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Popular nightshade vegies to heat up your summer patch

Chillies and capsicum are among the popular vegetables of the nightshade family. Picture: Shutterstock.
Chillies and capsicum are among the popular vegetables of the nightshade family. Picture: Shutterstock.

The most popular summer vegetables are undoubtedly those in the nightshade family, botanically referred to as Solanaceae. They include tomatoes, egg plant (aubergine), capsicum and chillies.

Nightshades are plants that require a long growing season, taking around three months to mature, but eggplants, chilli and capsicum, require much warmer temperatures to produce fruits than their tomato cousins.

Once nightshades begin to set fruit, they will require staking to keep them upright as plants will collapse under the weight of fruit.

Capsicum is available in a variety of colours, chocolate, black, yellow, orange or red. They all start off green and change as they ripen. Restrict the number of fruits per plant to five or six for bigger fruits and ensure plants are well irrigated.

If you're looking for something to spice up your life, don't look past the range of chilli varieties on offer. When it comes to heat, chillies have everything from zero to hero, with mild, to blow-the-roof-of-your-mouth varieties. Carolina reaper is the world's hottest chilli and Trinidad scorpion is another that provides a sting.

Aubergine, also called egg plant, require a longer season than tomatoes, so try some of the smaller varieties in pots. For added colour plant Listada De Gandia with lavender and white stripes.

By the end of December early spring plantings of tomato will have begun to lose vigour. A second crop can be started from either new seedlings or cuttings taken from the original plants.

Selecting which tomato variety to grow is becoming increasingly difficult as there are literally hundreds of tomato varieties to choose from.

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From the sweet cherry varieties through to the large salad types, there is something to delight the most discerning gardener's palate.

Tried and tested favourites in the garden include Grosse Lisse, Apollo, Amish Paste, Roma and Beefsteak. New varieties and heirlooms such as Zebra, Black Russian, Rogue de Marmande and Tigerella demand just as much attention.

For something completely different try the black tomato, indigo rose, the fruits are about the size of a plum and have a dark indigo skin down the shoulders and an orange base when ripe.

Cut them open to reveal a rose and olive-green flesh with a delicious flavour. They take a little longer to ripen, but are worth the wait.

Plant nightshades now and turn up the heat.

This story Popular nightshade vegies to heat up your summer patch first appeared on The Canberra Times.