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.
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.
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.
The biggest difference you will see between the UK and the USA/Canada at this time of year are the halloween decorations. Even though the UK was the home of the pagan Samhain which is the father of halloween, it generally passes most people by. In contrast in the US and Canada there were streets of…
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s time to put my asparagus to bed for the year but there is still time for one last meal and to take advantage of the box of free range eggs given to me by a friend from his own chickens so what could be better than asparagus dipped in to a a freshly boiled Legbar or Plymouth brown rock egg?
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
Whilst many vegetables could be considered attractive to look at, one or two could be considered works of art. Turks Turban is one and borlotti beans another. These Italian beans have pink and white splashed outer pods hiding several rich creamy white beans with a Jackson Pollock of purple, pink or red splashes. They are a beautiful as well as an easy to grow and delicious addition to your allotment.
Fans of this squash of a poetic nature will wax lyrical about its origins. After all who doesn’t find the idea of growing an heirloom variety, dating from the 1600’s from a small italian coastal fishing village on the Venice lagoon somewhat romantic?
I love growing heritage seeds, especially those which have a great history behind them and Cherokee Trail of Tears sure has a history behind it, although not one that you could call “great”. In the 1830’s, the US government forecebly marched over 40,000 Native Americans from their traditional homelands in the south east of the…
Crown prince is rightly named. A regular favourite amongst allotmenteers it’s delightful duck egg blue colour stands out and it is often regarded as on of the best squash in the kitchen.
As autumn takes hold, the nights draw in and the leaves start to fall from the tree, as if by magic, mushrooms small and large start to emerge, often what seems overnight. Find out how to grow the exquisite King Oyster Mushroom.
A long time ago the British were highly sceptical of garlic and very few would eat it, let alone grow it and you could buy olive oil but only in pharmacies for the treatment of ear problems. Then along came the cookery writer Elizabeth David
I find having to peel tiny garlic bulbs intensely frustrating and because our Midlands climate is not idea growing conditions for garlic, mine have a tendency to be on the small side. Therefore am always on the look out for a garlic bulb that produces large cloves despite our sometimes gloomy English climate.
Field beans are usually sown by farmers as a winter green manure crop to provide stability for the soil and be a source of nitrogen and organic matter for the year ahead. They aren’t normally thought of for their culinary ability but this little beans might surprise you. If left to mature, field bean Wizard…
What do you picture if someone asked you where tea grows? Is if the warm, humid hillsides of India where bushes are picked by women in brightly coloured Sari’s? Is it the misty hillsides of China where tea was probably first drunk. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com Is it Cornwall or Scotland or in your…
A strawberry that has Mara Des Bois and Gariguette, both highly reputed for flavour, in its heritage has a lot to live up to. Unfortunately for Manille, despite what the catalogues will tell you it is simply not in the same league. It lacks the intense flavour of both and on the sharp side if picked…
For most vegetable varieties grown by amateurs, choosing the wrong variety or growing them incorrectly causes only short term annoyance, easily remedied and a lesson learned for next year.
Not so with asparagus. If I were to say to you that building an asparagus bed takes as much effort as a planning a wedding I wouldn’t be far wrong.
My memories of Greek and Turkish holidays often revolve around foods that we ate. Especially wonderful were the meze, small plates of tasty bites to share.
The tomato and potato breeder Tom Wagner is responsible for some of our more unusual tomato plants including Green Zebra. Dancing with Smurfs is another that got tongues wagging at my local allotment.
What do you get if you cross a Butternut and a Crown Prince………?
Lumpy, bumpy and decidedly funky. Like a spaceship wrapped multicoloured silk, Turks Turban is the Salvador Dali of the cucurbit world.
Winter is usually thought to be the time to hunker down on the allotment, to eat root vegetables carefully stored, preserves or the rugged green brassicas the only green vegetables to survive the cold.
Opinion is divided about James Wong the Kew trained botanist, writer and broadcaster. James is famous for books covering how to grow unusual or extraordinary things or how to grow every day things in a slightly different way using cutting edge research.
I nearly cried when I saw a neighbour displaying these in their front garden for Halloween, probably to be discarded once the frost had turned them to mush. What a waste of one of the best tasting squashes you can grow.
Purple Top Milan is a heritage vegetable seed first developed in the 1880’s and still extremely popular. It has a slightly squat appearance but a wonderful pinky purple top fading to cream. It also has a good flavour.
Red Salad Bowl is an attractive loose leaved lettuce that you can cut and come again. It holds an AGM at the time of publishing.
This is an absolute beast of a parsnip that lives up to it’s name. An RHS award winning parsnip at the time of publishing the roots when mature can get to a good 10 cm across and might win you a prize in the biggest parsnip competition.
Sometimes a trendy vegetable comes along that everyone is talking about but often when you try it you are left a little bemused as to what all the fuss is about. This is not the case with Mayan Gold potatoes. These potatoes are a recent introduction bred from the Peruvian Phureja potatoes.
If you are used to thinking of squash as the ubiquitous butternut squash you can buy in supermarkets then this one will knock you over with it’s intense chestnut flavour. It is one of my favourite squashes and I grow it every year.
Many years ago the cutting of pea sticks to provide support for tall growing peas was common place. The world wars, where labour was short and modern farming techniques has pretty much put paid to the growing of large pea varieties except for the home gardener.
Kale was one of a very few fresh vegetables available in the winter months. Perhaps for this reason, alongside the fact that many kales can be pretty tough and bitter once vegetables could be imported it fell heavily out of fashion.
If you are a keen gardener you are likely to come across James Wong. James is famous (notorious?) for introducing unusual vegetables to British gardens and kitchens. One of the plants he recommends is Shungiku, a tall and if you let it flower, quite a cheery Chrysanthemum.