Growing your Own Vegetables - New Introductions for Next Spring
26th Oct 2002
Next Saturday night the clock will be turned back an hour enveloping us in dark nights with no chance of getting any gardening done in the evenings. There is a hidden bonus though, it does give us time to thumb through the many colourful catalogues that always drop through our letter box at this time of year. I have had a look at a few of those that I receive and as always, there are a number of new introductions that could well be worth growing next Spring.
2003 is the Centenary year for Unwins and they are celebrating that fact through the re introduction of varieties that were popular a hundred years ago. Unwins is still a family owned business run by David Unwin and was started by his great-Grandfather William Unwin in 1903 by selling his first sweet pea seeds. There are eight different kinds of vegetables to chose from all in specially printed Centenary packets. The one thing about these seeds is the fact that though they were our forefather's favourite, many of them are still popular today for their outstanding flavour and cropping qualities. Some of them such as Cabbage 'Offenham" are very familiar to me having grown it for many years as is the ‘Lyon' leek. Another variety that I was very familiar with in my younger days was a carrot called ‘Long Red Surrey' a variety that my father won numerous prizes with for many years at our local shows. If your are still pining for the flavour and taste of by gone years then these will surely satisfy your pallet.
Marshalls are particularly well known with vegetable growers for their Onion sets, but it was an exclusive potato variety ‘Inca Sun' from their work with the Scottish Crops research Institute that caught my eye. This is supposed to be an entirely new type of Potato to British gardens. This newcomer is apparently a sub species of the common potato as a result of some crosses with the South American wild types. It's a variety that's unremarkable to look at yet with a flavour that is quite sensational. It comes to it's own when fried or sautéed and produces chips that are noisily crunchy on the outside with a melt in the mouth centre. Inca Sun matures as a second yearly and if grown conventionally the tubers tend to be small. Marshall therefore recommend a spacing of around 2 feet between each tuber and a blue print giving more detailed tips on growing and cooking will be supplied with each order. They do ask you to order early as there is likely to be a high demand for them.
How about enjoying your Christmas dinner next year with some red Brussels Sprouts called ‘Red Delicious' This is a new open pollinated variety that has been carefully re selected by the British breeder Tozers. There are of course many excellent F1 hybrid vegetables available, but the open pollinated variety still has a lot to offer the small grower who can harvest his crop over a much longer period where as the F1 hybrids tend to harvest over a much shorter space of time.
There's no doubt that Chillis have become very popular over the past few years and for 2003 Suttons have introduced a variety called ‘Hot Stuff'. This is a mixture of three superb different coloured hot chilli peppers which would be perfect to add to salads, salsas and cooked dishes.
One of my favourite vegetables is Mushrooms, I was therefore really taken with the new introduction in Dobbies catalogue of two new gourmet varieties, ‘Oyster Mushroom' and ‘Shiitake Mushroom' Although these are highly sought after by top chefs and can be quite expensive to buy in supermarkets, they are quite easy to grow yourself and will be posted to you as spawn plugs. These will supply you with mushrooms three or four times a year and should last for five years. Interestingly you do need to be a bit of a joiner as well to set them off as they are supplied as ‘wooden plugs' you need to find some freshly cut logs, drill the requisite number of holes in them and push the plugs in, cropping commences after 4 to 10 months. Full cultural instructions supplied with every order.
Thompson and Morgan
Thompson and Morgan have an interesting runner Bean that has a gold leaf, ‘Sun Bright' is a late cropping bean as it is relatively slow to start off with but the foliage is a beautiful pale yellow to green with an eventual heavy crop of beans that contrast nicely against the pale foliage. There‘s nothing worse that carrot fly to put growers off carrots, currently there is no resistant variety available and up to now the cultivar ‘Flyaway had about 30% resistance. T & M have now gone a stage further and introduced the variety ‘Resistafly' that is more the 50% resistant; it's reassuring to know that we are slowly getting nearer to the complete answer.