens. In mid summer Feijoa sellowiana bears unusual large dark red flowers and if you grow two plants together, they will cross fertilise to bear delicious “guava” flavoured fruits.

Hemerocallis Novelties Mixed

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Day Lilies 10 seeds җ җ җ

Hand pollinated seed from the finest collection of modern coloured hybrids. Apart from providing a wonderful display of flowers mid summer on very hardy perennial plants you can also eat the flowers. Hemerocallis flowers add a really unusual exotic touch to any salad and the slightly crunchy, peppery sweet flavour is quite unique. I love eating them straight off the plants when my wife is not looking (I am told it ruins the garden flower display!)

Lepidium meyenii

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Maca or Peruvian Ginseng 20 seeds җ җ җ
Lepidium meyenii is an herbaceous annual native to the high Andes of Bolivia and Peru. It is grown for its fleshy tap root which is used as a root vegetable and a medicinal herb. It is related to mustard, radish and turnip and fully hardy and often grown as a winter crop in mild areas. For centuries, ancient Peruvians have used Lepidium meyenii due to its great health benefits as it stimulates the glands in charge of regulating hormones, optimizing body functioning for long-term energy and well being.

Lycium chinense

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Goji Berry or Wolfberry 20 seeds җ җ

The two species of Goji berry or Wolfberry grown are Lycium Barbarum and Lycium Chinense, two very closely related species from China. They are perennial plants and will grow to a height of between one and three metres.  They require a sunny position and a well drained soil and fairly easy to grow, are self polinating, drought tolerant and are hardy plants. After being introduced into the UK many years ago they have already been seen growing wild in some locations.

The red berries which are small and plum shaped are very high in nutrients with many health claims. In traditional Chinese medicine, goji berries are often made into a tea that is said to work on the liver and other areas of the bodies. In food products, goji berries are often dried and mixed in with the other ingredients Marketers of goji berries have made the following health claims; improves the immune system; improves circulation;  reduces inflammation; improves vision including macular degeneration; helps reduce the aging process.

Melothria scabra

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Mouse Melons or Cucamelon or Mexican Sour Gherkin 20 seeds 
Egg shaped inch-long green & white striped or mottled fruits resembling tiny watermelons. Melothria scabra is a fast-growing annual with lobed leaves from Mexico. Fruits have a tasty flavour and crunchy in texture, used in salads or stir fries and pickled in Mexico where they are known as Mexican Sour Gherkins.

Momordica charantia

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Bangkok Hybrid large fruited Bitter Melon (5 seeds Pr Pkt) n£

This tropical, annual vine has a bitter taste and is used in, soup, curry, and salads. (If you don’t like the bitter taste, parboil with salt and rinse 2-3 times before cooking.) The Thais believe that Momordica charantia is very good for the kidneys and blood. Grow under glass or in a polytunnel like a cucumber vine. This new large fruited hybrid has early to medium fruit maturity on vigorous plants. The fruits (8” to 15” long) are set mostly on the lateral vines similar to Gourd plants.

Monarda didyma Panorama Mixed

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Bergamot or Bees Balm 25 seeds  җ җ җ
Monarda an old favourite of ours in our cottage garden is a durable, showy garden plant for the perennial border and an interesting cut flower with stem up to 60cm. A tea from the spicy leaves of this plant is known as Oswega Tea and the petals are also edible in salads. This special mixture of Red, Pink and Salmon shades makes a wonderful addition to any garden. Easy to grow and fully hardy.

Okra Jambalay F1

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Hybrid Ladies Fingers  10 seeds  

An early high-yielding dark green variety with uniform pods with 5 points. Large, robust flowers are also edible, and may be stuffed or used as a garnish. Makes a great ornamental in containers.

Oryza sativa

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Japanese Rice - Koshihikari Aprx 40 seeds
Grow your own Paddy field? Oryza sativa is the premium rice of Japan, distinguished by its aroma, sweet flavour and sticky texture. Also, dried stalks are beautiful displayed in flower arrangements. Harvest time about 5 months and contrary to expectations it does not need to be waterlogged to grow well, just regular watering and heat! Worth a try for the novelty factor? Maturity: Approx. 160 days

Pachyrrhizus erosus

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Jicama or Yam bean  10 seeds
Pachyrrhizus erosus is a very unusual root vegetable originating in North America, but Jicama is probably most popular in China. Crunchy and mild, it is a perfect substitute for water chestnuts or bamboo shoots in salads or stir-fries. A relative of the sweet potato, this tuber is not very uniform, but it does make a crisp and delicious low calorie peel-and-eat snack. Jicama thrives in hot climates where it enjoys a long, hot growing season so best tried out in a hot greenhouse in the UK.  (Ripe seed pods and leaves are poisonous.)

Pea Asparagus

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Asparagus Pea  Aprx 50 seeds
Pea Asparagus is not a true pea, but a vetch, forming low, bushy plants. The attractive red flowers are followed by small winged pods which should be picked when only 1” to 3” long, before they become fibrous. Saute whole in butter and they taste very much like asparagus - delicious!

Physalis ixocarpa Cisineros

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Tomatillo  10 seeds
Physalis ixocarpa or Tomatillo, a native of Mexico, is a relative of the tomato, eggplant and pepper. As a traditional part of Mexican cooking, tomatillos are found in stews, moles and salsas. They are seldom used whole, and are often pureed. Its texture is firmer than a tomato and it tastes like a tangy lemon. On the outside, the 2” sized vegetable is bright green. On the inside, it’s considerably lighter. Its seeds are fine and edible. Growing tomatillos is like growing tomatoes, only easier. The tomatillos grow inside a papery husk. The husk helps to protect the fruit should a light frost occur. When the fruit has grown to nearly fill its husk, it’s ready to harvest. Make sure they’re picked before the fruit turns yellow, otherwise the fruit’s tangy flavour will be lost.

Cisineros is an incredibly large tomatillo that is easily twice the size of most tomatillos. Apple-green fruits which have a papery husk that splits open as the tomatillos mature and turn yellow-green. Use in the bright green stage for a tart flavour, or allow to ripen further for a sweeter taste. Huge size makes this tomatillo really special. Crops in 75 days from planting

Physalis ixocarpa Purple

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Purple Tomatillo (10 seeds Pr Pkt)
A uniquely coloured tomatillo that is enjoyed for the sweet yet tart flavour it gives Mexican dishes. These small fruit form inside papery husks and begin as pale green, then ripen to a rich, deep purple. Vigorous and productive plants.

Physalis peruviana

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Giant Cape Gooseberry or Poha Berry or Inca Berry  Aprx 200 seeds 
This giant cultivated form of Physalis peruviana is native to Brazil but long ago became naturalized in the highlands of Peru and Chile and became identified with the region. Best grown as an annual crop in the UK sown in Feb/Mar but it is perennial by nature and not frost tolerant. Plants grow 2 to 3ft with bell-shaped, nodding yellow flowers forming in the leaf axils. After the flower falls, the calyx expands, forming a straw-coloured husk surrounding the fruit, which take 70 to 80 days to mature. The tangy, tasty fruit is a berry with smooth, waxy, orange-yellow skin and juicy pulp containing numerous very small yellowish seeds. The plants need regular watering, in a well drained soil in a hot sunny position planted outside in June, or pot grown in the greenhouse. Do not fertilise as they do best in poor soil. The tasty fruit is often dipped in melted chocolate as a special treat!

Psophocarpus tetragonolobus

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Winged Bean  10 seeds

Psophocarpus tetragonolobus, the winged bean is a strong growing, twining perennial legume to 6ft with large beautiful pale blue flowers. The plant is thought to have originated along the east coast of Africa and is used for leafy green potherbs, fresh pods, dried beans, edible tubers, animal fodder and forage, green manure, and cover crops; the winged beans are the ultimate multi-purpose crop. Young seedpods cooked for a few minutes taste like French beans but the roots and foliage can also be used and the flowers taste a bit like mushrooms - am all purpose tropical plant not at all frost hardy though.

Sicana odorifera

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Cassabanana  10 seeds 
Sicana odorifera - a perennial tropical vine from the cucumber family, producing 1-2 ft long brownish fruits, which are yellow inside and eaten raw or used in preserves. The fruit also has a sweet scent like a ripe melon. Grow as a fast growing novelty annual. In tropical regions it will cover and often smother 50ft tall trees and is often grown as an ornamental as well as for fruit. Flowers are aromatic yellow to 2".

Snake Gourd F1 Polo

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Trichosanthes Cucumerina or Snake Gourd 5 seeds
The Snake Gourd is by nature one of the tastier gourds as compared to bottle gourd and bitter gourds. It is an annual climber like other gourds with lobed, rich green leaves. It has lacy white flowers that bloom in summer evenings followed by white striped slender fruit that turns orange when ripe. This species is commonly grown for its use as a vegetable in stir fries, curries or use as a medicine.

Solanum burbankii

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Wonderberry  Aprx 25 seeds 
Solanum burbankii is an annual hybrid berry developed as a cross from Huckleberry but with a much sweeter flavour and larger up to 1/2" diameter. Grow like a tomato in rows planted outside after all frosts have passed. The berries are produced very early even on 6" plants but take a while to ripen. The green berries are slightly poisonous and should only be harvested when black and non shiny. Eaten raw there is next to no flavour but when cooked it develops into a taste superior to blueberries. Best for pies, jam and jellies.

Solanum muricatum

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Pepino fruit  10 seeds
Solanum muricatum or the Pepino is a small bush or shrub from South America much like the tomato in looks and habit. Usually fruits in 9-12 months, so a frost free environment is required. Pepino’s will stand a few degrees of freezing however. Our trial plants started flowering in August from a spring sowing and the fruit that ripened around Christmas was best described as a sweet melon flavour with the texture of a Kiwi fruit and quite delicious. One fruit shown in the picture was about the size of a grapefruit. Best grown like a pot tomato plant and in the same conditions although they have proved much hardier and continue to grow through our winter even in a cold frost free greenhouse.

Solanum quitoense

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Naranjilla  10 seeds 
Solanum quitoense are medium sized shrub or small tree to 6-10ft from the Andes and a favourite of the Incas. The Naranjilla is subtropical and enjoys slightly cooler than tropical temperatures so more suitable in the UK as a cool greenhouse plant. Leaf veins are generally a deep purple colour and attractive but often thorny! Naranjilla's like frequent watering and can stand brief temperature drops below freezing. It is easily container grown, the naranjilla is thought the be a short day plant, and may only set fruit when there are 8-10 daylight hours. The plant has bright orange fruits about the size of a large cherry tomato, covered with numerous fuzzy hairs that rub off when ripe. Pulp is green, acid, and of excellent flavour.

South American Roots

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Yacon and Occa roots
Oxalis tuberosa or Oca is a South American crop from the Andes very similar to a potato but without the pests and diseases associated with potatoes. The taste is like a slightly fibrous waxy potato with a hint of lemon and very palatable. The Yacon a relative of the sunflower produces huge Yam sized roots in the autumn that can be eaten raw or cooked. We sell rhizomes of both varieties in season at the end of the year but do supply Yacon plants on our plants website www.junglegardens.co.uk.

Wax Gourd

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Oblong Tong Winter Melon 10 seeds
Wax Gourd, also called White Gourd and Tong Qwa, is a fast-growing, long-season, warm-climate vegetable. The plant grows like the pumpkin over the ground and can grow up to 50 pounds. Fruits can be stored in a cool place for months and used later in the winter season, Tong Qwa means "Winter Melon" in Chinese. In the UK best grown under glass or planted out in a very warm sunny position after starting off earlier in pots in heat.

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Symbol Codes

Germination -- Easy Moderate and Challenging

Backlog for Fresh Seed Flavour

Hardiness - To -5°C җ To -10°C җҗ Fully Hardy җҗҗ

Needs Shady Position Sunny Position Water Loving