INCREDIBLE EDIBLES; Try Something Different This New Year by Growing Your Own Exotic Edible Plants. They Look Great in the Garden and Taste Even Better on the Dinner Plate

Article excerpt

YOU may well have grown your own potatoes, tomatoes and apples... but have you ever tried saffron, chillies or bamboo shoots?

As we start a new year maybe it's time to try something new. Exotic veg and fruit look super in the garden, are great in salads and garnishes... and can save you a fortune at the supermarket.

And they are not as difficult to grow as you might think. TV presenter and garden designer James Wong has recently turned his attention to growing these "incredible edibles".

"I've always grown onions and spuds in my garden," he says. "But now I'm also having great success growing expensive deli foods like shiitake mushrooms and saffron."

James, 30, says you don't even need a huge garden, as many of these plants can be grown in pots and raised beds. So follow his lead and get planting in 2012...

BAMBOO

JAMES says: "I was raised in Singapore and Malaysia so I'm used to eating sweet bamboo shoot tips. They make a treat in stir fries. Make sure the new shoots are cleaned, peeled and blanched in boiling water for five to 10 minutes first."

Grow your own: Treat the plants like asparagus, cutting a few of the emerging shoots at 2-3in long. Giving the plant plenty of water in early spring will make the shoots tender.

CHILLIES

RED chilli peppers are ornamental as well as edible, producing flowers that ripen from purple to yellow to orange and red. A good choice for patio pots is NewMex Twilight, which ripens over time, giving a multitude of colours.

Grow your own: James says: "I like to put some history on the plate by growing heirloom varieties."

SAFFRON CROCUS

JAMES says: "Saffron spice costs more than gold, so it makes sense to grow your own. …