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Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Geeky Seed Catalogue

One of the joys of the "holiday season" is the first post after Christmas. This is when the Chiltern Seeds catalogue plops through the letterbox. Now, if you're a gardener, you'll be used to glossy catalogues with impossibly bright photographs of perfect flowers and vegetables. The Chiltern Seeds catalogue is 220 pages of plain text offering about 4000 different seeds. And what seeds!

Have you thought of growing a Silver Fir from seed? They have a mere half-dozen to choose from. For the ambitious, there is Abies Grandis that is not only very big, it has orange scented foliage. Then there is the hardy Fuchsia excorticaca which has blue pollen. They even offer seed for Cacti, Eucalyptus, Bananas and Tree Spinach. It's quite bizarre.

The brief descriptions are well written which makes it ideal for the armchair gardener as well. Here's just a sample:

Spinach, Tree 'Magentaspreen'

This is a vigorous plant, giving a colourful display, with smooth stems striped red and green, producing large leaves of a brilliant magenta colour, covered when young with a red crystalline powder, and bearing long spikes of tiny reddish flowers. The leaves, tastiest when young, are eaten raw or cooked as spinach. 6-8 ft.

They've got a website and for just £2.00 they'll send you a copy of the paper catalogue and a random packet of seeds post free. If you're a geeky gardener, it's the best value in town.

Sunday, 13 December 2009


I first started growing Rocket about 4 years ago. I thought that "wild rocket" sounded the most fun - and it was. It grew to a large bush about a metre in all directions. The leaves were if not hot, very warm and spicy. You're supposed to use them in salads but after buying some roast beef and rocket sandwiches in a shop, I decided to go for home made.

A bit later in the summer, there was another bonus. Small, sweetly scented yellow flowers. My garden is fairly enclosed so on a sunny day the smell met you on the path. The bees liked them too, which is another environmental box ticked.

This year, a bit of a set back. I'd bought in the beef, bread and butter before wandering down the garden for the Rocket. It just wasn't there. Not only the main bush - even the self-sown seedlings had vanished. Now, I was used to Rocket dying back in winter but by early summer, I just assumed it would be back. The very sharp frost we had last winter had taken it out.

Went down the garden centre for seed. This time, decided to try a variety called "Skyrocket" which claims "the speed of Salad Rocket and the flavour of Wild Rocket" Initial tasting is good - I know this sounds like posing but the flavour has both strength and complexity.

And, just in case of a cold winter, I'm keeping a pot under cover :-)

Thursday, 10 December 2009

The Oca Harvest is in!

It wasn't raining for a change so I took a fork to the Oxalis tuberosa and dug it up. Underneath were the Oca tubers. A quick rinse got the soil off the waxy skin and I sunk my teeth in. Crunchy. Sharp. I know it's gardening/culinary cliché but they really are "nutty". Brazil nutty.

Above: The plant in summer

Growing and eating ocas
Plants For a Future page about Oca
Realseeds - suplier