Into battle with the best varieties
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