Seed saving and new perennial crops

Dec 1, 2020

It’s been a busy year at Incredible Vegetables with lots of seed saving projects and new perennial and interesting food crops being tested. We have produced our first large batch of Skirret seed, have grown some very large anchote roots and fruits (Coccinia abyssinica) and are now underway with Giant Ulleung celery (Dystaenia takisimana), Ashitaba (Angelica keiskei), Aster Scaber, Ligularia fischeri and Sochan (Rudbeckia laciniata)

 Anchote -Coccinia abyssinica, an Ethiopian root crop

We grew anchote for the first time and plants were given special treatment in the polytunnel. Anchote plays an important role in the local diet of rural communities in Western and South Western Ethiopia. It’s a high altitude crop grown at 2000-2500 metres. Large starchy edible roots form underground, with climbing vines and attractive fruits above. The fruits themselves are very bitter, so the main harvest is the roots, but as a curcubit the young leaves can also be eaten much like squash leaves. It was quite an achievement producing the roots but the fruit is very exciting as we can save our own seed. Pieces of stored root can be kept frost free over the winter and then sprouted again in the spring.

Anchote - Coccinia abyssinica

Anchote harvest, large starchy tubers harvested in November 2020

The vines grew rampantly over the summer months about 15ft long and lots of very attractive fruits appeared, speckled white and green ( this is their colour when unripe).

Anchote - Coccinia abyssinica vines

Anchote vines and fruits in the polytunnel in summer

The vines were still growing strong right into November but we lifted the roots and harvested the fruits before voles started moving in on them.

Anchote - Coccinia abyssinica

Anchote ripened fruits turn a beautiful orange

Once the fruits were brought home, a few days in a warm room finished ripening them nicely.

Anchote - Coccinia abyssinica

Anchote – Coccinia abyssinica fruits cut for extracting seeds

An exciting moment when the fruits were cut open and we found lots of mature seed.

Anchote - Coccinia abyssinica

Anchote seeds fermenting ready to be cleaned and dried

We treated the seeds in the same way we would process cucumber seeds, extracting them and putting them in water for a couple of days. These will be drained and thoroughly dried and we will germination test them.

Anchote – Coccinia abyssinica some really decent roots

From five small plants in the spring, we harvested five hefty clusters of roots. These need to be cooked like potatoes, although they may take a bit longer than potatoes to become soft. More research is needed, and it is very helpful to have seed to work with so we can start to select the best plants to grow on.