If a traditional variety of vegetable is not doing well in your climate, then try something similar that’s better adapted.

Jerry Coleby-Williams experiments with some useful edible plants that are better suited to the subtropics than their conventional cool-climate counterparts.

00:41 | Pigeon Peas (Cajanus cajan)
A great alternative to sweet corn as it needs far less water and fertiliser. The protein-rich crop can be used dried and boiled for dahl or the green peas eaten fresh as a vegetable.
In times of drought, Pigeon Peas only need one good drink of water per week. As a legume, the pea is a nitrogen-fixer – taking the nitrogen it needs from the atmosphere – so it helps feed itself! You just need to add trace elements to boost nutrients that might be missing from your soil. The seeds should also come supplied with a packet of inoculant – a specific strain of bacteria that helps it get that nitrogen. The inoculant needs to be added to the seeds before planting.
They can be grown in a variety of soil types – simply turn over the soil well before planting and add organic matter / compost before planting about 3m apart. Jerry also suggests growing them as an annual, replacing the plants each season, as the amount of peas produced reduces each crop.

02:13 | Winter Melon aka Wax Gourd (Benincasa hispida)
An alternative to temperate cucurbits like pumpkins and zucchinis, as they love heat and will produce more fruit. At maturity, the melons produce a white waxy coating that helps them keep for a long time – storing for up to year! They taste a bit like zucchini or marrow and can be baked, boiled, stir fried, curried or added to soups. The flowers, leaves and shoot tips are also edible.
Jerry suggests sowing in October to December and germinating in pots with 2-3 seeds in each, and then selecting the strongest seedlings to plant in the ground.

03:58 | Par-Cel (Apium graveolens var. secalinum)
An alternative to celeriac and celery, which often suffer from root rot or foliar disease in the warm weather. Par-Cel is a variety of celery with flavour characteristics of both celery and parsley, so its thin stems and small leaves can be used as an ingredient substitution for either. Jerry sowed seeds in pots in summer and grew in full sun. Once they filled their pots he planted out into the garden.


Filmed on Yuggera Country

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