Scorzonera

It’s not often that you would call a daisy ugly but Scorzonera, a member of the daisy family is a vegetable with a root that only a mother could love. Very popular in Victorian times when it was prized for its delicate flavour it has all but been replaced by the sweeter and more attractive…

Roma Tomato

There are very few seed varieties that are 70 years old still in commercial production today but Roma tomatoes are one of them. First developed in the USA in the 1950’s, if you buy canned tomatoes for cooking then chances are it is Roma or one of its offspring like Roma VF, unless stated otherwise.

Potato Anya

Those of you who are not Sainsbury’s customers might never have heard of the potato Anya.

Anya was bred in 1996 by a collaboration between the Scottish Crop Research Institute and the Sainsbury’s family and was named after the former ballerina Lady Sainsbury. I’m not too sure how I would feel about having a potato named after me but she must have loved it as Sainsbury’s have been selling it ever since.

Potato Red Duke of York

The potato growing aficionados among you will probably already have scores of egg boxes sitting on your windowsills with potatoes “chitting” in the sunlight in preparation for this years planting.

Now is the time, if you haven’t already to buy potatoes. Leave them much longer and they will begin to sprout in the store bags and it then becomes a complicated entanglement to get them out of the netting that most are packaged in.

One of the more traditional varieties you can pick up still is Red Duke of York which was bred in the 1940’s as a sport from it’s older parent Duke of York. Red Duke of York is a first early and should start to be ready from mid to late July although they can be left longer to get to a baking size..  

Grow your own watercress

People have recognised the health benefits of watercress for centuries. Although the story that Hippocrates set up his first hospital by a spring in 400BC so armfuls could be grown to feed patients is probably false, it’s taken modern medicine a little while to catch up to the benefits of watercress. Eaten raw it releases mustard oils which cause it’s peppiness. These oils, similar to brassicas are antioxidant and may slow the growth of certain cancers. It is also high in vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals.

Kale Afro

For those of you that grow your own you quite often find a packet of seeds at the bottom of your seed box that you don’t remember buying. I don’t know how I ended up with a packet of Afro seeds, possibly it was a free trial seed, certainly none of my usual seed merchants are selling it but I have found one supplier if you want to give it a go and I do think it is worth it.

Kale Cavolo Nero

Kale used to be one of the only fresh green vegetables that could be grown in the UK over winter and tough little numbers like Hungry Gap would brave out the winter frosts, snow and wind. The trouble is that toughness to survive a winter storm lead to toughness on the plate and once supermarkets started flying in vegetables from around the world people turned away from their less palatable staples. Kale was gradually abandoned and started to sink out of peoples memory.

It took  The River Cafe  which opened in the late 1908’s to bring kale back in to the spotlight but not any kale……..This was a kale of which we’d never seen in the UK before or if we had it had long gone out of production. The kale was Cavolo Nero

Chilli Havana Gold

I’m on a constant quest to find a chilli that tastes as good as a habanero with it’s beautiful  fruity tang but not quite a much heat. Havana gold is touted by the seed catalogues as being such a chilli but does it live up to its reputation?

Tomato – Sweet Aperitif

On New Years day I planted my first seeds of the year which were mainly chillies. It’s a bit early to sow tomatoes unless you have a frost free conservatory/greenhouse but it is definitely time to start thinking about what you are going to grow this year.

For many the choice of cherry tomatoes is either Sungold or gardeners delight but now there are a few red varieties of tomato that are rivalling the original gardeners delight for its crown now that the RHS removed its award of garden merit . One of the new kids on the block which has been awarded the hotly contested award is Sweet Aperitif.

It’s Christmas!

Today is Christmas Day. It’s definitely too late to be shopping so no Christmas Advent Calendar from me today. Instead a few photographs of Christmas past My local church in the snow. This is a 16th century grade 2 listed building built by the local landowner so his tenants didn’t have to cross a dangerous…

Cucamelons

Cucamelons have got to be one of the oldest and oddest crops I’ve ever had on the allotment. Known in their native Mexico as Sandiitas de Raton which translates as mouse melon they’ve been cultivated since before Christopher Columbus set sail.

French Bean – Blauhilde

If, like many people, you have a small garden or even just a few pots on a balcony but still want to grow vegetables you many turn to the idea of a potager, an ornamental kitchen garden.For a potager you need varieties that not only taste great but look fantastic as well.

Beetroot – Golden Detroit

Love beetroot but fed up with you and your kitchen looking like a bloodbath after? If so then you could try giving yellow beetroots a try. There are two main yellow varieties, Burpees Golden which dates back to the 1970’s and Golden Detroit from the 1820’s.

Peppers – Shishito

In the USA growing increasing popular it is the Japanese cousin of the Padron tapas pepper, called the Shishito. In Japanese the name is Shishitōgarashi the word translates to chilli pepper that looks like the head of a lion

Tomato – Ildi

As a young child I hated tomatoes. In the early 80’s tomatoes in the UK were horrible things, flavourless and often underripe to stop them being damaged in transit. Gradually people started asking why the tomatoes eaten on holiday in Europe were just so much better than you could get here and things started to change.

Cucumber – Cucino F1

Do you ever get a bit fed up of buying massive supermarket cucumbers, wrapped in layers of plastic to make them grow straight and prevent them going floppy in a few days which inevitably you can’t eat all of it and find it mouldering a few days later in your salad draw? If so why not give growing some of the new baby cucumbers a go? Each one is perfect for a snack or in your lunchbox.

Tomato – Orange Banana

Its not been a great year for outdoor tomatoes. In June we had record breaking rain and many varieties shivered or just gave up. Orange banana however which originates from Russia and dates back to about 1930 however thrived.

Broad Bean – Karmazyn

I’m always a bit sceptical about novelty vegetables. So many times you might get an unusual colour or shape but insipid taste. There are a couple of novelty broad beans including the crimson flowered, dating back to the 1800’s and recently saved from extinction, there are some purple seeded beans too, all of which seem to be as good as the more normal green beans. Therefore when I saw Karmazyn and its unusual antique pink colour, I thought I would give it a go.

Strawberry – Mara Des Bois

If you want to watch a pastry chef drool just mention the strawberry Mara Des Bois. This French variety bred by Jacques Marionnet in 1991 was bred specifically to have the flavour and scent of wild strawberries but with much greater productivity, especially in spring.

Potato – Casablanca

Here’s looking at you spud! Of all the allotments in all the world, you had to walk in to this one! Cook it Sam, if you can cook it for her, you can cook it for me!

I spent some time trying to find a little about this darling modern variety of potato including how it got its exotic name. Is it named in honour of the film, the city? Does it originate from Casablanca (unlikely)? If anyone finds out then do let me know.