Dear Fellow Gardeners,
The year 2014 must have been the kindest year for gardening. Nearly all crops grew better than ever before and we have our store full of carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, beetroot, parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes. I hope we’ll have enough until April next year.
The root crops (potatoes, beetroot, carrots, parsnip) are stored in plastic crates (with holes) and buried in the soil in my greenhouse. I dug out soil about 20cm deep, placed the crates into the dug out space and filled them with the crops and then covered them up with the dug out soil. Last year we had potatoes and beetroot well into May as fresh as freshly harvested.
Onions, garlic and shallots are expertly strung up and plaited by my daughter and hang in the kitchen.
The tomatoes were the greatest success. We still have enough to make a large tomato soup twice a week and it looks as if they’ll continue for another while.
At our last course in September, 17 people judged and voted for the best flavoured tomato:
Here are the results:
- Sungold F1
- Sweet Aperitif
- Rosada F1
- Indigo Rose
- Bite Size
- Gardener’s Delight
Growing tasty vegetables
If we decide to grow our own vegetables and put all that hard work into it, we may as well have the very best and tastiest ones. It’s quite obvious that freshly harvested vegetables taste a lot better and have a lot more nutrients in them. Also, food that is grown with a ‘natural diet’ of garden compost, manure or seaweed instead of junk food (artificial fertilisers) is bound to have a more balanced nutrient content and vitamins. Often crops that are force fed with artificial fertilisers have a much lower nutrient content compared to organically grown ones that develop slower and often have a slightly lower yield. The artificial ones are simply pumped up with water.
To be quite contradictory to myself, there is one surprising aspect in terms of taste that can even over-ride the above mentioned factors – and that is the choice of vegetable varieties. I’m quite convinced that the choice of varieties is more important than the growing technique. I go even as far as claiming that a conventionally grown Sungold tomato will taste far nicer than an organically grown Moneymaker tomato. Moneymaker tomatoes are in my mind the most over-rated variety of all. The only good thing about it is its name. Many garden writers even claim that they taste excellent. They really don’t, especially if you compare them to many other ones.
I think as organic gardeners we should try and find the best varieties especially in terms of taste and flavour as well as ease of growing, especially in terms of disease resistance. We need to make sure that our vegetables taste better than the supermarket ones, otherwise we may as well get them from there.
New seed introductions:
We are delighted to introduce a few new exciting and unusual vegetables in our new range. Here are a few of them:
This is a selection of my 7 favourite tomato varieties. You’ll get one seed per variety and they are all very easy to distinguish. Each plant if well grown will produce over 200 most delicious cherry tomatoes. The two beef tomatoes in the mix will obviously produce far less but the weight will make up for it.
- Sungold F1 (again the champion for taste and earliness, orange cherry tomato)
- Rosada F1 (a delicious cherry plum type)
- Sweet Aperitif (one that came very close to Sungold F1; a red cherry variety)
- Rosella (a fabulous purple cherry tomato, high yield and delicious)
- Green Zebra (a delicious fleshy beef tomato; ripe when green)
- Indigo Rose (the darkest tomato ever bred; ideal for sauces)
- Pantano Romanesco (one of the best beef tomatoes of all times)Tomato ‘Pantano Romanesco’ This one was a real success in my garden in 2014. A good friend of mine – Laszlo Kendersi – Head Gardener at Knockvicar Organic Gardens in Co. Roscommon kindly brought me back some seeds of the breadseed poppy back from a trip to Hungary.The plants produced absolutely gorgeous flowers (pure white with purple edges) and most importantly the seeds were delicious. My children were fighting over them and it was hard to save some seeds. Luckily I grew them in a few different gardens and we’ll have some available for sale. Burdock (Arctium lappa) – TakinagowaAnother interesting fact about burdock:Sow the seeds in trays/pots indoors from March to early May and plant out 4-6 weeks later. Give it plenty of space (60cm between plants) and harvest the roots in late autumn/winter. They give a high yield of roots which can be cooked or roasted.Edible Flowers:
- This year we’ll include some edible flowers in our seed range:
- “After taking his dog for a walk one day in the early 1940s, George de Mestral, a Swiss inventor, became curious about the seeds of the burdock plant that had attached themselves to his clothes and to the dog’s fur. Under a microscope, he looked closely at the hook system that the seeds use to hitchhike on passing animals aiding seed dispersal, and he realised that the same approach could be used to join other things together. The result of his studies was Velcro” (Wikipedia)
- Yes, there is a wildflower called burdock – quite an annoying one – because the seedheads are thrown onto woolly jumpers or worse even into long hair. Survival experts and wild food gourmets always knew the value of this plant as a root vegetable. The Japanese took it further and bred it into a more well- behaved vegetable. The plant is biennial and the roots should be harvested in autumn/winter of the first season. In the second year the plant will go to seed and form the ‘burry’ seedheads. The roots are delicious cooked or roasted. The yield is phenomenal.
- These are the edible poppy seeds – simply sprinkle them over freshly baked breads or cakes . My favourite cake of all times is my mother’s poppy seed cake. I’ll have to get her recipe for the next newsletter. I haven’t had it for years.
- Breadseed Poppy – Hungarian
- Don’t be put off by the name. This is probably the best flavoured and most reliable beef tomato. A real Italian gem. Expect a treat! It comes highly recommended from Nicky Kyle – Ireland’s ultimate tomato expert.
- Calendula (gorgeous orange edible flowers with medicinal properties)
- Borage (sky blue edible flowers to lift your spirits)
- You can sow them in modules from spring to summer and plant them out a few weeks later or alternatively sow them direct. You’ll never need to buy them again as they self-seed regularly especially if you compost the flowers at the end of the year and while spread the compost the following year you’ll distribute the seeds nicely.
- Nasturtium ‘Alaska’ Nasturtium seeds are best sown in April and planted out after the last danger of frost has passed in May.Seakale (Crambe maritima)I think this vegetable could be one of the new gourmet vegetables. Sow the seeds in spring/summer individually in small pots and plant out when well rooted. Give it plenty of space – about 1m apart each way. We’ll have a few packets of seeds available for next year.Broccoli – Romanesco Achocha are members of the cucurbit family. They are extremely vigorous and can easily take over a small greenhouse or tunnel. I have only grown them indoors but had to chop the plants back ruthlessly. They produce the most unusual small fruit that taste a bit of cucumbers. They really are more an oddity than a gourmet crop. Don’t worry though they won’t take over forever – the first touch of frost will kill the plants off. The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked, but only when young. I tried this new carrot variety and was blown away by its flavour and ease of growing. It would win any taste competition. Title: Growing your own foodFor booking contact: Sinead 087 9537597 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Title: Growing in Polytunnels – Winter Cropping23rd November 2014: Community Allotments, Blarney, Co. Cork30th November 2014: Springmount Garden Centre, Gorey, Co. Wexford For more information call: 071 9640688 or 086 1728442 or email email@example.com From now on we should hibernate, bed the garden down for winter and wait for brighter days to come in spring when nature and ourselves wake up again for yet another year in the garden.
- All courses cost €30 per day (not including lunch). There are free places available for the unemployed.
- 6th December 2014: Ardcarne Garden Centre, Boyle, Co. Roscommon
- 29th November 2014: Venue not confirmed to date
- 22nd November 2014: Grangebeg Camphill Community, Co Kildare
- I will also teach a series of gardening day courses throughout Ireland through NOTS (the National Organic Training Skillsnet).
- Cost: €65 including lunch
- Sunday 2nd November 2014: Inagh, Co. Clare
- A quick reminder of upcoming Gardening Courses
- Carrot ‘Sweet Candle F1’
- I’ll try and grow them outside next year possibly trailing over an unsightly fence.
- Achocha (Cyclanthera species)
- This must be one of the prettiest brassicas. It forms a pyramid shaped head similar to cauliflower and broccoli. Easy to grow and delicious.
- This picture is taken the newly opened Walled Garden at Ballymaloe.
- Seakale is a native perennial wild plant growing on coastlines but it does surprisingly well in any garden and soil type. I have the same plants for the last ten years. The young shoots are absolutely delicious if blanched in spring. Simply put a large pot or bucket over the young shoots as the new leaves appear and a couple of weeks later you can harvest the white-yellow young shoots.
- My favourite nasturtium and also quite well behaved. Both the variegated leaves and flowers are delicious.