Sometimes in veg-growing, as in life, the golden oldies are the best.
Older 'heritage' veg varieties aren't often found in the shops, as they aren't uniformly shaped, sometimes don't store or travel well, and are difficult to harvest mechanically. That means the only way to enjoy their sumptuous flavours, colours and textures is if you grow your own.
Here are five of the best old-style veg to look out for in your favourite garden centre in Mullingar and try in your own garden: we promise you won't be disappointed.
- Runner bean 'Painted Lady' has been grown since at least the 1850s. It's prized for its bicoloured red and white blooms, pretty enough to be grown in the ornamental garden. The flowers are followed by a heavy crop of delicious long, flattened green beans.
- Broad bean 'Crimson Flowered' was rescued from extinction in 1978 thanks to an elderly gardener from Kent. The rest is history: its gorgeous deep red flowers are now seen, and admired, in gardens all over the country.
- Kale 'Cavolo Nero', also known as Black Tuscan kale, came to our shores in 1860 on board Thomas Cook's ship. It was originally grown as an ornamental for its extraordinarily long, puckered black foliage, but we know different: pick the full-flavoured leaves young and cook like cabbage.
- Tomato 'Marmande' is a sumptuously flavoured beefsteak variety from France, making huge fist-sized fruits. They're lumpy and bumpy, and prone to splitting - but it's worth it for one taste of that superb, rich flavour, the perfect balance of sweet and sharp.
- Squash 'Turks Turban' was brought to the UK from America in 1869 and gets its name from its extraordinary shape – a doughnut-like lower layer with a 'hat' on top. It's orange, but striped cream and green: like nothing you've ever grown before (it has a great flavour, too!)
Please ask the staff in our Mullingar garden centre for more information and advice about a taste of history.