Address: Irish Seed Savers Association, Capparoe, Scarriff, Co. Clare, Ireland   Phone: +353 61 921866   Email:

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Some of your questions answered

Dear ISSA,

I grew 3 connemara oca this year. I got them from Seedsavers and found it difficult to get infop on them in terms of how and when to harvest and how to cook them. Anyway to cut a long story short I parboiled them first and then roasted them in the oven and we had them for subnday dinner. Next time I will just roast or parboil them for a shorter time. They were delicious and a great hit with all the family. I have saved a few tubers for next year but have no idea how to store them. Can u advise me please and if you have any additional info I would be most grateful.Le gach Dea-GuiMargoDear MargoHarvesting, it is important to wait as long as possible in autumn, until they have finished flowering or a hard frost hits, good if they can be left until end October to bulk up. Only when the leaves have turned to mush- dig them up advises Simon Hicknott in his book ‘Unusual Vegetables’. Dry and store the tubers in exactlythe same wayas you would potatoes. Oca comes originally from Peru, and also cultivated since the 1800’s  in New Zealand. It has in fact been grown and eaten in the British Isles as a substitute since the 1600’s but has never had the same popularity as potatoes. It has a similar firmness and texture as salad potatoes. Also very good deep fried or roasted as you discovered. They can even be eaten raw, crunchy and refreshing. Thanks for the feedback. Hope this helpsJo Newton*****************************************************************************************************Dear ISSA,I need your help 20years ago i had this Everlasting Cabbage but then i lost it one winter and i was hoping you could help meand let me know if ther is any chance that i could get some seeds or cuttingsthanks and please replyDear Shane, We do indeed have a cut and come again cabbage, that is perennial. It never actually goes to seed, so the only way to propagate is by taking cuttings. We usually do this in early spring, but it probably works any time. You can come and get a few slips form out mature plants or we’ll have bucket full of cuttings at our seed swap day which is the first Sunday in March. If you don’t live close it can be sent, but definitely not at this time of year. Especially with it being so dry. Jo Newton*****************************************************************************************************I am growing garlic. The scapes have appeared how long should I cut these off:-A) just below the bottom of the scape orB) right down to the entry of the scape from the leaves.The second question refers to comfrey- last year I made lots of liquid (foul smelling) i read that I can feed this liquid to tomatoes fruit trees raspberries and blackcurrants my question is- How? Straight from storage as is or diluted and how often? I do know that this liquid has not to touch the leaves any other precautions. Can I shower areas for planting cabbage cauliflowers.I am cutting comfrey in flower and placing on the roots of fruit bushes. Can I do the same with the 24 apple trees bought from you?sincerely,Anne Miller, Roundwood co.wicklowDear Anne, I guess by ‘scape’ you mean the little flowering shoots on the stalk of the garlic, and yes just cut them off, if they are quite small they are delicious in stir fry. Comfrey is especially good for all fruiting plants (includes tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, potatoes, etc.) Yes, you can mulch it around apple trees, bushes etc. and as a liquid we usually dilute it about 1 part comfrey liquid to 4 parts water but it is not a problem if its a bit stronger or weaker. Nor will it damage the leaves of plants, although it smells there is absolutely nothing toxic about it. I wouldn’t bother with comfrey for cabbage and cauliflower as long as there is plenty of compost in the soil.Hope this helpsAll the bestJo Newton Thank you so much Jo I will never forget your dedication with seed savers. Your editorials in the journal are a delight to read and I have passed these on to some friends. Such a person as you should be leading this country in the pursuit of A WHOLLY ORGANIC ISLANDWe are presently harvesting seed garlic. Please can you advise us as to the most efficient way to do this:-Step 1      LiftStep 2      Do I wash off all the clinging compost and soil or do I rub it ofStep 3      Do I dry outside in sun and rain and wind or do I dry inside on trays in a shed where air will blow through.sorry to be so particular but I have rather a lot of garlic and I do intend to replant early autumn to have even more garlic with a view to marketing in the future a product equal to the garlic which is imported from the Isle of Wight, china and FranceAlso I am growing in the two bay tunnel the cucumber which is doing very well, do I treat similar to courgettes the long flowers growing without bulging up- do I cut these off as in courgettesNever grown cucumbers before- I think the seed came from you.Anne, sorry to be such an old fuss potDear Anne,1. Lift garlic with fork, when leaves are yellow and dying back. 2. Lay somewhere to dry, with plenty ventilation, in tunnel is good enough, usually too wet outdoors.3. Once dry and rustly clean off compost, soil, dirty outer leaves and any top leaves left, cut the roots back to bulb.4. Store somewhere cool, choose best, healthiest big cloves for seed. Cucumbers don’t need to have the male flowers cut off, they just drop off anyway, but cucumber plants will need support up canes or twine or even chicken wire. When you have 4 or 5 leading shoots, start taking off any more that develop to encourage fruit production.Hope this helpsJo Newton *****************************************************************************************************Hello there,I’m trying to find out “mystery” about seed selection; For some reason my parents haven’t been able to grow vegetable from the seeds that they collect from their own veg; I’m wondering why that happens; Cucumbers usually come in strange shapes and even become yellow @ one end; Other veg doesn’t “perform” as good as well;Is there a special seed selection done before they land on store shelves?Kind Regards,MaggieDear Maggie, This is quite a big question, but yes generally seed selection will have gone on before you buy packs of seed. Any seed that is a hybrid (includes F1 in the variety name) has been very highly bred and will have either no offspring as it is sterile are any range of strange offspring. With open pollinated seeds, you can get reliable results in saving your own seed but as a general rule you always need to choose good healthy vigourous plants and good looking fruit etc. for the seed. Some crops of course need a  larger population to cross pollinate and keep the genetic inheritance strong and viable. We have a booklet on seed saving price €5 available on our website use this link below. also run day workshops on saving your own seed. of luckJo Newton*****************************************************************************************************Dear JoThank you so much for sending me on the extra squash seed. Out of the six seeds 5 germinated and are now very healthy looking plants and growing well.I would like to ask if you have tips for getting more fruit from them. Last year I did not get much fruit (I think I could get much more) and see the same situation beginning this year.  The one seed that grew earlier on has lots of buds and flowers but the buds are not developing/fall off..I hand pollinated some of them last year and they developed.They are in a polytunnelJoan BrosnanCo KerryDear Joan Glad to see you’re having better success with the squash. I think if you restrict the number of shoots growing from the plant to four or six the remaining ones can put more energy into fruiting.  Often with cucurbits in cool wet weather – the flowers tend to drop rather than develop in response.  This occurs with peppers too. The male flowers, those with just a stalk behind the flower rather than a tiny fruit will drop off anyway.  Hand pollination can help especially when the weather is cool and there is not so much insect activity. I’ll put your letter in the next newsletter to see if our members have more tips. Happy gardening,Jo*****************************************************************************************************


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