There is a surprising variety of Asian vegetables that will tolerate the British climate though many need the help of a greenhouse or polytunnel.
Members of Stonehouse Gardening Club benefited from an expert and author Sally Cunninham, with her RHS and Kew Gardens background plus her survey of local Leicester allotment holders on the Asian vegetables that they grow successfully. The allotment holders often kept seeds , some from family and friends, though many companies will now supply these specialist herbs and vegetables.
Sally recommended the herb Perilla, a Korean plant in the mint family, which is rich in vitamins. Often found as dusting on sushi and used for urban “floral clocks” as it responds well to being cut, it has small flowers and is easy to grow.
Another herb to try is the bee friendly Fenugreek or Methi. The seeds have many health giving properties. It can also be grown as a “green manure” as after a few years of growth it fixes nitrogen in the soil. The pink root dries well and the plant will regrow after frost.
By contrast and also insect friendly, Coriander must be sown every few weeks as it can bolt easily, though it will survive most winters.
Tumeric is a big plant which dies back in winter. The corms are about the size of a thumb and can be dried. A member of the ginger family, turmeric is reputed to combat depression! It is also has anti-inflammatory properties.
On the vegetable front, growing sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) can be fun as new cultivars are better adapted to our day length. The best yield is when day and night are the same length, but beware, it is member of bindweed family so will spread. Keeping a few back in an airing cupboard will lead to sprouting, and each sprout bit can then be planted.
Taro grows like the potato and gives a big starchy crop. A swamp plant and with huge leaves, it requires plenty of water and a fertile soil.
Chickpeas are easy to grow. You can even sow the peas bought in supermarkets! They need little rain once started and they don’t get eaten by slugs or mice as they exude a sort of acid. Remember to rotate the crop! The green fronds and pink/purple flowers resulting in 12 peas per furry pod are packed full of protein.
People have been eating lablab for about 8000 years. This wonderful fragrant pea-like climbing plant is half hardy and the beans can be eaten after soaking and boiling until soft.
Many people have successfully grow gourds, the Lagenaria species and Cucurbita species. The vines grow vigorously and will need support.
The resulting gourd or Dudi (below) come in a variety of shades and sizes. Often the male flowers look good but smell awful when they open in the evening. Some are best eaten, but the Luffa variety ideally needs a sheltered poly tunnel which can cope with the long growing season needed.
The wax gourd or Chinese winter melon has a long shelf life, tastes like cucumber , but again requires a long growing season.