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?

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.

Vietnamese Salad Cups

Some of you might be quite surprised by my day job which has nothing whatsoever to do with gardening or food other than I work for one of the UK’s largest supermarkets. One of the perks of my job however is to get to see the food that is going to hit the shelves before it comes out. In our food cascade this year the trend is going to be vegetarian and vegan party and Christmas food. This wasn’t much of a surprise but what was a surprise was that the food developers were having difficulty developing plant based party food that didn’t look generally brown. I suppose that when canapés are meat or cheese based we expect them to be brown, but are expecting a little more from a plant based canapé.

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.

Gnudi with pumpkin and panchetta

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…

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.

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

Climbing Borlotti

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.

Squash Marina Di Chioggia

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?

Cherokee Trail of Tears

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…

Squash – Crown Prince

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.

King Oyster Mushrooms

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.

Tomato Amish Paste

When compared to our continental cousins such as the French and Italians, American food often has a poor reputation in Europe, fairing even less well than my homeland of Britain. From chlorine washed chicken and genetically modified crops (both of which are banned in Europe) to the Macdonaldalisation of the world to the “Supersized” generation.  However Amish paste is one supersized American import that is seriously worth looking at.

Garlic Solent Wight

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

Garlic Printanor

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.

Broad Bean – Field Bean Wizard

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…

Grow Your Own Tea – Camellia Sinensis

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…

Strawberry Manille

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…

Asparagus

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.

Gigantes

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.

Tomato – Dancing with Smurfs

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.

Pea – Alderman

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 – 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.

Pea Carouby De Maussane

Carouby de maussane is a heritage mangetout type pea. It’s has pretty purple tinted flowers and the pods themselves have an unusual translucent quality and unusually still remains tender even when the peas have started to form.

Broad Bean – De Monica

De Monica is advertised as one of the earliest spring down broad beans to harvest and should from a Feb planting it is claimed be ready to harvest in May.

Pepper – Poblano Ancho

Poblano Ancho are a mild Mexican Chilli which is often smoked and dried. Because of its large size and mildness I grow it to use as you would a bell pepper. They are easy to grow and have a beautiful taste, much more interesting than supermarket pepper with a slight hint of bitter.