Into battle with the best va­ri­eties

The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday - - Gardening -

field scale crops of th­ese for an­i­mal feed: they are far more ro­bust and more pro­duc­tive than gar­den va­ri­eties, but the beans are two thirds of the size. ‘Wiz­ard’, although a field bean, is bred for its culi­nary at­tributes, crops longer and keeps its flavour longer. Big flavoured, beef toma­toes go down ex­traor­di­nar­ily well. A new va­ri­ety I am try­ing is ‘Feo de Rio Gordo’ (this trans­lates as “the ugly tomato from the wide river”). Its plus points are flavour, early mat­u­ra­tion and yield. It has a knob­bly ap­pear­ance, hence the name, but for me that is an as­set too, outshining plas­tic-look­ing smooth-skinned types with its meaty, beefy, big and bouncy char­ac­ter. Peas are not easy on my light soil, although my au­tumn-sown ones have their roots well down now. For stonk­ing spring-sown va­ri­eties I am grow­ing ‘Lord Le­ices­ter’. His Lord­ship flow­ers early and car­ries on to al­most the end of the sea­son, with great yields. So he is per­fect for time-pressed gar­den­ers who only do one sow­ing. You can only get this from the Real Seed Cat­a­logue, who have brought it back from vir­tual ex­tinc­tion. Two new crops Kate urged me to sow now are scul­pit and the veg­etable mal­low. Scul­pit is a larger ver­sion of blad­der cam­pion, a peren­nial leafy crop that can be cut from sum­mer to au­tumn. Its herbal flavour will add an ex­cit­ing nu­ance to sal­ads, pasta or rice dishes. The veg­etable mal­low ( Malva crispa) is a grand look­ing an­nual with curly edged flavour-packed leaves that add height (4ft) to the veg plot. I love sneak­ing dif­fer­ent flavoured leaves into sal­ads and see­ing if any­one can iden­tify them – the to­tal an­tithe­sis to a bag of bought leaves (pre-washed in bleach), – you know ex­actly how it is go­ing to taste be­fore it gets any­where near your mouth. Pest con­trol My neigh­bour­ing farmer is Guy Wat­son, who started River­ford Or­ganic Farms (river­ford.co.uk). He sells 47,000 veg boxes ev­ery week, in­clud­ing a “recipe box” which con­tains all you need for three quick meals – bar the salt and pep­per – great for im­prov­ing your reper­toire. In­ter­est­ingly, he says (in com­mon with other large scale or­ganic grow­ers) that slugs are not a big prob­lem (prob­a­bly be­cause they for it to stand over win­ter. Other ex­cit­ing new plants I am try­ing are the ap­par­ently highly flavour­some as­para­gus ‘Amaro Mon­tina’ (DT Brown) a wild form that is soughtafter by top chefs. The crowns went in last month. There are also some new va­ri­eties of Cape goose­berry ( Physalis spp). The golden fruits on the more usu­ally grown Physalis pe­ru­viana are the size of a small­ish cherry. They are slightly tart in flavour and smart restau­rants dip them in white choco­late and serve them with cof­fee. Three new va­ri­eties from Lu­bera (lu­bera.co.uk) are ‘Bis­cuit’, ‘Lit­tle Bud­dha’ and ‘Peter’s Best’, which are ap­par­ently sweeter. I love open­ing the pa­pery lanterns to dis­cover the fruit. Fi­nally, here is a tip cour­tesy of Nick John­son at Kew. They are us­ing a Mex­i­can plant, Pin­guic­ula vul­garis (a but­ter­wort) to con­trol the white­fly in their glasshouses. Ap­par­ently this amaz­ing plant not only at­tracts the pests to its leaves but then slowly eats them. The more it eats the lusher it gets. Anne Swith­in­bank told me she knew an or­chid grower who found it con­trolled the com­post or scia­rid fly, too. The form to find is ‘Weser’ or ‘Tina’. You will need to sit the pot in wa­ter. Th­ese are avail­able from Hamp­shire Car­niv­o­rous Plants (hants­fly­trap.com).

Plan ahead: to keep re­sow­ing to a min­i­mum Bunny aims to pick re­li­able veg­etable va­ri­eties, all of which de­liver ex­cel­lent flavour

New this sea­son: Bunny is try­ing out ‘Wiz­ard’ broad beans (left) and scul­pit, an un­usual herb for adding flavour to sal­ads

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