Wednesday, 1 September 2010

How to grow Rampion

  • Rampion or Raperonzolo (Campanula rapunculus) is a very old German heirloom that was the catalyst of the fairy tale where Rapunzel's mother had to give her over to the witch when caught sneaking some of this delicious vegetable from her garden. 
  • Rampion is a hardy biennial plant native to southern Europe, with edible white roots, up to 25 cm (10 inches) long. 
  • Rampion looks much like a radish and is used much the same except the tops may also be used as a green. 
  • Rampion grows to 0.9 m (3ft) by 0.3 m (1ft). 
  • Harvesting of the root occurs in the first year. 

  • If left to grow, it will produce beautiful purple bell flowers in its second year that grow to 60cm (18 inches) - appropriate for a decorative border; however, once gone to seed this can become a garden pest.
  • It is in flower from July to August, and the seeds ripen from August to September. 
  • The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by bees, flies, beetles, lepidoptera, self.
  • The plant is self-fertile. 
  • It is hardy to US zone 4. 
  • It was widely cultivated in the 17th century in central Europe. 

  • The roots are eaten raw in salads, frequently with beets and celery, or cooked like turnips. 
  • The long, oval leaves which form a rosette at the root crown can also be used in salads or cooked like spinach. 
  • Sometimes the young shoots are prepared like asparagus. 
  • Once very popular, especially in England during Shakespeare's time, rampions are not widely cultivated today.

How to grow Rampion - Crop Rotation

  • Rampion part of the Daisy Family  and to help avoid disease and pests they should not be planted in soil which has had other family members grown in it within at least the last 3 years.

How to grow Rampion - Site and Soil

  • An easily cultivated plant, it prefers a moist but well-drained rich sandy loam and a neutral or alkaline soil in sun or partial shade, though it succeeds in most good soils.
  • Tolerates a pH in the range 4.8 to 7.5. 
  • Plants are hardy to at least -15°c. 
  • Plants often self-sow in the garden. 
  • The species in this genus do not often hybridize and so seed can generally be relied upon to come true. 
  • The plants are self-fertile. 
  • Rampion was formerly often cultivated for its edible root, though it has fallen into virtual disuse. 
  • When grown for its edible root, the plant should not be allowed to flower.

How to grow Rampion - Preparing Soil

  • Although a sandy loam is the ideal soil for rampion, a heavier clay soil will also yield nearly perfect roots if it has been well-enough worked so that all hard clods in the top 30 cm (1 foot) are broken up, and all stones are removed.
  • The addition of compost or well-rotted manure is also very helpful. 

How to grow Rampion - Sowing Seed

  • Like carrots, rampion have a delicate tap-root and seed is best sown in situ, rather than in seed trays (flats); however, root-trainers suitable for carrots  will allow the seed to be sown indoors before the frosts have passed.
  • Surface sow May/June in situ. 
  • The seed usually germinates in 2 - 4 weeks at 18°c.
  • Seeds should be sown in shallow drills, 30 cm (1 foot) apart, and thinned out to 13 to 15cm (5 to 6 inches) in the rows. 

How to grow Rampion - Care & Cultivation

  • The young plants should be moderately watered at first.
  • If grown for culinary use, it must not be allowed to flower, and the roots should be earthed up several inches on each side in order to blanch them. 

How to grow Rampion - Harvesting

  • They are fit for use in November, and should be lifted then and stored in a frost-proof place.

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