Garlic Chives

Very few vegetables can lay claim to having three proper uses in the kitchen but the garlic chive is one of the most versatile herbs/vegetables you can grow. Garlic chive flowers are utterly irresistible to bees and other insects and your plants will be absolutely buzzing from August to September. Garlic chives originally from China…

Potato Sarpo Mira

Never has a vegetable caused so much delight and such pain as the humble potato. Its introduction to Europe enabled massive population increases being a fairly easy to grow, balanced and cheap source of nutrition, especially in Ireland which became almost completely reliant on the potato as a staple crop. Therefore when blight (a fungus) hit Europe in 1845, decimating crops and rotting them in the fields and spread rapidly towards Ireland, it had one deadly outcome….famine.

Potato – Foremost

Occasionally you find a variety of vegetable that in one mouthful reminds you exactly why, despite the graft and occasional disappointments you started growing your own in the first place, This vegetable for me last year was Foremost. First earlies can sometimes be a little lacking in flavour but Foremost taste exactly like you would hope that a potato would taste.

Squash – Blue Banana

The blue banana or Guatemalan blue banana squash as it is often known is an heirloom variety with roots in South America. Their large vines can reach over 6 meters and blue banana, as well as its pink cousins, were very popular up to the last century when they gradually started to be replaced by the ubiquitous but tasteless butternut.

Kalettes

If any vegetable could be compared to an Instagram influencer it would probably be the Kalette. A happy crossing beween Kale and sprout they were originally called Flowersprouts but it was though that the word sprout was putting people off so it was renamed Kalettes and relaunched with lots of branding, they even have their own website.

Kale – Dwarf Green Curled

If there is one plant on the allotment that almost impossible to get wrong it is Kale. These hardy stalwarts of the winter allotment provide food from summer all the way through to the hungry gap the following spring. Often kale can be quite a large plant getting upwards of a metre. If you are on a windy site or can only provide netting to a certain hight then dwarf green curled could be an option, growing to a slightly more lower 40-60cm.

Calabrese – Green Sprouting

I’ve never had much luck with plants in the cabbage family other than sprouts and kale. The biggest cauliflower I have managed to grow was smaller than a tangerine. I always live in hope however and I planted a few unsuccessful (again) cauliflowers this year but the one success was my green spouting broccoli.

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

Garlic Lautrec Wight

The origins of this pink hardneck garlic are from Kazakstan and it would have made its way East eventually ending up in the French village of Lautrec where it has been popular since the Middle Ages. Stories are told of a wandering salesman who was unable to pay for his meal at a local tavern; he settled his bill with a mysterious pink garlic. The surprised tavern owner decided to plant it and the pink garlic has been common to the area ever since.

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.

Garlic – Carcassonne Wight

We are currently enjoying one of those crisp November mornings, bright sunshine, fairly mild and no frost on the ground yet. This makes it an ideal last chance to get garlic in to the ground if you haven’t already done so. If you haven’t already bought your varieties then I would seriously recommend Carcassonne which…

Squash – Sweet Dumpling

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. It is a little bundle of chestnutty goodness.

Beetroot – Bolthardy

British summertime, the clocks have gone back and there are only a few things still on the plot; carrots, leaks, brassica, 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.

Garlic – Elephant Garlic

Size isn’t everything they say but when it comes to garlic cloves I am generally of the opinion that bigger is always better. There is nothing more frustrating and lets face it, a little wiffy, than fiddling round with tiny cloves.

Corn – Glass Gem

Very few vegetables can claim to be an internet sensation but there is one, a mixture of heritage corn bred by Oklahoma based, part Cherokee farmer Carl Barnes. Carl, who died in 2016, was a collector of traditional corn varieties and crossed coloured corns again and again to make a spectacular multi coloured flint (pop) corn.

French bean – Nekar gold

Those of you who read my blog will know that I am a little fussy about my French/Pole beans. I like them tender, straight and slim. I am also a sucker for an unusually coloured vegetable and have tried purple beans like blauhild or yellow like Golden Gate with a lot of success.

Potato – Charlotte

f you were to ask an allotmenteer what their favourite potatoes are then you might see a few stapels, Pink Fir apple perhaps for its flavour, Cara for its reliability. If you talk to someone in a supermarket it might be the Jersey Royal for new season flavour, Maris Piper, a good allrounder or King Edward for its roasties. Probably the one which might be on both peoples lists however is Charlotte.

Low Sugar Strawberry Jam

It has taken me a long time to get sufficient strawberries on the plot to start to wonder what I could do with all the excess. This year with a combination of another 30 strawberry plants and some bird protection I finally had enough to make a couple of kilos of jam and could start using up my strawberry glut.

Potato – Jazzy

In my last post I had a bit of a grumble about a variety of bean Sprite that I just didn’t feel lived up to the RHS award of garden merit it had been given. The second early salad/waxy potato Jazzy however is the complete opposite. I rarely get blown away by a new variety but Jazzy knocked my socks off.

Garlic Scapes

  If you grow garlic you will notice that some varieties will try to flower. In most cases what eventually forms in garlic are not true flowers but little tiny garlic bulbils as garlic has to all intents and purposes lost the ability to sexually reproduce centuries if not millennium ago. There have been some…

Broad Bean – Express

For those who can’t wait for their first broad beans you have two choices to either risk sowing a hardy variety in Autumn and risk heavy loses or plant a quick maturing spring variety like Express. In the Kitchen Express has a good flavour for an early bean but is not exceptional compared to some…

Radish – White Icicle

Children being introduced to gardening for the first time are often given radish to grow, being one of the fastest and simplest vegetables to grow and therefore thought to encourage them, however rarely have I ever seen a child tuck in to a radish with enthusiasm and it always struct me that it would be…

French Bean – Concador

Concador was my first really successful green bean. I had grown Purple and Golden teepee before but found they got chunky quite early, were often misshapen and their promised ability to hold the beans above the foliage was only true until the beans got to a certain size, then their weight dropped them down again.

French Bean – Emperor of Russia

For anyone with an interest in food and gardening the increased reliance of world wide food crops to a few varieties is a concern. Local “landrace” varieties are vanishing, along with their genetic diversity and suitability to local ecosystems in favour of a handful of varieties which can be wiped out if a pathogen mutates…

Climbing French Bean – Golden Gate

Hands up I didn’t think I was going to like this bean. I’m used to French/Pole beans being shaped like a pencil and runner beans to be flat and looking at this it was a French bean pretending to be a runner. Not only that but it is wiggly, which means it does not fit in to my runner bean slicer

Oca

I tried growing a new vegetable last year which is the Andean native Oca, also called New Zealand Yam although its origins are South American not antipodean. It was first introduced to Europe in the 1830’s but didn’t take off. I suspect that we have James Wong to thank for re-introducing it to UK growers who found that actually, it does taste really good!

Sweetcorn – Damaun

I tried a new corn variety last year called Damaum. This is a fairly recent breeding from Europe which is open pollinated and therefore any seed that you saved would breed true. Cobs will be ready about 95 days after sowing which means a Mid April sowing will be ready from the beginning of August and successional sowings can take you to the first frosts in October.

Overwintering Chillies

I spent several months this winter living at my parents second home in Dorset to get a bit of fresh air from lockdown life. They were rather surprised when I rocked up with my chilli plants taking up most of the space in my car and filling every available window space. There were good reasons for that though.

Tomato – Cream Sausage

UK suppliers describe the cream sausage tomato as a heritage or heirloom tomato, however in the USA there is a very similar looking tomato, bush variety, yellow, paste developed by the master of tomatoes Tom Wagner in 2004. I am assuming they are the same, however it makes it as heirloom as my old Nokia 8210 mobile phone.

Brussels Sprout – Attwood

Love them or loath them? The marmite of the vegetable world, the Brussels sprout. I am an unashamed lover of a well cooked (and by that I mean not boiled within and inch of its life) sprout.

Onion – Bedfordshire Champion

For the local allotment show my onion of choice was the Bedfordshire champion….after all with a name like that how could I fail. The Bedfordshire champion has been around since 1869, when it was first sold by Sutton’s . It has a golden brown skin with a white centre and is reliable in the UK and has remained popular which is why it is still grown 200 years later.

Broad Bean – Green Windsor

The oldest variety of broad bean widely grown is Green Windsor introduced in 1809. Windsors have shorter pods, less yield and are a bit less hardy than the long pods so are best for spring sowings. However some, like Green Windsor have a fantastic flavour, much better than some of the autumn sown long pods, so are still grown today.

Broad Bean – Crimson Flowered

One broad bean has clawed its way back from extinction. First mentioned in 1778 and later discussed in a London Horticultural Society report in 1831 was the “red blossomed” broad bean.

Chilli – Jalapeño

I have a New Years day tradition and that is to sow my chillies and peppers for the year ahead. Currently we are sitting under a blanket of frost and light levels are low which are less than ideal for our tropical friends so to keep them happy I use a heated propagator and LED grow lights. The reason I start them so early is that many chillies take 80-120 days from sowing to fruiting in ideal conditions but I find in the UK that the superhots will not start fruiting properly until July/August even when sown in January.

Squash – Blue Hubbard

I had a bit of a surprise as the squash plants started to die back this year. A giant blue squash hiding behind the greenery. How I had managed to miss such a walloping great thing I have no idea and although it is not one of the giant carving pumpkins, at 5kg it was certainly the biggest squash I had ever grown.

Chilli Buena Mulata

OK I will hands up admit it…I am a sucker for chillies. I recently moved house and transported 6 pots of chillies as they were still growing and my Christmas tree this year will be a red habanero. I especially love unusual chillis so when I saw this purple one, Buena Mulata, I just had to give it a go especially when I heard its history.

Chili Trinadad Perfume

There is an English proverb, “If at first you don’t succeed, try try try again”. Never, it feels like, has it been more true that with the Trinidad perfume chilli. I first read about it in James Wongs RHS Grow for Flavour and wanted to give it a go. I love Habanero chillies, probably the finest flavour of all chillies but they are hot. Trinidad perfume is a hab type but with no heat.

Parsnip White Gem

There isn’t much left on the allotment at this year other than some hardy brassicas, leeks and parsnips. Parsnips are sometimes shunned by allotmenteers as they have to be in the ground for a long time to form good roots and always taste best after the first frosts. Some varieties need a very deep fine sandy soil to cope with their long tapered roots and show growers will grow them in dustbins or drainpipe.  If your soil is less than ideal, you want to find a slightly shorter variety. White Gem is a good one to consider growing in that case

Gooseberry Invicta

Gooseberries have for some reason been a little out of fashion and quite hard to buy the fruit. For years you have only been able to buy them in most supermarkets in tins or yogurt. Thankfully things seem to be changing and when they are in season they do seem to more available fresh. Invicta is a good variety for beginners. Whilst it doesn’t top the flavour chart it is a good variety to grow as it is mildew resistant, has large berries and very high yields, it is almost bomb proof and has the RHS award of garden merit at the time of writing.  Invicta is a variety for cooking as it is quite tart but there are other varieties which can be eaten fresh.

Pear Williams Bon Chretien (Bartlett)

 I’ve always been a bit wary of the phrase “a good all rounder”. At school I was described as such and it always seemed to say competent at most things, master of none. It’s a very unexciting phrase.
So I feel a little ungenerous describing the pear Williams Bon Cretein as a good all rounder but in this case it is a fair description. This English heritage pear, first found in 1765 and later sold by Richard Williams has a smooth buttery flesh and real pear flavour.