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 Very popular in Victorian times when it was prized for its delicate flavour it has all but been replaced by the sweeter and more attractive…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.

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.

Beetroot – Boltardy

Christmas is over and there are only a few things still on the plot; kale, parsnips and beetroot. In the autumn you can lift beetroot to store in sand to see you over the winter but as our winters are getting milder and milder I generally take the risk and let them stand, only taking what I can eat in a week at a time.

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.

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.

Grow Your Own – Lemongrass

If you’ve ever spent any time in southeast Asia or if not at least visited your local Thai or Vietnamese restaurant you would almost certainly have tasted the perfumed taste of lemongrass. You might not realised it but it is an actual grass, but one with a fragrant citrus and slightly coriander taste and scent.

Tomato San Marzano

What do you think of when you think of Italy? For me it is holiday memories, fields and fields of sunflowers, sitting on the edge of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pompeii and Herculaneum and the most memorable part of the whole day (I’m almost embarrassed to say) was eating lunch in what I think was little more than a small garage with a wood fired pizza oven in the back which served the most amazing pizza Napolitano

Runner Bean – Wisley Magic

Wisley Magic is a heritage variety red flowered runner bean which is often considered one of the best for flavour and having that “old fashioned runner bean taste”.

Kale – Peacock Tail Mix F1

Kale is one of the those vegetables that we all know is healthy but quite often don’t like it very much so it is often relegated to smoothies, crispy seaweed or crisps.

Making The Bed

I’m still playing around with the perfect layout for my plot. Last year I tried 4ft beds going across the plot. These seemed a bit narrow so this year I went for 5ft beds which fitted perfectly along the plot, which also takes advantage of the slight south slope.

Tabula Rasa In Action

The new year begins and we practice patience, waiting for the perfect time to prepare the soil for the year ahead. Too much rain and the allotment turns into a bog, too little and the heavy clay becomes concrete.