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pattypansquashThese are this year’s patty pan squash

They’re a little bit odd. I’ve grown yellow patty pans before: and they were like miniature flying saucers, about 8-10″ across and beautifully scalloped at the edges.

These are not.

They reach this size – about 4″ across – make a half-hearted attempt at the scallop thing and then go rotten.

I shouldn’t complain really: they’re very prolific as you can see, so make up for lack of size with quantity. They’re nice and firm (before they go soft) and tasty: I cut them up skins and all and use them just like courgettes.

But yellow patty pans they aren’t. I now think I got a duff batch of seed.


This happens more often than you’d think. One year I bought three plug plants which were meant to be melons: two of them were, the third turned out to be a pumpkin. You can’t actually tell the difference just by looking at the seedlings: it was when the flowers appeared that the truth was out, but by then it was a massive behemoth bidding for a greenhouse takeover.

I planted three hydrangeas this spring in a client’s garden which were meant to be ‘Mariesii Perfecta’ – a seductive smokey-grey-blue lacecap so beautiful you can’t quite believe it’s real.

What has flowered is a horrid candy-pink half-mophead, half-lacecap which looks like a reject from a failed hydrangea breeding experiment. It’s dreadful and rather embarrassing since I had talked the owner into getting ‘Mariesii Perfecta’ instead of the ‘Annabelle’ she had originally suggested.

The list goes on: limp ‘Lollo Rossa’ lettuces in a washed-out half-green instead of the crisply ruffled burgundy purple they’re meant to be; winter super-hardy supposedly January King cabbages which are not properly savoyed and worse, mature and over by September; ‘Electric’ onions more pink than red.

I don’t know whether seed companies are getting complacent: perhaps they’re assuming we don’t know enough about our varieties (or care, perhaps) to be able to tell the difference.

Or maybe it’s us: I haven’t yet complained about the hydrangeas, though I know I should have my money back or perhaps three Annabelles to replace them. And if I did complain at least the plant producers would know I actually noticed and cared.

Something is undeniably a little amiss with the supply chain here, and it worries me: if you don’t get the right thing in your seed packet (or plug plant tray) and you don’t know, then you’ll always have a skewed idea of what home-grown vegetables (or plants in general) should be like. It matters for future breeding, as muddied gene pools are not good for predictable results. And it matters just because when I buy a certain type of lettuce I have chosen it for the properties it’s supposed to have – not some diluted hybrid mishmash.