Just imagine a veg patch which goes on giving, year after year – no need to resow or plant up each spring, and nothing to clear away in autumn.
All that’s needed is a bit of weeding, maybe some mulch and a little protection from pests – and in return you get armfuls of produce not just this year, but next year too and for many years to come.
Perennial food plants come back again and again, usually getting a little better every year. You’re probably already familiar with some – asparagus, for example, rhubarb and artichokes (both globe and Jerusalem). Fruit trees and bushes are perennial, of course, as well as many herbs including rosemary, thyme and sage.
But there’s also a wide range of lesser-known edible perennial plants which grow perfectly happily in UK gardens and provide you with a permanent supply of day-to-day greens, roots and florets to eat – no resowing required.
Grow perennial veg and you’ll never be short of something to pick. You’ll be doing your bit for the environment, too, as you use much less compost, plastic pots, water and fertiliser when you sow once and grow for years. You’re also leaving your garden soil undisturbed, which is great for locking up carbon; it also allows the complex web of interconnected life underground to thrive, so your soil is healthier and so are your plants. continue reading….
Harvesting this month: French beans, courgettes, patty pan summer squash, sweetcorn, potatoes (the last of the second earlies to eat, plus maincrops to store), apples and raspberries, plus cucumbers and tomatoes from the greenhouse, and baby-leaf salads from pots outside the back door.
Sowing this month: Autumn-sown (Japanese) onions and lots of salads, for outside (under cloches) and in pots to refill the greenhouse borders once the toms are out, including winter lettuce, mizuna, mibuna, American land cress, corn salad, chard, beetroot (for leaves), turnips (for leaves), spring onions, and round-rooted carrots.
This month I will be:
Clearing summer brassicas
Planting autumn-sown onion sets
Mulching empty beds
Taking cuttings of herbs and borderline-tender plants like salvias and pelargoniums
Planting herbs and perennial vegetables
Cooking apples (and tomatoes) to freeze for winter
New perennial crops for this year
Perennial vegetables are so much more sustainable than annual as you don’t have to continually disturb the soil (so no carbon release) and they require much less input in the way of resources compared to raising seeds and using lots of water, warmth, feed and compost.
There aren’t many of them, though, and some are very unfamiliar. So one of my projects this season has been to start a perennial vegetable garden. No soil disturbance, a fraction of the inputs (feed, water, fertiliser, compost) of annual vegetables, and you lock up more carbon with permanent planting too. And a fraction of the effort of regular vegetable gardening. But the trick is to find perennial vegetables you actually want to eat: here’s what I’ve started with.
Daubenton’s (perennial) kale is growing well: it’s under a little tent of mesh to keep the butterflies off but I’ll remove that once they go away at the end of the season.
The skirret was a total failure: sowed direct in May as instructed, absolutely no seedlings. No idea if the slugs got them or if it was too dry or if they just didn’t fancy it this year. It may have been the seeds themselves so will order from a different supplier next year just in case. And I will be sowing them into pots where I can keep an eye on them.
Salsify were more successful: several good leafy rosettes now from direct sowing in May. I am leaving them to establish for a year or two before I try to pull a few roots.
American ground nut (Apios americana): I planted these odd little tubers (they are actually beans but are more like small, floury potatoes to eat) at the foot of canes by the low wall. Not all survived, but enough did for me to think this will be an interesting taste test next year!
Chinese artichokes: Easy as anything to grow – they’re related to deadnettle. I’ve got them in an old sink in the back garden: I will wait until they die back before harvesting some of the knobbly roots to try (probably next month: watch this space).
And a new addition: Turkish rocket (Bunias orientalis). It’s not the most spectacular plant, being a clump of fuzzy-felt leaves and not much else. But it is bone hardy and a useful spicy salad ingredient. And when I say spicy, I mean spicy: I had a little taste and like most things Turkish it’s ten times stronger than anything you’ve ever tasted before. I am not sure if I like it yet, but I will persevere.
New mentoring service
Well actually it’s not entirely new: I’ve been mentoring several students recently and have found it works so well I am offering it more widely.
The idea is that you have me “on tap” for advice and help about organic and sustainable methods of food growing, over email (no complicated technology to master!) and when you need it. Arrange an hour whenever it suits you and I can answer questions, give you loads of ideas and inspiration, guide you in starting up a new veg garden or help you develop an existing one. It’s entirely up to you what we talk about and it’s completely tailored to you and your garden. Book a one-off session, or a regular time each week. It’s up to you!
A lovely comment from one regular student recently: “I’m SO glad you’re there!”
For more details contact me at sally(dot)nex(at)btinternet(dot)com.
This year’s tomatoes: the verdict
I haven’t a lot of room in the garden to grow dozens of different types of tomatoes but I do like to try one or two new ones each year (there are about 7,500 varieties to choose from so there’s always one you haven’t grown before)
It has not been a vintage year. I’ve had lots of tomatoes: but only one of the three I grew came up to scratch.
Ailsa Craig Good old Ailsa. What would we do without her? There are relatively few straightforward medium-sized salad toms around nowadays – we all seem to be growing fancy cherries, black tomatoes and beefsteaks instead. But sometimes all you need is a straightforward slicing tom and this one is fantastic: reliable, prolific and great flavour too.
Coeur de Bue To be honest this is my own fault as I was being a cheapskate. I grew Coeur de Boeuf a year or two ago and loved it: all the flavour and size of a beefsteak without the difficulty (or low yields). This one came as a freebie and I thought, Bue? Boeuf? Not much in it… how wrong can you be. Insipid taste, pinkish red (so hard to tell when it’s ripe) and a sort of dry texture: a pale shadow of the original. Won’t be growing again.
Reisentomate Another freebie I should have turned down. It’s an interesting idea: a tomato that grows in segments, so you can pick off a segment at a time to eat rather than having the whole tomato. But beyond the novelty value, you’ve got to ask yourself….. why? Flavour insipid, texture dry, fruits small. Just no.
I have been battling the mice. You may think this would be something of an unequal fight, being as I’m several gazillion times their size but they are obviously far cleverer than me.
It started with them taking munchies out of my low-hanging tomatoes: I have never had this happen before in all my 25+ years of growing veg but it was definitely mice as they climbed on top of one fruit and left a lot of poo as a calling card. Yum #not.
Now they’re after my beetroot seedlings. I sowed them direct and they came up within days. Yet along came my whiskery friends and… no more beetroot seedlings.
I do have a feral cat but she is getting old nowadays and spends most of her time on the boiler. I am also starting to think a cat brings too much in the way of collateral damage: don’t mind the baby rabbits so much, but the robins are heartbreaking. So Sooty is to be my last cat and I will have to think of other ways to keep the little blighters off my food in future.
I could trap them, but I always prefer a live and let live policy so for now I am trying an alternative approach. Come back next month for news of its success (or not).
Great to see the veg back at Chelsea. We had a brief flurry of edible love back in the mid-noughties, when the GYO trend was riding high, but in recent years they’ve gone back to hiding behind the skirts of flouncier irises, alliums and other glamourpusses.
No longer. This year there were pistachios on the Best in Show garden and potatoes in the Pavilion (to be fair, they never really went away). Even the RHS Plant of the Year was an edible (the genuinely ground-breaking dwarf mulberry ‘Charlotte Russe’). For a dedicated food grower like me, it was heaven.
The Chris Evans Taste Garden
I really liked the Radio 2 Feel Good gardens this year. They had all the Chelsea pizazz but were more accessible than the more highbrow show gardens: these were true crowd-pleasers, and unashamedly so. None more than the Chris Evans Taste Garden, designed by talented edibles specialist Jon Wheatley and packed with astonishingly perfect vegetables grown by Suttons Seeds’ secret weapon, Terry Porter, whose slightly arcane specialism is producing show-standard vegetables out of season for the flower shows.
I loved everything about this garden: and particularly the big trough full of cutting flowers at the back (including a ginger dahlia, ‘Cheyenne’, in tribute to Chris Evans’s famous carrot top). Just goes to show, you can squeeze a cutting garden in just about anywhere.
The Viking Cruises Garden of Inspiration (gold)
My favourite of all the Artisan Gardens this year. And just look at that orange tree. I have seen orange trees in Italy, France and Florida. But never have I seen one as perfectly orangey as this one. Mouthwatering.
The Potato Story (gold)
Morrice and Ann Innes
Into the Pavilion now, and potato enthusiasts Morrice and Ann Innes became the first exhibit in the history of the show to win a gold medal for a display of potatoes. But what a display. I thought I know a bit about spuds, but came away from this realising quite how far I have yet to go. Morrice (resplendent in his kilt) told me he grows every single one of the 140 varieties on display each year. Only six or so tubers of each, granted, but they take up about half a hectare of back garden. Now that’s dedication.
Robinson Seed & Plants (Silver Gilt)
Loads of unusual veg on the immaculate Robinsons stand. Many, like achocha and cucamelons, I’ve grown already. But these snake gourds turned my head. Apparently, as well as eating them or making medicines from them, you can also turn them into didgeridoos. Who knew.
Also on the Robinsons stand was a rather fabulous edible wall, planted in pockets. This lot included American land cress, watercress, parsley, red-veined sorrel, Bull’s Blood beetroot, rocket, two types of lettuce, electric daisies, New Zealand spinach and asparagus peas. Not bad for a ‘wall’ that measured no more than about 3ft wide by 2ft high.
Tom Smith Plants (Silver Gilt)
And I just had to give a mention to the hottest exhibit in the Pavilion. One for masochists, sorry, chilli lovers everywhere, ‘Dragon’s Breath’ was bred pretty much by accident by Mike Smith, owner of Denbighshire nursery Tom Smith’s Plants. He sent the fruits off to Nottingham Trent University, and much to his surprise they returned with a scorching 2.48 million reading on the Scoville Heat scale. Just to put that into context, the current world record holder, the notorious Carolina Reaper, hits a mere 2.2 million. Mike is now awaiting confirmation from the Guinness Book of Records. Apparently if you were actually stupid enough to swallow one of these little fruits – just a couple of centimetres across – you would be fairly likely to die of anaphylactic shock. The law of natural selection in action, you might say.
A quick whizz round the Garden Press Event up in London the other week – and I do mean quick, as I didn’t arrive till lunchtime having flown in from Bordeaux in France that morning, fingernails still muddy from clearing the garden in the little house my family has bought there.
It’s tempting at this point to get diverted into a little rhapsody about the delights of sitting outside eating a lunch of ham-stuffed baguettes baked that morning, sun shining and temperature a balmy 19 degrees (in February!), back aching pleasantly from raking leaves, loading bonfires, dismantling rotten-roofed sheds and climbing a lot of old trees to pull out ivy.
But I will resist the temptation (until later, anyway) and instead talk about the many little things I came across at the show which caught my eye. The Press Event has become one of those must-attend punctuations to the gardening year: it sort of kicks things off as everyone lines up to show you what the horticultural talking points are likely to be this year.
There’s quite a lot of toot there too, of course, but I tend to avert my eyes tactfully from the stuff that I can’t see the point of or of which I frankly disapprove (one year I listened open-mouthed as an earnest lawn company representative described how their new product would efficiently murder every earthworm in your garden. Not that she put it in quite those words, but I politely refused the free sample she offered: quickest way I know to kill a lawn stone dead).
So here is a little distillation of the good stuff: the half-dozen bits of kit, new plants and innovations which I hope will find their way onto my plot too before too many seasons have passed by.
Grow lights you can use: Oh I know I’ve been banging on about my Vitopod lately but it does have quite a major role in my life just at the moment. So it’s not that surprising that these natty grow lights caught my attention. The only grow lights I’ve come across have been offered me from slightly dodgy sources and are enormous industrial-scale things with questionable electrics. These on the other hand are dainty little things that just clip over your Vitopod lid and extend the day length to up to 12 hours. Daylight being just as important as warmth when starting early seedlings, this could be the missing piece of my jigsaw puzzle.
Tiger nuts: So excited by these. They look a bit like chickpeas, but they’re actually the tubers of an unremarkable sedge, Cyperus esculentus, a close relation to papyrus (the kind you grow in your pond) only not quite as pretty. It’s quite prolific – an average clump yields about 1lb of dried tubers: the texture and taste is similar to coconut, with a little hint of almond, and they’re packed with nutrients. You can dry them for storing over winter, then rehydrate them overnight to eat raw or in cakes and bakes. On coming home to do a bit more research, though, they do seem to be a bit on the tender side. I’m making them this year’s experiment, anyway, to see how they do.
Ornaments that double up as bird feeders: I did think this was pretty, and useful too. I found it on the Crocus stand: you fill the central bowl with seeds, or cheese, or whatever you happen to be feeding the birds at the moment, and they can perch on the ledge to feast. Much prettier than your average wire-and-plastic peanut job.
Charles Dowding’s new book: Charles was there with his partner Steph – also a very talented kitchen gardener and writer – and a lot of copies of his latest publication, Charles Dowding’s Vegetable Garden Diary. a wire-bound allotment notebook-cum-diary interwoven with pages of Charles’s no nonsense advice based on sound practical experience. I have long admired Charles’s quiet ability to plough his own furrow: he draws his own conclusions, he only ever follows what other people say if he’s already proved it to himself, and as a result he is a true pioneer. And Steph gave me some parched peas, too (thanks Steph!)
Dwarf mulberries: Alongside the tiger nuts on the Suttons stand was this little cutie: the first proper mulberry bush. By which I mean one bred to grow just 1.5m tall – or the size of a large-ish shrub, unlike the conventional mulberry bush which is actually a small tree (does anyone know why mulberry trees are called mulberry bushes in the song? The best I can find is this blog post which says it was originally a song about blackberry bushes, or possibly juniper bushes, though it all seems rather vague.) It goes by the pretty name of ‘Charlotte Russe’ and it’s got proper mulberries and everything (and within a year rather than the usual eight or so).
A rude veg competition: Ah yes: rude veg. We all love a bit of double-entendre when harvesting the carrots. Anyway: Van Meuwen enjoyed its Vulgar Veg competition so much last year that it’s doing the same again. There’s £500 of vouchers on offer: the winner last year was a positively pornographic carrot from Weston-super-Mare. What with wonky veg in the news (when you can find any veg at all in the shops, that is) there’s no better time to expose your oddities to a wider audience (double entendre entirely intended): just go to http://www.vanmeuwen.com/competitions and enjoy.
Cucamelons are the latest Big Thing in veg growing: everyone seems to have one or two plants about the place somewhere. So I gave it a try this year, at last, after some years of wondering what all the fuss was about.
I’m still wondering, a bit: the main benefit I can see so far is the cute value.
Cucamelons, aka Melothria scabra, are related to cucumbers, but they come from Mexico. There is in fact lots of argument among botanists as to exactly which bit of the cucumber family it should belong in, as it also counts West African gourds in its ancestry: expect one of those annoying name changes before long.
I germinated the seed with ease, some time back in April, and they romped away, making slightly weedy-looking tangles of leaf, stem and tendril. They’re much less hefty than a cucumber: more like an annual climber in habit. As a result, they’re also much more difficult to train, quickly forming unruly nests of impenetrable tangle (in fact I gave up in the end and just tied them to their supports as best I could).
You don’t have to grow them in a greenhouse, as I’ve done: they actually prefer slightly cooler conditions than a cucumber, so are happy outside in a sunny spot, too. I decided to err on the side of caution, though, and popped them in on the opposite side to my much heavier-looking cucumber plants.
They started fruiting about a month ago. Teeny-tiny little watermelons, no more than 3cm long and 1cm across, striped prettily and small enough to pop whole into your mouth. They definitely taste of cucumber, but with a little tang of citrussy lemon that’s really very pleasant.
But snacks, so far, they have remained. They aren’t cropping that heavily at the moment (though we still have a couple of growing months and you never know). I’m a bit nonplussed as to what else to do with them, to be honest: a quick Google tells me you can sprinkle them on salads, serve them in cocktails or among olives as a bar snack, or (better) try them in a salsa – come to think of it they aren’t radically different from tomatilloes in flavour, just smaller. And you can pickle them, too.
Well – ours is not really a bar snack kind of household, so we’re mostly just putting them in lunch boxes and picnics at the moment or just leaving them lying around in bowls for people to pick at. Besides, I haven’t got enough fruits to experiment with different dishes just yet. On the plus side, they’re almost completely pest and disease free – my cukes are just starting to yellow with red spider mite (as they always do at this time of year) yet the cucamelons are still brilliant green and perky. And they’re the kind of thing that grows just about anywhere, so you can just see them dangling from a hanging basket, say, or in a vertical planting system draped down a wall.
But in a good productive patch of loam in your greenhouse? Well, just now, I’m a bit ‘meh’ about them so far. Pretty, yes; curiosity value, tick, and they really are very cute – but I’m slightly resenting having handed them good growing space. I’d rather grow watermelons. Or cucumbers.
Every day I am to be found in the greenhouses behind a hose – possibly my least favourite job in the garden. Ah well, I can’t be doing the fun stuff all the time.
It’s a good time, though, to take time just standing and looking at my plants (after all, there’s not much else you can do). Stand staring for a while and you’ll spot that early outbreak of aphids, or the yellow mottling that signals the start of red spider mite. And the earlier you spot trouble, the sooner you can head it off.
In this greenhouse – the cucumber greenhouse this year, which means there are also cucamelons, peppers and an aubergine or two in here, plus an almost-finished pot of mixed salad which really needs to go outdoors – I’ve also been peering at the weed seedlings and noticicing that several are actually self-seeded French marigolds, left over from last year when I underplanted the tomatoes in here with them.
This is very gratifying, as it means a) my tardiness with the weeding has paid off and b) French marigolds can self seed – who knew?! Saves me a lot of time faffing about with seed trays and propagators – all I have to do is leave the heads on to set seed and I’m done.
The cucumbers are in full production now: and that means I’m in the middle of my annual cucumber glut. I’m picking one or two a day at the moment, far more than we can possibly eat. The plan is to slice and pickle them instead of gherkins (which have – again – been an abject failure this year): must find a recipe.
And in Greenhouse no. 2 the tomatoes are at last really getting going: I planted them out far too late this year after getting distracted just when I should have been clearing the shelving, late-sown seedlings and containers out, so they hung around in pots much longer than they should have. Just green fruits so far but all looking promising.
These are heritage varieties, and rather special ones at that: they’re from a little packet of treasure sent me by the chap who looks after the 103-variety-strong heritage tomato collection at Knightshayes in Devon. On the right are ‘White Beauty’, aka ‘Snowball’ – a hefty white beefsteak; on the left, ‘Sutton’s Everyday’ which sound nice and reliable; and at the end ‘Jersey Sunrise’ which I’m promised offers exceptional flavour. There are about a dozen other varieties in the package I’m intending to work my way through over the next few years.
And I couldn’t possibly sign off without mentioning the newest arrival in this side. Over winter I lost my beloved rocoto chilli – it was coming into its fourth year, and last year was so vigorous and enormous it hit the ceiling of the greenhouse and I needed to construct a support frame for it out of 2×1 roofing battens to stop it muscling out the plants around it. Covered in lipstick-scarlet fruits, so many I gave them to family and friends and still had bags left over in the freezer, it was my pride and joy.
I hadn’t done anything particularly different from the previous three years, so I’m thinking that rocotos (also known as tree chillies) are actually just naturally short-lived and don’t last much longer than three or four years.
Anyway, there’s no problem that doesn’t also offer an opportunity: so I took the chance to ring the changes and try another chilli you’re supposed to be able to overwinter. Introducing my Aji chilli: aka Capsicum baccatum and another of the slightly hardier, earlier fruiting varieties. This one has yellow fruits, much more like cayenne types in that they’re thin-skinned, so I should be able to dry them (unlike rocotos which are too fleshy) and also not quite as hot as the tongue-blistering fruits on my lost plant.
As before, I’ve planted it in the greenhouse border; as before, I’m expecting it to reach a spectacular height and generally become a bit of a talking point. Watch this space!
Not much gardening going on yesterday: it was blowing a hooley again and though it wasn’t exactly raining hard, what there was flew at you horizontally on the wind like needles. I am an unashamedly fair weather gardener: I don’t see the point of turning your garden into a muddy slurry pit under your feet and mashing your soil into a sodden pulp just so you can say you’ve been gardening in the rain. Good job I don’t work in a Proper Garden where they can make me go outside even if I don’t want to. Anyway: on days like yesterday, I beat a dignified retreat and spend the day at my desk.
Today though was a different story: lovely sunshine, a balmy breeze and everything was drying out nicely. Time to do a bit more sowing: the first peas and broad beans are already in the cold frame hardening off, and the next batch of mangetouts are now cooking nicely in my 15°C propagator.
I’m not quite venturing outside yet: the soil is still chilly to the touch and we’re regularly slumping to zero at night so direct sowing is still a few weeks off yet. That’s not to say you can’t plant, though.
The above curious little witchetty grub lookalikes are a new venture for me this year. These are Chinese artichokes, crosnes, or Stachys affinis: take your pick. Whatever you call them, they’re hardy so you can plant them direct outside whenever you want – unlike my other exotic veg (mashua, oca, yacon) which are still confined to the frost-free greenhouse. So I’m going to give them a go.
I’ve planted them in a patch by the pond in the exotic edibles garden. It’s a little triangle that’s quite nicely confined, having a stone wall on two sides and the pond across the third. The reason for the fencing is that these are veg with ambitions: they will multiply and spread, even if you eat lots of them, and while it’s never a bad thing to have a lot of anything edible it can be a pain if they’re anywhere near other plants (see Jerusalem artichokes and mint, to which Chinese artichokes are related).
They were easy enough to plant: bury on their sides about 5cm deep, and around 15cm apart (not that it matters too much as they’ll soon form a dense mat). They look like deadnettle once they’re up, so I may have to liven them up with a few flowers or this is going to be a dull little corner indeed.
You harvest them from about October. Cleaning is a bit of a faff: it’s easier if you grow them in lighter soils, but in heavy soils you’ll need a bit of elbow grease and a nailbrush. There’s no need to peel. They have a crunch like water chestnuts and a delicate artichoke flavour. Sounds great. I shall report back.
Seedlings coming along nicely! Here’s the tray of mixed salad seedlings I put in at the beginning of February. Alongside them are beetroot, turnips, kohl rabi and early peas (Meteor).
Generally speaking it’s a bit early to be sowing just yet – even in a greenhouse (there’s been the occasional frost on the ground in the mornings this week: I’d almost forgotten what it looked like).
But this year I’ve been trying a new regime and it’s worked a treat.
I set the propagator – my beloved Vitopod – to 12 degrees, optimum for germinating hardy seeds. Then the moment they emerged, I shifted them out of the propagator onto the shelving in the open greenhouse. This is kept a tad above freezing, so regularly (especially lately) falls to about 2-3 degrees.
That means the seedlings grow ‘hard’ – developing protection against the harsher, colder conditions so they become sturdier, shorter and stronger. They’re perhaps a tiny tad more spindly than seedlings started later in spring, but nothing like they have been in previous years when I’ve probably cossetted them a bit too much.
Back in the propagator and the heat has been turned up to 18 degrees: it’s now the turn of tomatoes, half-hardy annuals and a whole slew of exotica including mashua, yacon and oca. Plus Chinese gooseberries and gherkins. I do love this time of year!
Variety is the spice of life: potatoes at the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show
Now here’s an exciting early Christmas present. Just chosen my six varieties from the Heritage Seed Library’s catalogue, which plopped into my email inbox on the first day of this month – about the most eagerly anticipated bit of virtual mail I’ve had for a long time.
The HSL is a fine institution, dedicated to preserving some of our oldest (and more recently most unusual) vegetables.
Heritage veg are increasingly finding their way into catalogues, and all sorts of things are making something of a comeback, from red-flowered broad beans to Telephone peas, baby ‘finger’ carrots and Lazy Housewife beans.
But the HSL deals with the extreme end of heritage: those varieties which have been passed on from father to son and mother to daughter, kept in packets in the back of sheds, collected again at the end of the season and resown the next.
Pea ‘Magnum Bonum’
True heirlooms, in other words, often passed on only to neighbours in a scruffy brown envelope without a second thought, the owner barely aware of what a little nugget of unique history they have in their guardianship. Many of these hand-me-down varieties are balanced precariously on the knife-edge of existence, the only ones left of their kind.
It’s these rarities which the HSL preserves in the interest of maintaining the diversity – genetic and general – of the vegetables we grow. Without them we’d all be condemned to circling around an ever-dwindling handful of veg approved by the supermarkets for uniformity, ease of mechanical picking and reliability. And where’s the fun in that?
The HSL is not allowed to sell its seed: they don’t conform to EU rules because their inherent variability means they can’t pass the tests on distinctiveness, uniformity and stability. That means they can’t be listed on the National List of approved vegetable cultivars: so they can’t be sold.
The get-around for this has been simply to make HSL a charity, and give away six packets of seed to each member in return for the membership fee. Heritage varieties preserved; interesting varieties spread around more gardens; members happy. Simples!
So here are the six varieties I’m going to be growing next year. None of them I’ve ever grown before: all are hug-yourself exciting for different reasons. Can’t wait!
Asparagus kale: I’ve grown this one before, actually, but it never quite made it to the asparagus stage so I’m having another go. The plant grows just like kale, then in spring – just in time for the hungry gap – sends up delicious flower spikes which you eat just like broccoli. So it’s a dual-purpose veg really: my favourite kind.
Lablab bean ‘Vasu’s 30 Day Dwarf Papri’: Last time I grew lablab it was gorgeous but never made it to podding stage (flowers were lovely though). My conclusion was it needs more heat and light then we can give it here in the UK: but this one is said to get to flowering stage in 30 days, so I’m giving it another try.
Lettuce ‘Soulie’: I’m always up for a new variety of lettuce, and this has many things going for it. It’s French: tick. A cos variety; tick. Slow to bolt: tick. And it even has a red tinge to the leaves so the slugs should leave it alone. Sounds great.
Pea ‘Magnum Bonum’: I first saw this tall pea in a polytunnel at Knightshayes in Devon and have wanted to grow it ever since. It’s got the huge yields of all tall peas and the pods are said to stay well on the plant too.
Shark Fin Melon ‘Joe Dalgleish’: oooh shark fin melons… no idea what they taste like, no idea what to do with them, but anything that produces a triffid-like plant of stems 2m plus and massive watermelon-sized fruits has to be worth a go.
Squash ‘Sucrette’: good job I’ve got quite a big garden as this one’s a monster too. Huge yellow squashes with warty skins, weighing in at about 1kg each. And it’s French, so should have a good flavour too.