From Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, Latin America has an extremely rich food heritage. Fortunately, many vegetables and herbs from this part of the world can be introduced into our vegetable gardens. Here are a few, often unknown in Québec, whose flavors will give your taste buds a real treat, as well as the steps to follow to grow them.
The sowing and harvest dates are valid for the Montreal region.
For other regions, rely on the calendar or temperature indications provided.
The last risk of frost in Montreal is around May 31.
Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius)
- Plant seedlings or tuberous roots (tubers) in the garden after the last spring frost, 90 cm apart.
- In the fall, when the foliage begins to wilt following the first frost, cut the stems 10 cm above the ground.
- Gently dig up the tuberous roots (they break easily). Then, remove the larger ones from the crown.
- You can eat the roots immediately or store them in sand or peat moss in a cool, but frost-free place. Brush the roots before storage, but do not wash them. Check their condition regularly to remove any rotten ones. Spray a little water on those that seem to be drying out.
- Keep the crown and remaining roots the same way so you can replant them the following spring. Start growing them in pots in February.
Yam bean (Pachyrhizus erosus)
- Sow indoors in early March (about 13 weeks before the last frost).
- Soak the seeds for 24 hours before sowing. Sow two to three seeds per pot directly into the final pots, as yam beans, like all legumes, do not take well to transplanting. Use biodegradable pots (peat, coconut or cardboard) in order to disturb the roots as little as possible when planting in the garden.
- Ideally, place the pots on a heater mat, under artificial lighting.
- Plant in the garden in early June, after the last frost, 30 cm apart.
- Do not fertilize yam beans (no compost or fertilizer).
- Harvest the tuberous roots about four months after planting, either in late September or early October. Unpeeled roots can be stored for a month at room temperature. All aerial parts of the plant are poisonous.
Beware! All aerial parts of the plant are poisonous.
For all those fruit vegetables, sow indoors, then transplant in the garden after the last frost. These vegetables need heat, rich soil (compost) and lots of sun (ideally more than 8 hours a day). The harvesting of ripe fruit is usually done in mid to late August.
Pepino (Solanum muricatum)
- Get some seedlings or sow indoors in February (about 17 weeks before the last frost).
- Transplant in the garden, 60 cm apart. The pepino also grows very well in pots.
- Ripe fruits are yellow and a little soft.
- In the fall, when temperatures drop below 18 °C, bring a plant indoors and place it in a warm, sunny room. You can replant it in the garden the following spring or take cuttings from it at the end of winter.
Dwarf tamarillo (Solanum abutiloides)
- Sow indoors in late February or early March (about 14 weeks before the last frost).
- Transplant in the garden, 1 m apart, as the tamarillo grows very quickly and reaches 2 m during the summer.
- Harvest at maturity, when the fruits are orange. If they are not picked, they can reseed.
Sticky nightshade or litchi tomato (Solanum sisymbriifolium)
- Sow indoors in early April (about 9 weeks before the last frost).
- Transplant in the garden, 1 m apart. The sticky nightshade can also be grown in pots.
- Ripe fruits are red. Better to pick them, because they reseed.
Pipicha (Porophyllum linaria) and Bolivian coriander or papalo (Porophyllum ruderale)
- Sow indoors at the end of March (about 10 weeks before the last frost).
- Transplant in the garden after the last frost, 50-60 cm apart.
- These plants require little maintenance.
- Harvest the seeds in late summer to sow them the following year.
Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa)
- Sow indoors at the end of April (3 weeks before transplanting).
- Transplant in mid-May, as soon as the soil has dried out, 40 cm apart. Quinoa tolerates low temperatures of around 12 °C. You can also sow it directly in the garden at the end of May.
- Harvest when the panicles reach their final color and the grains come off easily, usually between mid-August and mid-September.
- To finish drying them, cut the stems. Then, hang the panicles upside down in a dry, cool and ventilated place.
- Before consuming the dried grains, rinse them several times in water to remove the saponin covering them. This bitter substance protects the plant against insects and birds.
Some seed suppliers: Richters Herbs, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds.