If you know me you know I’m just not happy if I’m not growing…..something. In the winter, it can be almost anything. But now I actually have a lot growing on.
I’m fortunate to have this big ugly glass former reptile enclosure in my kitchen, lol. I’m growing 3 herbs for myself and several things for my chuckwalla, to supplement the 2 staple greens I can get at the grocery store year round. My little Geyri is brumating so these foods will all be for Chuckie for the next several months.
I had nasturtiums growing in a raised bed for them in the summer. I wondered if cuttings of them would work, hmmm. So I tried rooting some in water and I’m amazed to say that nasturtiums are one of the most interesting things I’ve ever grown.
The first cuttings were small and rooted quickly. After I planted them in ground, they dropped some leaves and only had a couple little ones. But one started producing flowers. Tiny buds developed into full sized flowers in only several days. Hmm, need to take 2 bigger cuttings. Those rooted quickly too and are producing flowers and I’ll plant them in ground today.
Nasturtium is only an occasional reptile food, because it has some chemicals that are not healthy for them. But Chuckie can have a couple bright colored flowers a week and I get to see flowers growing in the winter.
Basil and parsley for me doing great, and chives getting started, but chives are slow.
Wheat grass as well as some chicory and arugula for Chuckie. The wheat grass grows fast and a couple times a week I just cut grass for him and add it to his salad.
He likes his food and his house. There are good places to lay in hot and cooler places, just like in the real desert.
I grow cactus for them year round too, not in the little greenhouse, just at a sunny window with a plant light. Both lizards like it and it’s a good daily food. Another amazing thing to grow.
Our times are crazy. Our country and world are crazy. In crazy times, we have to find simple, sane things to keep us centered and grounded as best we can be. I hope you have things like that. For me, if I can’t sit in the garden or watch beans pop up or pick tomatoes, I can soothe my soul seeing things growing inside. I can add flavor to some foods for myself and make my little chuckwalla happy. The little things really are the big things. Have a good Today.
Your post reminded me of my Dad’s garden. He also had a great collection of different herbs. I always loved to get some fresh basil and parsley when I was cooking.
Have a great weekend, my friend!
Basil and parsley, mmmm. so good in some foods. I hope you have a good weekend too!
OH! So they got fresh nopal! Is that a native species? It looks like Opuntia humifusa.
I never thought there were native cactus here in PA, but a couple years ago you pointed out to me that there are. I bought the originals of these from a guy on Amazon and he said these are Burbank spineless or Barbary fig ( Opuntia ficus-indica). All that will mean a lot more to you than it does to me, because all I knew was opuntia, and no more details.
OH! Those are rad! They did not look so familiar, perhaps because they are grown inside. ‘Burbank Spineless’ might be the most common cultivar here. It is grown both for nopals and tuna, so works well for those who do not want different cultivars for each. I do not know what cultivar my only prickly pear is, but I am pleased with its dark red tuna that might be more richly flavored than that of ‘Burbank Spineless’, but is not likely as abundant. It likewise may not provide napales of comparable quality, but I am more than pleased with what I get. Coincidentally, I might add ‘Burbank Spineless’ to my garden this winter.
The first summer I had them I did take them outside and the pads were a little darker in the sun. None of them have ever bloomed; maybe not enough light with a double paned window and a plant light, but then I cut the newer pads off too, so maybe there will never be flowers. That’s ok, cos I’m just glad to not have to keep buying pads. Geyri is tiny and only eats a few little cubes, but Chuckie the food machine eats quite a few more little cubes. Chuckie might actually remember eating cactus in the desert; I don’t know whether he was wild caught or bred in captivity. He came to me from friends who run a reptile rescue, and sometimes they don’t get much history when they receive an animal.
Even in warm climates, they are popularly grown primarily for their nopales, so are similarly deprived of bloom and the potential to fruit by frequent harvesting of fresh growth.
The newer pads are so good for the desert lizards, but the older ones develop a chemical, which I have forgotten, that makes them something that reptiles should only eat a few times a week. I’m happy that my older, thicker, pads keep producing nice younger ones all the time.
Well, the newer napales are the best anyway. They degrade nutritionally as they age. In home gardens, plants are generally allowed to grow to an optimal size, perhaps with occasional thinning, before harvesting. Then, harvesting sets them back only as far as the same primary framework. The primary framework never gets harvested, and would not be edible after the first two years anyway, but continues to generate fresh new growth. It works almost like pollarding, although it is not done all at once.
The old pad I have are thick and darker green, and they keep pumping out new pads. People eat the pads, but I’ve never tried any. We can buy some in Mexican stores in the next little town. Do you eat them?
Yes, but rarely. There are not many here, and even after mine get back into the garden, I want them to grow up big enough to produce fruit. Taking their pads slows their growth.
The fruit is the important part for you. You said you can them, and then eat them, how?
The fruit does not get canned. I canned the rooted pad, as in a #1 (one gallon) black vinyl can. It is rather thrashed, but put a new pad out the top. When I put it into the ground, I will likely bury the rooted pad, with just the top of the new pad protruding above the soil. In the distant future, if I get more fruit than I know what to do with, I might try to can fruit pulp or juice. The fruit is so soft that the pulp would not stay intact. It would likely become sludge with seeds in it. Therefore, I would rather can clarified juice, and discard the pomace. The fruit can not be canned intact without dislodging the tiny spines so that they float around in the syrup. That would be seriously bad.
That would be bad. Clarified juice sounds interesting.
Yes, but it also would be significant work, since the fruit must be peeled before juicing. The spines can get through the clarification process if the fruit is juiced intact. I suppose that if it there is enough fruit, it can be halved and scooped out fast.
That does sound like a lot of work. Too much.
That is why I intend to keep my prickly pear compact and producing just enough fruit for fresh consumption.
Good luck. You know how to do all those things and I hope you get a good harvest year after year. 👍
Thank you. They are rather easy. Promoting bloom will be the challenging part, since I do nothing to promote bloom with other fruit trees. They just do it naturally. Prickly pear blooms best if distressed somewhat at the right time.
Be sure to write a blog about your success with that.
Well, it will be several years, since I am starting with new plants.
People will enjoy reading about it.
Well, they will need to wait. I want to get another cultivar with yellow or orange fruit, like are more popular in Italy, but will not go out of my way for it. Fruitwood nursery sells several cultivars, but I do not want to buy any. I must ‘find’ it.
Find it……where? Out in the wild somewhere? This will be fun for you.
No; for these, I want cultivars that have been developed for superior fruit.
So where will you find them?
I do not know, but there is some naturalized prickly pear on the road to a lumber yard here that might be different from the cultivar that I have. I am told that it is dark red, but I want to go see. I thought that it was orange. If not, I have a way or encountering such plants out and about.
It will be a good adventure.
I grew some out on the edge of the road, but the road crews kept cutting it down while weed whacking. Every time I put the shredded pieces into what seemed to be a safer place to root, the road crew found them and shredded them again, until there was nothing left to root. I took one piece of a cultivar with dark red fruit in to be canned, and it is growing well. I will put it into my own garden next year, and may get a piece of ‘Burbank Spineless’ or another red prickly pear that grows wild near here.
I hope you can plant some where the road crews won’t cut them off. You can the fruit, and then do what with it? We seldom get to see the fruits here, because not many people grow cactus. These won’t survive in the winter here. I tried a piece a couple years ago. But a man around the corner has some growing that do survive, and they have the fruits on now. Good luck!
There are plenty of other situations to grow them. I just wanted them near the road because it is such an ideally warm situation for them, and I do not want to put anything else out there that would want more water. I do not can the fruit. It is not much more substantial than watermelon, so would likely be mush if canned. I canned one of the rooted pads though, just to bring it in with the many other plants that are waiting for a place in the landscapes or the garden. I suspect that the fruits there are not as big as they are here. They appreciate warmth. Their fruit may not completely develop without prolonged warm weather. Even here, they do not like how the nights get cool between warm days.
Oh OK, I thought before you said you caned the fruit. One neighbor has a bunch that have fruit on now. It’s an old colony of them that grows on a rocky outcropping. And here of course they have to lay down under ice and snow for the winter. I don’t know if those are the native ones or some others that can adapt to the cold winters.
Oh, I just explained that in response to another comment. It occurred to me though that, if properly peeled, the nopalitos are sometimes canned. I do not know how because I have never done it. I suspect that it is a low acid vegetable, so must be canned with pressure, or pickled.
I saw that later, that you don’t can the fruit. I can’t imagine peeling a cactus pad. Or a lot of them, to can.
They are canned while still developing, before the spines are lignified. I think that they are a lot of work because of the numbers! It takes a lot to fill a pint.
You do have a lot growing on! So glad you have these. These are crazy times. I have back up bulbs in case of a supply shortage, what I need now is an indoor garden. You are a fountain of information with these plants and cacti.
Oh wow, thanks. As you gets old(er), hopefully you’re learned a lot of things, lol.
Oh yea, back up bulbs, cos you never know what can happen, cos a lot of things have already happened. You can substitute in some bad situations, but not with something like UV.
Yes, you do need an indoor garden! Plant lights are amazing things.
They are looking very fresh and we can easily grow them at home! 👌