Showing posts with label Heritage. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Heritage. Show all posts

14 Mar 2013

My Cherie Amour - Potato Day at the Garden Museum

Bill and Ben potatoes
I'd show you my spuds but, really, they all look the same. 

Last year's potato harvest was a bit pathetic (Charlottes, Roosters and Blue Danube moochers) and, given that I'm content to eat Vivaldi potatoes from Sainsbury's, I decided not to grow potatoes this year ... then I read Anna Pavord's article 'Ace of Spuds', one of the chapters in her book 'The Curious Gardener' (an excellent read, btw). Her descriptions of 'old potatoes' piqued my interest; to quote:
"As well as tasting better than you had ever imagined a potato could ever taste, many old varieties have blessedly strong constitutions. In the slap-happy, spray-happy post-war years, this was not valued as much as it perhaps is now, when the effects of eating poisons for lunch are beginning to be more clearly understood."
"Tasting better than you had ever imagined a potato could ever taste ..."  Hmmm.  As I read on, I started mentally to clear a space in the veg patch for some heritage varieties. There's nothing wrong with supermarket potatoes but I was enticed by the thought of growing the right potato to fit the recipe - and with superior (hopefully) flavour.

I'd been handed a Pennard Plants leaflet at the recent RHS Plant and Design Show; it described their 87 varieties of heritage potatoes and their forthcoming appearance at Potato Day.  I'd also noted that Potato Day coincided with Mothers Day; I reasoned that constituted a good enough reason to go out and treat myself to a few tubers if ever there was one.  The 87 varieties on the leaflet were reduced to about 50 on the day; even so, I deliberated over my choices as I like potatoes to be mashed, roasted or baked. I'm not keen on boiled, unless they're the little salad potatoes.  I finally opted for two old British spuds:
  • Arran Victory - 1918:  A rare, blue-skinned, maincrop potato with superb flavour. I'll use this one for roasting and mashing.
  • Foremost - 1954. A first Early with waxy flesh and excellent flavour. Use for salads, baking, roasting.
Plus two more that I'd not heard of before but sounded very interesting:
  • Linzer Delikatess  - an Austrian second early; recommended to me by Pennards.  Like a Charlotte but longer, thinner, smoother. Keeps well.
  • Vitelotte - 1850. A potato with dark purple skin and purple flesh that keeps its colour after cooking. Although I'm a bit hesitant about the idea of eating purple mash, I thought this would go nicely with my purple Cosmic carrots! A main crop potato, grown in France as a gourmet delicacy but originally from Peru and Bolivia. Full bodied flavour reminiscent of chestnut.  Will make very interesting chips or salads.
The potato that I absolutely had to have was this one:
  • Cherie. Allegedly a very pretty deep rose pink salad variety from France; a First Early which gives exceptional crops of oval yellow fleshed tubers with a wonderful flavour.  Now doesn't that sound delightful?
So much for not growing potatoes! I came home with a several tubers of each of the above varieties - at 20p per tuber, it seemed a taste challenge not to be missed.  Although, in hindsight, I may have picked my spuds following my (largely unsuccessful) method of backing a horse in the Grand National, i.e. it has a nice name.

Pennard's stand
Pennard's stand, sited under an art installation of 3,000 hand-wired roses.

13 May 2012

Shoots and leaves

Pea shoots

I only just started to sow my seeds at the end of March. Does this make me badly organised? Maybe, but hopefully not.  Remembering that last year the early warm weather was followed by cold, wet and windy weather before we properly got going with the British Summer, I decided to delay so that I didn't have to keep plants hanging around indoors.  Last year I nurtured beans and sweetcorn inside, hardened them off and planted them out in early May; I lost the lot that very night due to gales and lashing rain.

This year I'm determined that my work won't be wasted;  seeds for my Lab Lab (Hyacinth) beans went into modules on Monday, germinated Wednesday and are unfolding their first leaves today. Impressive. It's the same story with the round cucumber, Crystal Lemon, that I'm growing.

The pea family are now out in the mini-greenhouse on the balcony ten days after sowing. I'm only growing a few of each so that I can fit lots of variety in to the available garden space; so purple podded peas and yellow mange-tout are destined for the veg patch and a bush type dwarf pea (and dwarf beans) for the balcony. For would-be growers without gardens, I'm pretty sure that both of those could be grown in containers. (If interested, the dwarf peas, Tom Thumb, came from Jungle Seeds and the dwarf beans, Annabelle, from More Veg.)

Antalya Melon seedling
Galia Melon, Antalya. Suited to outdoor growing in UK
Elsewhere on the windowsills, two types of courgette, red kidney beans, dwarf french beans and butterbush squash are up and running but the trailing courgette and spaghetti squash are still to reveal themselves. Globe artichokes will have to wait until I've cleared a space for them (another long walled border filled with honeysuckle and ivy), chilli and bell pepper seedlings have all been potted on and melons are looking stronger each day.  Amongst all these, do I have a favourite? You bet. This bean has more than a touch of magic about it:

Lazy Housewife bean

This is Lazy Housewife, a heritage bean donated to the veg patch by Matron over at Down on the Allotment. She very kindly sent half a dozen beans last year, all of which were killed in the aforementioned May gales. I was dismayed and not a little disappointed that I'd wasted these precious beans. Amazingly, going through my seed box a few weeks later, I found one last seed in what I thought was the empty packet.  I carefully sowed it and it germinated successfully. I planted it out and managed to kill that one as well (I stuck one leg of the wigwam through the root *hangs head in shame*). So that was that, then.  My second chance was blown... or so I thought until I looked again this year and saw, like Mary Poppins carpetbag, that the packet had offered up one last bean!  This one has to work; as a heritage bean, I really want to have some seed to keep at the end of the year. I'm keeping a very careful eye on it...  it's looking good so far, don't you think?

Edited to add: Although this sounds like quite a lot of work has been going on, this is by no means the full list.  I forgot to mention the sweetcorn, blue popcorn and red/white/blue sweet peas I'm growing and I've yet to go back to the seed box to see what needs to be sown in the next round - better get going then!

7 Jun 2011

Cherriettes of Fire

Meet my new tomato ...

Cherriettes of Fire, June 2011

I'd like to say that this is all my own work but that would be telling porkies.  After several attempts I've thrown in the towel with my own efforts and resorted to buying in a few plants.  After no less than three attempts at growing a bush tomato from seed, I have been forced to admit defeat.  Oh the seeds germinated alright and grew strong and upright until the tiny first proper leaves appeared.  The next morning, just a stem.  Or a half eaten leaf.  I persevered and nurtured but night after night mysterious munchings carried on until there were only stems.  I tried again - twice. But this is the current state of my third attempt:

Just tomato stalks

Really just too frustrating!  I've since discovered from Emma Cooper's blog that this could be the work of Fungus Gnats - those irritating little flies that hop swiftly around when you water indoor plants. Their eggs hatch just under the soil and the maggoty larvae munch through roots or whatever vegetation is available. A suggested solution is to let the soil dry out between waterings, a better one is apparently yellow sticky traps. (I might check that one out!)

So, during a visit to a well-known home'n'garden centre to pick up more potting soil, I found myself examining the labels in the tomato section ... and picking up a couple of sturdy, leafy plants to bring home.  (Nice to see that said emporium has embraced Heritage toms.) I bought rescued a vine tomato called Auriga (looking very abandoned and sorry for itself) and another Heritage tom "Tornado" - although whether I'm the best person to nurture these plants, based on previous form, remains to be seen!

But how could I resist a tomato that was called "Cherriettes of Fire"?  I've had the soundtrack to that movie running through my head ever since. It's not a heritage variety but given the abundant flowers already forming, at last I have hopes of a tomato crop this summer.  (Fingers crossed against blight, that is!)

My new tomato plant, June 2011
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