Harvest update from Jiffarong: What type of vegetables are cultivated?

Eggplant (Solanum melongena) 

Eggplant (Aubergine) is a perennial warm weather crop which is mostly cultivated in tropical regions of Gambia and is one of the most cultivated and consumed crops in Gambian society. It has great nutritional value of Vitamin C, K and B6 and a great source of Mineral Phosphorus, Copper, Potassium etc.  Eggplant helps to reduce risk of heart disease, controls blood sugar level and helps controlling body weight. 

Its production has commenced in the Tesito community garden and among many has reached maturity due to early planting schemes.  The plant needs a warm environment of at least 6-8 hours in direct sunlight and can be harvested in 2-3 years in a row. The best planting period is from July to October.


Okra (Abelmoschus ssp.)

Okra that is also cultivated in the community garden, is sometimes called “a perfect villager´s vegetable” as it is a resilient and a robust crop and has many health benefits as well. It contains high amounts of dietary fiber and vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and antioxidants. Okra can be processed into edible oil or flour. 

Its cultivation requires warm growing conditions with night temperature above 15 c and a soil temperature of 17 c. It can be farmed in a variety of soil types.

Okra plants are quite easy to grow and they don’t require much caring. However good organic fertilizer, as the one used in Jiffarong, helps in growing bigger crops.

Before planting the seeds, the soil should be irrigated and then again after the seeds have germinated. Weed control is important as they take up nutrients.

In 60 to 70 days the fruits become ready to be harvested. They should be harvested quite quickly in order to prevent them from turning fibrous, losing their taste also.


Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)

Lettuce is a cool-season crop that helps to control inflammation, helps with insomnia, is rich in vitamin C, B and K and contains a variety of minerals that are essential for body metabolism.

Lettuce grows best in temperatures of 12-20c. Above 27c there are some risks concerning the plant’s quality and seed stalk development. It can start bolting, which means producing stem and seed stalk. This can be prevented by covering the plants so that they don´t get direct sunlight.  It can grow in different kinds of soils but it thrives in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. It is important to prepare the soil properly before sowing. Lettuce requires quite a lot of watering. The soil must remain moist but not too wet. In hotter temperatures they need to be watered daily. The drip irrigation that was installed to the Jiffarong garden is of much help in this regard.

Lettuce should be harvested in the morning when it is full-size but young and tender.


Onion (Allium cepa)

Onion also has a lot of health benefits as it is rich in Calcium, Iron, Potassium and Vitamins B6, B9 and E. It thrives in sandy/loamy soils and should not be planted in clayey soil as the bulb will struggle to expand. The soil must contain lots of organic matter and have good water holding quality. Onion seeds are first sown in a nursery and at the age of 35-40 days they can be transplanted to the main field.

Onions require light and frequent irrigation that can be provided with the help of drip irrigation. At the bulbing stage it needs more water then again reduced towards maturity. 

Suitable climate for the onion is between 13c and 24c for the seedlings and 16c to 21c for the bulbing and 30-35 c at maturity and harvest. Onions need full sun exposure. Plants are ready to be harvested in 90 to 150 days after transplanting. They are ready to harvest when the leaves collapse or when 75% of the tops of the crop have dried and fallen over. After harvesting, the onions are cured which means that the necks and outer leaves are dried off. It is advised to use crop rotation in order to prevent diseases.