New crops to try at home
By Graham Rice
With growing and cooking food becoming such a vital feature of the Show, the number of new varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs that are seen here for the first time is on the increase. And this year there are some superb newcomers to help grow-your-owners make the best of every inch of space.
Grafted vegetables is an old idea that’s come back with a bang, and aubergine ‘Scorpio’ (Suttons Seeds) is the best of them all. Grafted on to special rootstock it ripens at least three weeks earlier than plants grown in the traditional way and the fruits are all carried on the main stems making them much easier to pick.
Basil is not always easy to grow in our climate but ‘Aristotle’ (Suttons Seeds) was developed in our climate so is perfectly suited. It’s a small bushy basil that stays small whether you cut it for the kitchen or not so is ideal in a small container, trough or windowbox.
The much loved flavour of our wild blackberry comes back to us all the way from New Zealand with blackberry ‘Karaka Black’ (Blackmoor Nurseries). The fruits are unusually long, they’re just starting to ripen now, and although the plants are spiny the fruit clusters are held out sideways so you don’t have to reach into the plant to pick them.
The Cookoo Box Nursery exhibits of chilies are always popular and over the years they’ve introduced a succession of their own varieties. The name - ‘Curly Golden Cayenne’ – pretty well sums up this year’s newcomer. On plants up to 60cm/2ft tall, golden yellow chilies appear, each with a bold and elegant curl.
Until recently most of us thought that garlic was, well garlic. But the Garlic Farm have taught us about the huge range of different garlics available. ‘Tuscany Wight’, in addition it its romantic name, has a three special qualities: harvesting in July after a December or January planting, it keeps very well, it very reliably produces large cloves; and it never produces those useless slivers of amongst the useable cloves.
I’ve lost count of the number of Gold Medals won by Jekka’s Herb Farm at Chelsea and Hampton Court but this is the first time Jekka McVicar is introducing a variety she’s raised herself. Origanum ‘Jekka’s Beauty’ is a hybrid she raised by careful hand pollination and it combines ornamental and culinary qualities in a neat, spreading twiggy little bush.
There are many good new strawberries this year. From S E Marshall comes strawberry ‘Finesse’ which has its strongest flush in August, when so many other strawberries are past their best, but also crops before and after. It’s vigorous, and plants are also less expensive than those of many varieties.
Finally, a new tomato – British bred and specially for growing in pots. ‘Sweet ‘n’ Neat’ (Suttons Seeds) makes a very compact plant, is very prolific, the flavour is good and it comes in red, cherry red and yellow.