Variety is the spice of life

Perhaps it’s a bit late in the year to be thinking about what edibles to plant, but as the seedlings and shoots start to emerge I have been thinking about what I am growing, as well as what I don’t grow and what I’d like to grow…

I suppose that my starting point always has to be what we like to eat or, more importantly don’t like to eat… for example, Mr Snail-of-happiness can’t stand cucumber so I don’t bother to grow it. We did get given a plant a couple of years ago, which I couldn’t bear just to compost and I did discover that the chickens LOVE cucumber, but even so I don’t think that it’s worth the trouble (after all, there are lots of other things they LOVE… apple cores, lettuce leaves, scrapings from the porridge pot, slugs…).

Another question is what is expensive to buy or is associated with lots of food miles? I like to grow chillies and peppers because, when locally produced, these are quite expensive. I also like early potatoes (the first ones of the season are always costly), which can be planted in the greenhouse in containers to get a head start on the season. I don’t have room to grow lots of potatoes and anyway blight is endemic in this area so maincrop are not worth the effort, but the joy of new potatoes straight out of the ground cannot be overemphasised!

On this note, I think about what is good straight out of the garden. A crop of salad leaves is always worthwhile. I grow ‘cut-and-come-again’ varieties, so that we only need to pick as much as we  are going to eat immediately – perhaps just a few leaves for a sandwich. Other straight from the garden hits are purple sprouting broccoli, kale (so good to have fresh greens through the winter) and mangetout.

As well as things for immediate consumption, I like to grow some things that store well… pumpkins and squashes are popular because they require no processing prior to storage and they taste great even after months in the loft.

Then, there are things that I simply can’t find in the shops… salsify, oca, different varieties of chilli. This year I am planting root parsley on the recommendation of someone else who grows it very successfully locally. Vegetables that are unusual are less likely to have a large native ‘predator’ population and there may be fewer diseases locally to which they are susceptible, which is an additional benefit. Sourcing the more unusual seed or tubers (like you need for oca) may be tricky, but we are very lucky to be near the home of The Real Seed Catalogue… a valuable resource and quite inspirational. I bought my oca tubers from them last year and have been able to plant saved tubers this year, so avoiding additional expense. In fact, the Real Seed folks encourage seed saving, so are trying to put themselves out of business in the long run! Another great seed resource is Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library… become a member and you have access to some very interesting varieties and are supporting the preservation of varieties that would otherwise be lost.

So, what do you grow and where do you get your seeds from? I’m always looking for inspiration.

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2 Comments

  1. These days most of my seeds are either self saved or from other gardeners. I’m also growing more and more perennial plants. When I do buy seeds, I like Baker Creek in the US (http://rareseeds.com), because they are cheap, have a good selection and there are no special shipping costs to Europe. I don’t have any problem importing seeds to Holland, but this might not be the case for you, I’m not sure.

    Otherwise, if you can make your way through the German, Bingenheimer is good too: http://www.oekoseeds.de/

    Mostly I find it best to get seeds outside Europe, because of the seed laws here…

    It’s not very up to date, but on my links page there are a number of seed companies listed who specialize in OP/heirloom seeds.

    If you ever see anything on my blog that looks interesting, let me know and I’ll send some seeds if I still have them…

    Reply
    • Thanks for the offer Patrick. I have only recently started saving my own seeds, but am planning to do more of it in the future.
      I am increasingly drawn to the idea of perennial plants, but so far I have very few… another of my plans for the future!

      Reply

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