by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
The choices are great but there are some varieties of vegetables that are best for all year round cropping and also don't forget the humble edible weeds. They grow better than anything else and are sure worth “cultivating” too.
This notion may seem silly to many a gardener but why battle with your weeds when you can eat them. (More later).
When it comes to the, if I may say so, ordinary vegetables to sew and plant, as said, there is a great variety out there but, alas, at times the choice is limited.
Let's look at beans: While there are many different kinds of beans that can be grown, including in the British Isles, all we seem to see if different “varieties” of runner (Lima), broad (Fava), and French beans, with a few other kinds. The rest of the great armory of beans that exist cannot be found with the great majority of seed companies in Britain.
Asking a representative of one of them one day I got the answer that there was no one interested. Really?
Also amazing is the fact that most people, including avid gardeners, have no idea that they can actually use the beans inside the runner beans after they have become stringy and can no longer be used in the way that they have become accustomed to. Those beans are the same as the dried Lima beans that are found in stores.
Other vegetables, as far as seeds and plants are concerned, also can be rather limited in Britain, and I mean here the kind that are commonly used elsewhere, including mainland Europe.
The same is true for, so at least I have found, potato varieties, but, then again, I do not, generally, buy seed potatoes and there is absolutely no need to do so. I know everyone – or almost everyone – keeps telling us that we must buy seed potatoes in order to grow healthy spuds. Really? I beg to differ here.
I have had nothing but problems with seed potatoes, especially with so-called blight resistant ones. Got a load of them from the Garden Press Event 2012 and they were the ones that, actually, the first ones that had the blight that year. The ones that I grew from cheapest Sainsbury's potatoes that had grown eyes were much more resistant. Sorry, but no more seed potatoes for me.
So, let's now look at what I mentioned before, namely the use of weeds for food. Many common garden, pardon the pun, weeds are edible and, in fact, are very good for us, and they are indeed legion.
Dandelion is one weed that, I am sure, everyone knows and regards as rather pesky. But not so. It is very edible indeed and great in salads or as spinach. I live the look on the faces of folks that ask me – being a professional gardener and forester – as to wht they are to do with the dandelion in their garden when I tell them to eat the stuff.
Another very useful weed is stinging nettle, Again it has many uses and should be used rather than wasted. Sorrel is another one which is, basically, a cut and come again spinach and I use it as it and don't just gather it in the wild, where it is mostly found, but have actually planted some of it in my garden.
Another very common weed in the garden that will take over if not checked but which is nutritious and good to eat is chickweed. And another one is Fat Hen, aka Lambs Quarter. The latter is, yet again, a most versatile one the leaves of which can be used as spinach, but also the stalk and the flower spikes can be eaten, the former steamed like asparagus and the latter like broccoli.
So think seeds and weeds for food in your garden and see how it can work out.