Heritage veg: Grow a taste of the past

The Victorian Walled Garden at Normanby Hall Country Park in North Lincolnshire specialises in growing Victorian vegetable cultivars. These can be very interesting in their colour, shape and taste and many look quite different from their modern equivalents. Here, Head Gardener Paul Beetham recommends five cultivars that are not difficult to grow, and are relatively easy to source.

Potato 'King Edward' (1902)

While not uncommon today, 'King Edward' remains first on our list of maincrop varieties. Its origins are rooted not too far from Normanby - originally the cultivar was named 'Fellside Hero'. 'King Edward' is a good cropper with vigorous growth and is an excellent, aromatic all rounder for baking, roasting and boiling.

Cabbage 'Winnigstadt' (1868)

Winnigstadt' is a very visually interesting cabbage with a pointed shape; its leaves are wrapped closely creating a firmer head. It can grow to a good size and this and its shape alone are always of interest to visitors. Originally from Lower Saxony in Germany it has a crunchy texture and a delicate sweet flavour when freshly harvested.

Onion 'Red Brunswick' (1836)

Regularly grown here at Normanby, 'Red Brunswick' is highly decorative with a rich colour. It is a reliable, late maturing variety with medium-large, semi-flat, dark red bulbs. It has an excellent strong flavour and keeps exceptionally well.

Broad bean 'Masterpiece Green Longpod' (1891)

Still popular today, this variety of broad bean is over 120 years old and proof of how good many of the heritage varieties are. The long pods can have up to seven finely-flavoured beans each and are very suitable for freezing. Unfortunately they are also popular with our peacocks!

Pumpkin 'Hundredweight' (1831)

For a bit of fun and competition between family and friends, try growing the largest pumpkin. 'Hundredweight' is easy to grow, and restricting one fruit per plant can give remarkable results.

This is slightly more manageable in a normal family garden than 'Atlantic Giant' which we are growing at Normanby as a bit of an experiment.

Potato, cabbage and broad bean images courtesy Marshalls Seeds
Onion image courtesy E.W. King & Co

RHS Membership

I enjoy a refreshing walk… my membership gives me free family days out as often as I like.

Mrs Giddings, RHS member

Join the RHS

Get involved

The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.