a fridge full of seeds

It’s that time of year, when I start to fantasise about my vegetable successes in 2015. Of course everything will grow perfectly but the reality is always different. Successes are tempered by failures and lessons always learned. Already I have the HSL onion Up to Date growing in the greenhouse so I can be sure of a good crop which i can then store through next winter to grow on for seed in 2016. In the first polytunnel that I have erected in my new vegetable garden Omani garlic is growing strongly despite the cold weather – or maybe because of it and I have a small crop of Bowland Beauty broad bean coming on hopefully to yield a nice crop for the table in May.

Every day the postman delivers requests for seeds from HSL members and visitors to the website. It is an exciting time and great to share what seed I have packaged up just for that purpose.

I have a number of new additions to my library including several Canadian heirloom beans and most exciting for me an heirloom pea from my new friend and fellow vegaholic Jesus Vargas from Girona in Catalonia, Spain. two seed savers comapre notesJesus comes from a long line of Catalan farmers and vegetable growers and a treasured part of his collection of some 150 local varieties is a pea grown by his grandfather and named after his grandmother Avi Juan.
The pea grows to about 1.5 metres Avi Joan cropAvi Joan pea and yields heavy crops of large, tender and delicious peas avi joan peas in pod Imagine my delight when a large envelope full of Avi Juan arrived in the post – enough for me to grow plenty for the kitchen and freezer and to share next year. watch this space for a full report later in the summer!

This weekend I will fire up the propagator to around 22 degrees and sow the first of my 2015 crop of tomatoes, chillies, early brassicas and salad crops – varieties yet to be decided. Time to get into that other fridge!A fridge full of seeds


It’s that time of year when the veggie plot is operating at full capacity and daily harvesting yields lots of yummy goodies. This year I have a number of heirlooms and unusual vegetables in my collection I am growing both for the table and for seed. A lot of these will be available later in the year to share and swap, although much is for the benefit of Garden Organic and the HSL. So, here’s a start.
TOMATOES I was given some seed by a lovely Swiss collector of a green variety which when fully ripe has a yellow blush called Smaragd Apple. It is sensationally sweet when picked really ripe and a wonderful salad tomato.Smaragd Apple early August1
Another lovely eater is the American heirloom Purple Cherokee.Purple Cherokee 2
I am having success, probably due to a very warm July, with a very tasty outdoor variety Jaune Flamée. This photo was taken in July.Jaune Flamee CU
My absolutely favourite French bean is the HSL variety Emperor of Russia, which I have been growing for many year. The stiletto thin pods grow to 15cms or more but must be harvested before the seeds begin to swell otherwise they go stringy. I can harvest enough every other day right now to feed four hungry folk from just a dozen plants. they are unruly plants and require a web of string on short canes to keep them in order.Emperor of Russia harvestEmperor of Russia 3
I am also growing an off-list dwarf French bean for the HSL called Fowler. It is a remarkable bean. It can be harvested over a long period, remaining stringless for several weeks. very heavy crops as you can see.Fowler ripening mid-August 2
I am also growing a lovely climbing French bean for the HSL called Bonne Bouche. A very nice green bean which holds up well, it will be another month or so before they pods will be ripe enough to harvest.Bonne Bouche 2
A lover of kale, I grow a number of different varieties but this year I am trying an orphan variety for the HSL, not strictly a kale but an open-hearted brassica from the USA which is home to the southern dish Collard Greens called Georgian Southern Collard. I will allow the plants to go to seed next year when the flower in the spring. Meanwhile, a few tasty leaves will be harvested through the winter.Georgian Southern Collard 4


Madly floweringThis lovely Lima bean is from seed that was given to me by fellow vegaholic Anne Wafer who lives in the Slovak Republic. Anne believes it is the same as the Angry Bean I discovered in Burma last year and I think I agree with her. If this is the case then this bean is also known in the US as the Christmas Bean, a very rare heirloom. The flowers look identical but Annne’s seed is more prolific with a fabulous set. I am pinching out the plants at two metres, although, like my crop last year, they will grow to three metres or more if left alone! I shake the wigwam a few times each day and a shower of old yellow petals fall to reveal yet more embryo beans.A tub full of beansIf anyone can tell me any more about this wonderful bean, which I hope to start eating towards the end of August as the beans swell and ripen, then please get in touch.a mass of flowers


A week in the Garrotxa region of Catalonia has proved most productive for this humble seed collector and saver.  It all started with a chance conversation and an introduction to Jesus Vegas, (pronounced Begas), who lives near Montagut close to the border with France.  A passionate protector of both Catalan and Spanish native and heirloom vegetables, I was able to spend several happy hours checking out his library of some 150 varieties and admire his wonderful garden where he grows heirloom and local varieties for food, to sell and to share the seed with a group of about 50 like-minded souls throughout Spain.two seed savers compare notes
I stayed near the medieval town of Santa Pau, which is now famous for its small white bean which is about to get special denomination status. It has a firm texture and nutty flavour and is usually eaten with the famous local sausage called Butifarra. or as I had it, pearled barley and crispy onion. Needless to say, I have brought some home to grow myself as well as two other beans I found in a little shop in another medieval town in the mountains called Rupit. Mongeta del Ganxet D’en Pere de Slica D’Amunt is a small white flagelot type from the Valies region and from near the town of Olot and very similar to Santa Pau, Mongeta La Val d’en Bas.Three local varieties, Fasol Santa Pau, Val D'en Bas and Del Ganxet
Catalans like to squeeze tomato onto their bread. It is a delicious alternative to butter or oil. They grow a special type of tomato for the purpose which they call Tomate de Penjar which are often sold on strings like onions for storing through the winter, but are grown and eaten from late spring onwards. Jesus had several varieties and gave me two of his favourites, Llagostera, which is the name of the place it comes from and Piel de Melocoton, or Peach Skin. I shall be growing both next year and will hopefully have seed to share.Jesus Vegas seed bank Jesus’ library was a rich trove of goodies. He gave me a purple broad bean called Reina Mauva, (Purple Queen), which is very rare but was widely grown in the region at one time and a purple seeded pea called Negra del Bergada. He has promised me some seed from another pea called Avi Joan, (Abi Juan) which was named after his wife’s grandfather who grew the variety for decades. It is a genuine heirloom with large, sweet peas on plants about 1.5 metres tall. I cannot waitpea Avi Joan


It was with delight and surprise that I received a tweet the other day (my Twitter tag is vegoutwithadam) from a lovely lady whose tag is Skannie. She suggested that the Angry Bean might well be the Christmas Lima.  So I Googled the bean and found this wonderful site.

I have no doubt it is the same bean.  See my earlier blog about the story of the Angry Bean.  Now I want to try and discover just how this wonderful bean has found itself in both the US and also Burma/Myanmar.  Being a Lima bean it must have originated in South America.  I wonder if it was cultivated by native Americans or found its way into vegetable plots in recent times being imported from the south?  My guess is that the bean found its way to indo-China courtesy of Portuguese traders and colonisers who crossed the Pacific with many of the vegetables that  are native to South America.  Any thoughts or information will be much appreciated.

If you have stories about this wonderful bean please tell all!


It has been a very long time since I last posted or did anything to update this website, for which I apologise. Torn between time growing, time in front of the computer and time looking after this website, only the first action has proved well spent! Today I am gardenless, having sold up and moved temporarily into a small house with a small garden. Fortunately I have been able to erect a decent-sized greenhouse in order to feed my addiction whilst I look for a new place to live and a new garden to create. The plan is to bring all my growing needs into one place. Until we moved I had gardens, greenhouses and poly tunnels within walking and driving distance of my home. Now I plan to devote more time to pursuing my passion to grow interesting and rare vegetables and fruit and to expand my seed-saving and seed-sharing efforts, starting, with luck, in the spring of 2014. But first a quick update and, what I think is a great story!

Back in late January I spent a month in Myanmar, aka Burma, travelling widely to visit the sites and check out what everyone was growing. For the last half a century or more, Myanmar has been isolated and inward-looking. Trade has been primarily with the Chinese. It is a country of diverse climates, but for the most part, being tropical, grows pretty much anything and everything. Until the outbreak of WW2 the Irrawaddy delta was the most productive and fertile rice-growing region in the world, with more than 20% of the world’s crop grown there. The vast majority of the population have lived as subsistence farmers growing traditional crops on small plots. From a seed-collectors point of view, this is most exciting. as farmers have been selecting and saving their own seed for generations. Only now, with the country opening up and trade with China and also Thailand increasing exponentially have farmers had access to modern commercial varieties. this may be a good thing in terms of yield, but is potentially disastrous for the genetic diversity of many native and indigenous vegetables that could be lost over time.

I spent much time visiting small growers, snooping around vegetable plots and checking out local markets and was thrilled to see a wide range of locally grown varieties, especially beans and capsicum. But by far the most exciting discovery was of a wonderful butter-bean with not only a colourful skin but a colourful story behind its name. I travelled along the China Highway to a little town in the east of the country called Hsipaw, a hang-out for back-packers and others wanting to trek into the hinterland to meet some of the tribal minorities. I spent a day with a delightful guide who showed us the impact of Chinese business on the local agriculture, especially the cultivation of water melon and pineapple.

In the market I had seen a large red and white bean being sold. The beans were boiled and skinned. My guide was able to tell me that this bean is called The Angry Bean because Burmese superstition says that if a pregnant woman tries to harvest a crop the beans will stop growing. His mother had been growing this bean for many year and seed had been passed through the family for generations. He gave me a handful the next day and I have grown them successfully this year, both in a bed in a green house and also in a large pot in a sheltered sunny spot. This bean is of the same family as our runner bean – as are all butter beans – with tiny white flowers which turn yellow once pollinated. The pods grow slowly filling with thumb-sized beans, up to three per pot. The beans are mottled pale green and red when freshly shelled, drying to red and white. They are best eaten as shelled beans, rather like a Borlotto. Steamed for eight minutes they can be skinned if required but I like the whole bean. They have a distinctive chestnut flavour and are delicious eaten on their own with a little butter, salt and parsley.  I have never seen this bean before and believe it is certainly native to this part of the Far east and may well be native to Burma.  I found six beans I did not recognise in my travels.  Some appeared tro have been grown commercially, others are definitely heirloom types which I will trial over the coming years.  I plan to grow the Angry Bean regularly and hope to have some to share from next year.


My friend John Tamplin likes to sow his over-wintering broad beans on Guy Fawkes day and I will be doing the same.  However, I first must clear squash out of one of my greenhouses to make room.  The F1 variety is a cross between Crown Prince and a butternut type and is called Autumn Crown and tastes fab.  They are great keepers too.  The fruit are a golden yellow and nice and ripe now.  I’ll store them in the potting shed where they should keep into late winter.

In place I plan to sow home saved seed of the classic bean Aquadulce and  also a row of home saved pea called Douce Provence and a few more Omani garlic cloves too.  I like to grow these over-wintering crops under cover these days as the winters can be so cold and damp that once trusty varities suffer.  At least in the greenhouse I am reasonable sure I’ll get a good early crop.

I have harvested the last of the beans I am saving for seed to put in my library, grow next year and share.  They include the black-seeded runner bean Meesner, the show bean which is also delicious to eat when young called Jescot Longun.  This runner bean has grown to 23 inches this year.  A guaranteed show-winner.  Other beans include a fantastic climbing French bean called ryder Top of the Pole and a Swiss pole bean and a dwarf French bean also from Switzerland called Brown Swiss.

Yesterday I had a great harvest from my polytunnels which I brough home in the back of the car.  In the picture you will see Crown Prince squash and a small Pompeon squash too; Italian Treveso onions courtesy of Franchi seed, ruby chard, winter radish called Pasque, Jescott Longun pods, some salad leaf, Mizuna and red Japanese cress and hidden in amongst it all a few beetroot too and also some sweet pepper from Syrian seed I found in Aleppo last year.


It’s now, as we enter autumn proper, that much of my seed-saving activities peak.  This weekend I have completed drying and cleaning the seed from a crop of the loose cabbage Delaway – a Heritage Seed variety – I last saved in 2008.  Despite the wet summer I was able to get about 2 ounces of good qaulity seed from nine plants.  I was able to shake out most of the seed when I pulled the plants at the beginning of September.  I hung the stems up in my potting shed within fleece bags to air and for the last of the seed to full out.  Cleaning brassica seed can drive one to drink, but gentle blowing and winnowing works wonders.  I have also been able to save a considerable quantity of several pea varieties; Douce Provence, an over-wintering pea that I grew a lot of in a polytunnel.  I will be sowing again later in October.  Also Robinson, one of my favourite peas, which grows to 2 metres with large, well-filled long pods of delicious peas.  I also grew an HSL orphan variety, Tom Thumb, which, as the name suggests, are very sqwat, requiring no support.  The crop was not large so I will hold the seed back to grow more next year, this time under cover.  I have a number of beans that I have already harvested and dried.  Two are from Syria.  The first is a delicious bean that is grown primarily to be eaten as an immature bean whole, but the beans are delicious when harvest young too.  I have plenty of seed of this now and will put them on my seed swop list which will be updated this winter. I also grew a Syrian fava bean which was not so prolific with small pods containing 3 fat large beans.  I will grow these again in a sunnier location next year to multiple and also to eat.  I also grew a good crop of my favourite broad bean, Bowlands Beauty.  Again, this bean will be available on my seed swap page later.  Whilst in Switzerland in May I attended a major vegetable event run by Switzerland’s equivalent to Garden Organic and came away with two local French beans, one dwarf called Brown Swiss and the other a climbing bean whose name I have written down somewhere away from this computer.  Both are being grown for seed.  Both make good eating as green beans, so I will have some to swap hopefully.  They are still growing so we need more dry weather to help ripening.  Also I have managed to get a very good crop of Ryder Top of the Pole, a great multi-purpose French bean I will have seed of.  I have been growing Borlotto beans for many year and am currently picking them when just ripe, blanching and freezing.  However, I fancy growing seed from a fresh source in 2013 as a comparator to my own seed.  I have also grown two runner bean varieties in isolation in polytunnels.  the first, Jescott Longun is a show bean that can grow to a couiple of feet.  The beans are also very fleshy and tasty when eaten young.  I should have seed of this to swap this winter.  I also was given a French butter bean called Haricot Gros de Soissons.  It is a runner bean with short pods that contain fat white butter beans.  Sadly the seed guardian sent me seed that was not true as my crop is speckled like most runner beans.  This crop will get composted sadly.  Isolating runner beans is essential if one is to grow seed that is true.

I am only saving one tomato variety this year, Fox Cherry, another HSL orphan.  I have two greenhouses with the crop in isolation.  The tomatoes are delicious, sweet and walnut-sized.  good crops too.  I am sending most of the seed back to the HSL, but will retain some to grow again next year to eat more of!  The good thing about saving tomato seed is that once the seeds have been removed the pulp can be turned into passata, soup, sauces, chutneys and pickles.  Nothing goes to waste.  I will be collecting this seed for at least another month, until the last trusses have ripend.  I have also grown some Syrian peppers in isolation but they are slow to ripen so I may not get seed this time.  I have been able to save my Ukraine hot, sweet pepper and will have fresh seed again.


A couple of weeks of decent May weather and sanity is restored.  The polytunnels are yielding a wonderful harvest of broad beans, peas, carrots, beetroot, potatoes, radish and beetroot and finally everything is growing like fury on the allotment.  The last few weeks have been madness, up with the sun to open the glasshouses and polytunnels, to water, to nurture, to transplant and to sow seed for summer and autumn crops. The garden at The Brockweir Inn is coming along really nicely. Check out developments.

I am thrilled so far with my broad bean finds in Syria last year.  Syria Small grow to around 70cms in height and have been full of flower.  Now, the young pods are starting to come fit to eat.  I have picked some at between 10 and 12cms in length. They are delicious chopped up like French beans and sauted in oilve oil with garlic! The pods are prolific and I hope to be able to allow many to grow on to maturity for seed in 2012. A very nice discovery indeed.


In the last month I have not been idle.  Despite a very unplesant cold snap in February I have been able to keep on top of my sowing schedule and hope that you all will now be limbering up to get a load of veggies going if you haven’t started already.

I started a second sowing of onion seed in mid-February.  It is certainly fine to sow more now.  I like Franchi Seeds who sell large packets of seed for a fraction of the price of their competitors.  I like to grow red onions which are as a easy to grow as white ones, but, for reasons I cannot understand, cost twice as much in the shops!  Try Rossa Lunga di Firenze.  I also planted a Dutch variety of shallot called Ouddorpse Bruin given to me by a fellow vegaholic.  Due to problems last year with white rot on the allotment I am growing alliums now on a new plot I have been given nearby which hasn’t had alliums on it for many years.  I also planted out a brilliant garlic, Solent Whight.  Highly recommended.  Just yesterday I saw shallots, onion sets and garlic for sale in a garden centre, so there is still time to get these in the ground.

By the end of February my tomato seedlings were reay to be transplanted into 3-inch pots.  I also transplanted the Syrian mini broad-beans I sowed a month ago into the allotment under a cloche.  I also transplanted under bell-cloches some rather pathetic cauliflower plants, All The Year Round, which I had been overwintering in the greenhouse.  The seed of the same variety I sowed at the end of January are growing well and are now hardening off in a cold-frame.  I will be interested to see how the two crops perform.

I also sowed a quantity of my favourite broad bean, Bowlands Beauty, into my new plot in a rasied bed which had a foot of wonderful compost added.

In the last couple of days I have sown more lettuce, Little Gem and an HSL variety, Brown Bath Cos.  If you want to have a continual supply of lettuce througout the year successional sowing is essential.  I have lettuce seedlings in a polytunnel which I will transplant in a coule of weeks’ time.  My over-wintered lettuce in the polytunnels are almost ready now that the endive and radicchio on the allotment are all but finished.  I will sow more lettuce later in March – just a pinch of seed at a time.

Now too is a good time to start off a few leeks in pots in the greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill.  And today was a bit of a marathon as I sowed parsnip, spring onions and radish on the allotment under cloches and in the  greeenhouse, fennel, celeriac and artichoke in modules in the propagator.  I also sowed some patio tomatoes, Tumbler To and Maskotka, which will be planted up finally into hanging baskets in late April.  And finally I sowed a nice purple-flowered climbing French bean called Cobra which gives a good crop of green beans and a yellow wax bean called Gialli.  These will be planted out in a polytunnel for an early crop at the end of March or in early April along with sweetcorn.

With sowing over it was time to pot up some chillies and spend a considerable amount of time reconfiguring everything to fit in the greenhouse!


With sowing over it was time to pot up some chillies