Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Potato seeds

You might think at first sight that these are tomatoes:

But they aren't. They are potato seeds, on a plant of Sarpo Axona. Potatoes and Tomatoes are of course closely related.

I have three different types of Sarpo potato in my garden at present, growing in pots like all the other varieties.

The Sarpo potatoes are the product of development work done by the Sarvari Trust, who have been trying to develop blight-resistant potatoes. Some people claim that the disease-resistance that these potatoes exhibit has been achieved at the expense of taste and texture, so I am growing mine (kindly provided FOC by David Shaw of the Sarvari Trust) to see for myself.

David has told me that it is possible to propagate potatoes from their seeds, so I might just try! So far there are only the two pods seen above, which I shall jealously guard, but it would be nice to have a few more, so I'll be scanning the plants carefully. The preferred method is supposed to be just like the one used for saving tomato seeds - fermenting them in water for a few days to remove the gelatinous pulp, which can inhibit germination. I'm not sure whether potato seeds have gelatinous pulp, but I intend to find out in due course!

Monday, 3 August 2015

Harvest Monday - 3rd August 2015

This week I harvested another small batch of Runner Beans, along with the first (single bean!) of the Kew Blue. The beans are slow to start this year, and although nice to eat these ones are hardly prize-winning specimens.

As you can see, there were also two more of the "Mini Munch" cucumbers, and the last of my "Modrava" Kohlrabi.

Whilst the Kohlrabi have been good from the growing point of view, they have not been so much of a success in the kitchen. Quite simply their taste has been too strong and unpleasantly "brassica-ey". I think if I grow Kohlrabi again it will be a green variety, which I think tend to be rather sweeter and milder.

More to our liking are the Carrots, which are now available in quantity - the biggest quantity I have ever grown, with three substantial rows of them in that big new raised bed of mine. They are beautifully sweet and tasty. I think the difference in taste between a fresh home-grown carrot and a stale shop-bought one is massive.

Pulling carrots is always a bit of a lucky dip affair. I judge the likely size of a carrot by the diameter of its visible crown, but what is down below often varies a lot. The short stubby one on the left of this photo looked OK at ground level, but it turned out to be only about two inches long. On the other hand the big "Autumn King" one in the centre was so big that all the leaves came away as I tried to pull it up!

This week also saw me harvesting the first really good "Webbs Wonderful" lettuce. This is an Iceberg type, so it grows pretty big.

But of course it is only the heart that you eat. The big, coarse outer leaves are discarded, and you end up with a dense "cannonball" like this:

This would have been perfect for shredding, to serve with some tacos, or a burger maybe, but we had it as a Wedge Salad.

The Wedge Salad is something we first encountered on a trip to San Francisco many years ago. The lettuce is halved or quartered (cut into wedges) depending on how big it is, and chilled. Shortly before serving it is smothered in a creamy blue cheese sauce and topped with halved cherry tomatoes. Talking of which, these are the said cherry tomatoes...

Not a lot, but since they were the first ripe tomatoes of the year, very significant. And here is the salad I described:

Yum! This is the perfect accompaniment to steak and chips.

I picked one of the big "Elyburg" Lettuces:

You have probably seen me write about these before. I have found that three quarters of the leaves are not really edible - they are just too tough - and it is only the inner heart which is any good. Not impressed!

Finally for this week, another couple of Beetroot. These are "Baby Beet Action" from Marshalls.

We don't usually do anything fancy with beetroot. We just eat them plain boiled, preferably served still just warm.


I'm linking this post to Harvest Monday over on Daphne's Dandelions, where I'm sure you will find all manner of nice home-grown goodies being showcased.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

RHS Wisley

For Father's Day this year, my daughter Fiona and her husband Juan Fernando very generously got me a Guest Membership of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). On Friday we used it for the first time. (I say "we" because the main member is allowed to take a guest, so of course Jane came along with me). We went to our "local" RHS property, Wisley Gardens, just the other side of Guildford. It's about 20 miles from where we live.

This is the view that epitomises Wisley:

The Lily Pond

And of course the amazing Long Border is deservedly world-famous:

In the border there were some absolutely stunning clumps of Helenium, currently one of my favourite flowers:

For me, the vegetable garden is naturally of great interest. Of course I inspected everything carefully to see how it compared with my own plants. Their Celeriac, whilst not yet big, is certainly bigger than my feeble efforts!

The whole garden was a-buzz with bees, so it is hardly surprising that their Runner Beans had been very thoroughly pollinated:

I was encouraged to see that their Brussels Sprouts were more or less exactly at the same stage as mine - and protected in identical fashion. I must say though that I was surprised at how densely-packed they were.

This enormous "Palla Rossa" Chicory really is a thing of beauty!

And so is this Artichoke:

In the greenhouse there were some of the very trendy "Indigo Rose" tomatoes, nearing maturity.

Since we last visited Wisley, an enormous new glasshouse has been built, accommodating four different environments - Hot Dry, Rainforest etc. (I don't remember exactly what they were.)

I was very impressed with this glasshouse. It was very well done indeed. I loved this green wall, covered in ferns:

I also loved the water features, providing humidity, movement and sound to the scene:

As you know, I am not easily impressed by flowers (as opposed to veg, I mean), but it was hard to be anything other than amazed at the variety of plants, and their immaculate quality. I can't remember many of the names, but let me show you some of the flowers...

It was actually quite hard to drag ourselves away from the glasshouse and out into the fresh air again, but there was just so much to see!

The enormous Gunnera is imposing in many respects, though not a plant you would normally call beautiful, but this enormous old, dying leaf had an intriguing coppery sheen to it.

The wildlife was abundant too. Loads of birds, including a Moorhen with her adolescent chicks:

And of course bees everywhere. Almost every flower had a bee or some bees on it. The plant seemingly most popular with the bees appeared to be the rather unassuming Polygonum. I'm regretting now that I didn't photograph any of it, because it was almost literally heaving with bees - hundreds of them! Here's a token "Bee on flower" photo for you...

At the moment Wisley has an "Alice in Wonderland" theme event running, which includes an adventure trail for kids to follow, but it also has lots of very attractive statuary which will be of equal, if not more, interest to the adults, such as this:

I could show you many more photos, but I think that's enough for now. Well, perhaps just one more. This lovely plant came home with us from the Wisley Plant Shop. It is a Lysimachia ciliata "Firecracker". The dark foliage is described as "mahogany" colour, and the plant has a mass of contrasting bright yellow flowers. I'm currently very much on colour contrasts, so this is just the sort of thing I like!

Since Wisley is so close to us I hope we will be able to visit on several more occasions during the twelve months of my membership.

Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention, the membership included a £5 voucher for the café, a free RHS tote bag and another £5 voucher to spend in the gift shop. This is what I got in the gift shop - an addition to our extensive collection of little bowls from all round the world:

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Tomatoes ripening at last!

Getting my first ripe tomatoes is always a significant moment in the gardening year for me.

These ones are "Maskotka", of which I have three plants.

It is a very prolific fruiter, but a very untidy plant too.

Some others that are now ripe are these "Orkado".

The compost contamination thing has definitely affected them, because the fruits are a lot smaller than usual, and those on the upper trusses are the wrong shape. They are more plum-shaped than they are supposed to be.

Although the tomatoes in my next photo are not yet ripe, they are looking good. This is "Possena del Vesuvio", grown from seeds sent to me by my friend Enrico in Italy.

It's OK, these ones are supposed to be plum-shaped!

These ones are nearly ready too. They are "Primavera", one of the new German-bred blight-resistant varieties from Stephen at Victoriana Nursery Garden.

This is Primavera's sibling Clou. Whilst Primavera is going to be red, Clou is going to be yellow. This variety has had the most even (and successful) fruit-set. Almost every flower has produced a fruit.

This, on the other hand is Giant Delicious, which  has suffered from very poor fruit-set. It has had lots of flowers, but hardly any fruit have formed. However I do think I can detect a hint of reddening in this particular one.

No sign of ripening in the "Chocolate Stripes" though.

Nor indeed on this "Ferline", though it looks promising.

I can hardly wait for the day when I will be able to prepare a salad of home-grown tomatoes in four or five different colours. It surely can't be far away now!