What a strange winter it was; blowing hot and cold - confusing to us humans and certainly confusing to our plants. We had our last trial assessment for the overwintering leek trial and the Brussels sprout trial; the leeks confirm that the old favourites such as ‘Autumn Giant’ still stand well and produce very acceptable and strong hardy, good-looking garden leeks
In the Brussels sprout trial we were trying out a new type of sprout called a flowering sprout. This is a cross between a Brussels sprout and a kale, and it is outstanding in that it produces towers of mini rosettes which are more kale-like but which are plucked off the stem in the same way as a Brussels sprout. We had three varieties in trial: ‘Autumn Star’, ‘Late Snowdrop ‘ and ‘Christmas Rose’. It is a pity it is classed and sold in the market as a flowering Brussels sprout rather than a mini re-setting kale (which is how the Americans sell and promote this new vegetable). The taste is more kale-like, rather than the strong Brussels sprout taste which many people have a difficulty with. Cooking is easy as the time taken is just 3 to 4 minutes in boiling water.
Seed is available to home gardeners; and flower sprouts are now being grown commercially in the UK and are available in some supermarkets. They are also becoming a trendy vegetable for many London restaurants - not just for their mild, nutty kale flavour but also the attractiveness on the plate. Flower sprouts are certainly one to watch and to be tried in the garden or on the allotment this year.
On the ornamental side, the Trials Department is looking at two hardy primrose varieties. A white variety, originally from Turkey but selected by Broadleigh Nurseries. The variety name is ‘Taigetos’ and the plants produced white flowers from early winter until late spring. We also have a demonstration of a yellow form recently introduced into the UK market called ‘Everlast’ from Burston Nurseries but bred by a breeding company in Belgium, Rudy Raes. Both of these varieties flowered well from planting in autumn and many more flowers are starting to appear as spring starts to break through.