Every couple of years, usually in autumn when there's a bit of a spell in the gardening calendar, I pause to reflect on which crops have really been worth growing and are likely to become firm favourites, and which are going to get the chop (and I don't mean into the pot!).
Colourful carrots out the door!
They may be loads of fun when the kids are little, but purple, green, and yellow carrots just don't do it for me. Pretty they may be when grated into salads but mine lacked the flavour and crispness of the good old top-weight or Manchester table varieties. I'll still buy the seed to give as children's birthday presents but, for my kitchen requirements, I'll stick with the orange variety.
Tat Soi is tops!
I first sowed tat soi (an Asian vegetable with deep green wrinkled leaves and crisp white stems) in spring, and then again in late summer. Spring sowings produced a small but edible rosette but the autumn plants were stunning. Like most Asian greens, tat soi obviously enjoys growing into the cooler months, and my autumn sowings produced big spinach-like bunches perfect for stir-frying or plunging into a miso broth. This is one vegetable I never want to be without.
Ford Hook beats the traffic lights
Kings Seeds offered up what sounded like a monster of a silver beet with "Ford Hook Giant" and my seeds certainly came up with the goods. I know traffic light silver beet is pretty but, personally, as a gardener hungry for produce, I find it a much less productive plant and feel it belongs more in the flower than the food garden.
All the munch without the mess
It's not often that novelty vegetables are as successful as their country cousins but where white beetroot is concerned, it's a winner. As easy to germinate, and possibly sweeter than regular purple beetroot, the white variety grows just as large and has all the flavour. Best of all, if you drop it on the mat or the kids spill it down their t-shirts, there's no colour-mess to deal with.
These little beauts win my "vegetable of the season" award. Occupying far less space than a regular cabbage, they managed to produce a head that was almost the same size. They were tight, sweet, and held for what seemed like weeks before needing to be harvested. And talk about willing to grow anywhere! I even planted mine out under the fruit trees where the reduced light seemed to do them no harm at all. They'll be back with us in 2015 – and ever after!
Purple Podded Peas that please
With an artist in the family, how could I not decide to make a yearly sowing of these exquisitely beautiful peas. Although they do need to be harvested when young in order to avoid a certain woodiness that comes with age, the pods themselves are irresistible. As well as sporting a deep purple shell with lime-green trimmings at each end, the pods, when polished, shone like jewels. I spent as much time photographing them as I did harvesting!