Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Heritage Vegetables

Growing your own produce is second nature to a united society of gardeners, most of whom have a greenhouse as the top tool in their gardening kit.

There’s not much point in growing your own food if you can’t trial a few new things, try something different and grow what you want. Generally growing from seed allows you to do all of these things and more, but when it comes to vegetables there’s a hitch. Thanks to some bonkers legislation which says that if a vegetable variety isn’t on the National List it can’t be sold as seed, a vast swath of unusual vegetables have all but disappeared.

Fortunately Garden Organic masterminded its Heritage Seed Library to help ensure the survival of some fantastic but often endangered vegetables. You become a member and that entitles you to choose several packets of seeds from the library to trial and grow, the idea is that you then save the seeds from that variety and share them with other gardeners. And of course you didn’t buy them so it’s not against the rules. It’s a brilliant system and there are some amazing plants to grow. To find out more about Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library visit: www.gardenorganic.org.uk

These days heritage vegetables are all the rage for the savvy and experimental gardener and in fact many ‘main stream’ seed companies have their own collections of old varieties to grow that have been added to the National List. Many of these heritage varieties are plants that have extraordinary characteristics such as intense flavours or better disease resistance, or they may just be an unusual colour or shape. Tomatoes have become a popular plant to trial and there are hundreds of amazing varieties to grow and taste. From purple almost black fruits to stripy, square or currant sized fruit, not to mention giant beefsteaks, plums and more. Plus the great thing about tomatoes is that you can save the seed and they are pretty much true to type when they grow next season, so you can choose the ones you like the best and share the seed with like-minded friends and greenhouse owners.

How to Cheat

It is of course a bit late to be sowing tomato seeds in May, even with a greenhouse, though you will still get some sort of crop if you do. But if you fancy growing something a bit different now then check out the Heritage Tomato plant collection from Delfland plants. Not only are the plants grown organically in peat free compost, but this year they’ve had exclusive access to the Garden Organic Heritage Seed Library and have joined forces to not only offer gardeners and greenhouse growers a fantastic range of ready grown, peat free plug plants to grow, but the collection is also supporting the vital work of the Heritage Seed Library. You can still order these plants now for delivery in early May.

To order your Heritage Seed Library tomato collection visit www.organicplants.co.uk.

And if you’re still not convinced have a look at the eclectic mix on offer. I’ll guarantee it will have your mouth watering before you get to the end. But remember, you need to act fast, once they’ve gone they’ve gone.

“Darby Pink-Yellow Striped” 
Indeterminate. Cordon. Saved seed from striped tomato fruit from the Glasshouse Crops Research Institute, Littlehampton. Do equally well in polytunnels, a cold greenhouse in pots and outside in a pot against a south-facing wall. Flavour is best when fruit are really ripe.

Indeterminate. Cordon. Previously commercially available. Described as “the best flavoured yellow”. Produces a heavy yield of slightly flattened globes of around 170-200gms; fruits have a mild but good flavour.

Indeterminate. Cordon. This variety was donated to the Heritage Seed Library by John Yeoman of the Village Guild. Produces large, sweet flavoured, dark red fruit with green shoulders. John Yeoman describes them as “a rare and decorative novelty.”

“Pink Cherry”
Semi-determinate. Pinch out side (axial) shoots regularly. Prolific and hardy doing well both outdoors and under greenhouse glass. The small, plum-shaped fruits begin pink, becoming red once ripe, have a pleasant, mild flavour and look wonderful in a mixed salad.

“Small Pear Shaped”
Indeterminate. Cordon. This variety produces very vigorous plants, so may need support. The fruit are red and pear-shaped and can be picked right through until October.

Indeterminate. Cordon. Brought over from Poland after World War II by Wladeck Neitzgoda. This prolific variety can be grown outdoors or under greenhouse glass. “Heavy trusses, which require ingenuity to support. Fruits are large and vari-sized beefsteak-type…the taste is a revelation – unsurpassed flavour and aroma.”

To find out more about Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library visit: www.gardenorganic.org.uk