I am such an expectant parent when my plants start budding. In the case of fruiting plants, I tend to watch the flowers like a hawk, hoping that pollination will be successful and that I’ll see tiny fruits developing before my eyes. Unfortunately, watching the plants so closely seems to make them shy, and often, nature takes its course when I’m elsewhere.
Such was the case with my aubergine plants. Not knowing which conditions would suit them, I dispersed plants in several locations in the garden. So far, I’ve found caterpillars, grasshoppers, whiteflies, mealy bugs and a ladybug on them. And each time they bloomed, the flowers would abort. So, one fine day, I went to check the plants, and noticed that the stalk and receptacle (base of the stem) of one flower looked different. They had thickened and looked shiny, and the flower petals had dropped off. The sepals (green leafy things on the edge of the receptacle) had lengthened and closed, almost shyly. I crossed my fingers and watched this for a couple of days before, finally, the rounded bottom of a growing fruit started protruding from behind the closed sepals. Ladies and gentlemen, our first eggplant fruit is growing!
Our next story is of the angled loofah. This plant was nurtured for about 4 weeks before being planted out at a trellis. It was already about a metre high at the time. Conditions were optimal for it and within a week, it had produced bunches of male flower buds. These buds open one or two at a time, so the bunch lasts for several days. Almost 2 weeks after being planted out, the first female flower matured. Angled loofah flowers bloom in the evening and stay open till sometime in the night. I’d like to say I took a moonlit stroll to see them, but there was no moon out that night. No, it was by torchlight that I plucked one of the pair of male flowers blooming then, removed the petals, and hand-pollinated the female flower. It’s possible that I need not have done anything, because there was an ant investigating the female flower – but who knows whether it had visited a male flower beforehand? Whatever the case, the female flower has kept growing – rather, the petals fell off, but the fruit has been getting a little bigger – so I believe I can announce our first ketola of 2011!
We’ve had okra plants growing for some time, but since we’re talking about veggie babies, I’m giving them some of the spotlight, too. Ladies Fingers (as okra are also called) are a favourite on our dining table. Freshly harvested fruits are tender and sweet, and I’m making an effort to do successive planting so that we have a continuous supply of this vegetable. I also recently acquired seeds for a burgundy version of the okra, and am intensely curious to see the grown fruits. In the meantime, though, the regular green okra will continue to make us happy.
Perhaps, one of these days, the winged bean plant will finally set fruit and I will have the satisfaction of sharing the news with you…