Try­ing out her­itage seeds gives in­ter­est to the plot

The Scotsman - - TRAVEL & OUTDOORS - Jen­ny­mol­li­son

The beans and peas are grow­ing, sal­ads are do­ing well. Pota­toes are just through. So far so good, and just what all of us look for at this time of year. How­ever, I’m al­ways up for a chal­lenge or some­thing new to try out to add to the fun. The late Christo­pher Lloyd from Great Dix­ter in Sus­sex was still ex­per­i­ment­ing into his old age. He caused a stir when he be­came bored with an old es­tab­lished tra­di­tional rose bed, ripped it out and re­placed it with ex­otic plants. You can read about it in his book The Ad­ven­tur­ous Gar­dener. In past years I’ve tried New Zealand yams, veg­etable spaghetti and mul­ti­coloured car­rots. This year, Stu­art on In­ver­leith Al­lot­ments has chal­lenged me to grow some de­cent- sized fen­nel bulbs. I’ve failed mis­er­ably be­fore al­though oth­ers grow it suc­cess­fully on our site. If we have an­other warm sum­mer my luck may change.

Al­lot­ment plothold­ers who have a go at grow­ing un­usual crops could be con­tribut­ing to im­por­tant sci­en­tific knowl­edge. A thought­pro­vok­ing pho­to­graphic ex­hi­bi­tion run­ning un­til 9 June at the Royal Botanic Gar­dens Ed­in­burgh is part of the wider Food For­ever ini­tia­tive. This or­gan­i­sa­tion em­pha­sises that safe­guard­ing a wide range of seeds gives the world the best chance of pre­serv­ing nu­tri­tious and cli­mate re­sis­tant crops as well as look­ing again at some for­got­ten ones. I learned that Orkney’s bere bar­ley is par­tic­u­larly ef­fi­cient at ex­tract­ing nu­tri­ents from soil, re­duc­ing the need for ex­pen­sive fer­tilis­ers. In Scot­land, the James Hut­ton In­sti­tute is de­vel­op­ing new va­ri­eties suited to our

cli­mate. In­ter­na­tion­ally, pota­toes are the most im­por­tant food crop af­ter wheat and rice. I ad­mired a dis­play of potato sacks com­mem­o­rat­ing two giants of Scot­tish potato breed­ing, Archibald Find­lay of Auchter­muchty and Don­ald Mack­elvie from Ar­ran.

Mem­bers of Garden Or­ganic ( www. gar­de­nor­ganic. org. uk) can ob­tain rare veg­etable seeds through the Her­itage Seed Li­brary ( HSL). Among the 800 dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties kept in the HSL are heir­looms that have been saved over gen­er­a­tions. Th­ese

I’ve been chal­lenged to grow some de­cent- sized fen­nel bulbs this year

days, large seed com­pa­nies have their eye on prof­its at the ex­pense of main­tain­ing some va­ri­eties. Sub­scribers to the HSL re­ceive a seed list in De­cem­ber. Mem­bers can choose up to six items from the list.

Last year I tried a tall pea called Newick, but the height made it rather dif­fi­cult to pro­tect from birds. This year’s list in­cluded Un­cle Bert’s Pur­ple Kale and Mr Fearn’s Pur­ple Flow­ered Climb­ing French Bean, which has pur­ple flow­ers and long silky pods. n

Un­cle Bert’s Pur­ple Kale is one of the her­itage va­ri­eties avail­able from the HSL

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