Saturday 27 January 2007

Heritage Vegetable Reviews!

At last, here they are.

I had been saving up the reviews to post together in batches, but have now decided to do each one separately ... which will be a lot more helpful for people googling for information on specific varieties. So they'll be appearing one at a time as I finish them.

There's very little information available about many of the older vegetable varieties, so how are people supposed to find out about them, let alone decide which ones they want to grow? That was what inspired me to start this blog in the first place ... to learn more about how the older and more obscure varieties fare in a real garden situation and then share the results with anyone who's interested.

We live in an age where the needs of commercial growers and food processors have superceded the needs of gardeners in most plant breeding programmes, so the modern varieties which fill the catalogues are optimised to produce a single glut for once-over destructive harvesting and to be tough enough for packing, transport and handling ... which is not what you want in the garden. Not to mention the tiresome spread of new and unmemorable F1 hybrids, which offer marginal improvements in performance but often at the expense of higher chemical inputs. Yuk. Heritage varieties have a lot to offer gardeners which makes it well worth the effort to seek them out. They may be better for general disease resistance (though modern varieties are often bred for resistance to specific diseases), flavour, colour, texture, an extended harvesting period ... and certainly for diversity. Many are just fascinatingly different. Most were originally bred by gardeners or nurserymen, not agribusiness.

It seems to me that with the ever increasing commercialisation of our food and our seeds and gardens it's more important than ever to keep our seed heritage alive and in the hands of ordinary gardeners.

Does that mean heritage vegetables are always a better choice than their modern equivalents? Absolutely not. Some are magnificent lost gems and some are a bit rubbish. That's why I'm reviewing them, and I'd be interested to know how other people get on with them too.

These are not scientifically conducted trials of course, just my personal subjective notes on how well the varieties did in my garden during 2006 under organic conditions. They may perform differently in other years and other gardens or with chemical inputs. I'm limited for space in my garden too, so I usually only grow a few plants of each variety, and I don't necessarily know the best way to grow them or cook them. You may find your experiences with these plants is different to mine. But I hope you find the info useful anyway.

All the photos were taken in the garden in 2006.

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