Sometimes the choice in seed catalogues is so daunting and tempting it’s hard to narrow down my list of potential purchases to a vaguely sensible, and affordable, order. One thing I did have in mind this year was a desire to grow really colourful varieties. It has been suggested, in recent years, that eating a wide range of different coloured fruit and vegetables is good for us, as they are packed full of anti-oxidants, important for fighting disease and slowing down the ageing process. I do like to eat healthily but I have to admit my desire to grow a rainbow of vegetables had more to do with them looking so good on the plate and the feeling of achievement, that I’d have some crops I couldn’t even get at my excellent local farmers’ market.
Carrots are impossible to grow on the plot, as carrot fly are just too much of a problem. A fellow allotmenteer has an impressive wooden and enviromesh construction, in an attempt to keep out them out, which seems to work but as he said, ‘they’re damn expensive carrots’. The soil on the plot isn’t ideal either, so I decided to give them a go at home, away from the carrot fly ridden allotment, in containers. Back in April, I sowed half a packet of ‘Bambino’, a baby, orange coloured carrot with some ‘Yellowstone’, a lemony coloured variety. About 6 weeks later I sowed another pot with ‘Cosmic Purple’. I’ve been picking from the first container for a couple of weeks now and pulled the first purple ones last night.
I certainly won’t be self-sufficient in carrots this way. It’s more about providing some small, super fresh, carrots for adding to salads and eating raw with dips. So far, it’s worked well. The idea with growing carrots like this is to sow quite densely and as you harvest them you thin them allowing those left to grow a little bigger. I’ve just sown a couple more containers so I should have carrots to pick into the autumn.
The gloriously, and intriguingly, named ‘Ezeta’s Krombek Blauwschokker’ purple mangetout pea was another purchase. I’ll admit I picked this one simply because of the name. Not the best reason, I know, rather like picking a car because you like the colour. It’s a tall growing pea which I have climbing up a wigwam at the allotment. It produces very pretty pinky-purpley flowers and the pods are a gorgeous colour which they retain once cooked. I’ve found it’s best to pick the pods when they are quite small, about 5cm long, smaller than I would pick my green mangetout, otherwise they are quite tough. If they do get too big you can let the peas inside swell, and pod and eat the peas instead. As plants go, it so far hasn’t been the most prolific of croppers so I’ll probably seek out another purple variety next year.
Despite the weather, in the last few days I’ve started to pick my first French beans. They’re a dwarf variety called ‘Roquencourt’ which produce slender yellow beans. I’ve grown these before and they’re great for an exposed site like my own plot, as they don’t grow much taller than a foot. I’ve also grown them in containers and had great yields. Then tend to crop more quickly and over a shorter period of time than taller French beans, so it’s worth sowing some every 6 weeks to have a successional crop.
I’ve also got a tall wigwam of climbing French bean ‘Blauhilde’, which produces dark purple, almost black, pods. I noticed some flowers on it yesterday which I find quite incredible considering the wind, lack of warmth and incessant rain, not ideal French bean growing weather.
Beetroot this year has been the usual, ‘Boltardy’ and the stripey, ‘Chioggia’. I’ve found the beetroot has struggled this year. Chioggia is now bolting which is no great surprise. I may be tempted to try beetroot in containers next year, like the carrots and see if I have more success.
And finally, I’m eagerly awaiting the appearance of pods on my ‘Yugoslavian Black Bean’, dwarf French beans. A purchase from the Seedy Sunday event at Holt Farm last autumn, I’ve put them in a containers as I’ve run out of space at the allotment. I bought them because they sounded quite exotic and I spent some time in Yugoslavia as a child and have a soft spot for the place. I’m fascinated to see what will appear. I just need to keep the slugs off them.
I’d love to hear about any other colourful veg varieties you would recommend.