Last week I noted here that some stray aubergines had moved into one of the allotment beds and wondered where they could have come from. Seeds, possibly, surviving the composting? But yesterday when the plants came into flower it became obvious that they weren’t aubergines at all but they were, nonetheless, members of the Solanaceae; the potatoes, tomatoes and – well- deadly nightshade, thorn apple and henbane all to be found in any self respecting dark pharmacy. What’s going on? what with killer courgettes stalking the home counties you might wonder whether it’s safe to go out at night, and I’ve still no idea how they got there.
However these rather attractive plants, which turned out to be alternately known as “shoo fly” or “Peruvian apples” – botanically Nicandra physalodes – have left us in a dilemma. The shoo fly name comes from its ability to keep flies and other enemies at bay by emitting a repellant chemical from glands on the leaves. But the leaves and stems and particularly (by report) the seeds, when rubbed into the skin or ingested, are apparently hallucinogenic. That’s the upside, you might say. The downside is that they seed freely and before you know where you are you might land up with an infestation. We could dry them (they dry well, so the flower arrangers claim – any excuse will do) and hang them up in the kitchen to keep flies out. I’m not sure how growing fly repellant plants fits in with the wildlife corridor ethos, but they could possibly be useful in the carrot bed – who knows? I’m intrigued enough to save some seed and grow them in pots that could be moved around the plot. I’ve discovered that the seeds are on sale an a number of reputable places so I guess a “proper” flower gardener would have recognised them immediately and we’re unlikely to get a visit from the drug squad – maybe from a luminescent operatic unicorn, though? Oh do send an alto – I’d love an alto unicorn. Better get some gloves! More seriously I should say that they belong in a seriously poisonous group of plants and could be very dangerous to curious children because they look a bit like Chinese gooseberries.
But yesterday we took a break from exploring the local nature reserves – that’s what we call a holiday in newspeak – and settled down to some routine weeding on the allotment. It’s one of the slacker times of the year; routine maintenance, watering and picking just about cover it. If you don’t pick the courgette today it’ll be a marrow tomorrow, and most veg will give up if you don’t keep picking.
So just to prove that we haven’t gone AWOL altogether here are some photos of the allotment: