A Place for Vegaholics



SYRIA – seed harvested 2017.  This wonderful courgette was grown from seed I discovered in a market in Damascus.  The plants are trailing and will crop through to the end of October if given protection.  Good resistance to powdery mildew, (which is easily treated with regular applications of potassium bicarbonate).  My absolute favourite courgette ever as the fruits have low water content and, unlike most modern varieties, actually has real flavour.  Great used in frittata or grilled.  Grow three plants a metre apart to ensure good pollination and plenty of fruits to enjoy and share.


BOWLAND BEAUTY – (currently out of stock) – My favourite broad bean. Long, well filled pods respond to early sowing in pots in a greenhouse in January, cropping at the same time as autumn sown varieties, but can be sown until April with very good results.
Bowland Beauty2 20611
SYRIAN SMALL –  Seed harvested 2017 – This lovely bean is a native of Syria. I found the seed in a market in Damascus, being sold by a farmer whose family had been saving the seed for generations. Grown primarily to be harvested as very young beans and eaten like French beans, this prolific and very early, hardy variety is also delicious when harvested as a mature bean, It makes great humus with dill and olive-oil too, especially when the beans are very mature. This is an important variety to preserve. The civil war In Syria has been catastrophic for agriculture and heirloom and native varieties like this one need preserving.  If you want to grow it then do try and save seed.  Be sure that there are no other broad beans growing nearby.  This variety can be grown in isolation too.
Syria Small first harvest

SYRIAN FAVA – Currently unavailable – The oldest cultivated crop in the world, this bean has been grown in Syria since the dawn of civilisation.  I found this seed in Aleppo, in 2011 at the start of the civil war.  A staple of middle-eastern cuisine, this ancient variety yields a good crop of very large beans that are grown to be dried.  Like Syrian Small , this bean, along with all heirloom and native crops is under threat due to the collapse in farming as a result of the conflict.Syrian fava in basket wideSyrian Fava shelled 1



MADEIRA MAROON – Currently unavailable – A fine HSL variety that yields a heavy crop over a long period of long flat pods that are best eaten when young

RAY’S BUTTER BEAN Currently unavailable – another bean from the Heritage Seed Library, (HSL).  This Australian-bred ex-commercial variety – which has been lost from cultivation in Australia – benefits from an early sowing.  Very heavy crops of delicious yellow flat pods which hold very well even as the beans swell.Ray's Butter Bean CU

BONNE BOUCHE – out of stock – A delicious fine bean best eaten fresh. Sow in the open ground two seeds an inch deep under individual bottle cloches or if a long row under a polythene cloche or similar in a double row spacing 9 inches by 9 inches in late April or early May. Once the seedlings emerge keep the strongest at each station and put in canes as you would for runner beans. Can be started in pots in a greenhouse in April and transplanted into open ground after the last frost in late May.

Bonne Bouche 2

PURPLE HARAGE (HARAGE PINK) – currently out of stock – I found this bean in a market in Zanzibar. Worth growing in a sunny and sheltered spot outside but does amazingly well in a polytunnel. An absolutely superb drying bean with a delicious nutty and firm texture. The verdant plants produce small clusters of 20cm pods containing speckled purple seeds. Sow individually into pots in early March for growing under glass or polythene or mid-April if growing outside. Transplant into final position in May. Keep outdoor plants protected by cloches until they are well established and then grow up canes as normal. Allow the beans to dry on the vines before harvesting in late August/September.
Kenya bean Purple Harage
RYDER TOP OF THE POLE  –  This old English variety is a fantastic multi-purpose bean yielding delicious long green beans to be eaten when young and a prolific cropper of delicious white ‘Faggioli’ type beans when ripe. Grows to 6′. Sow outside under individual cloches in mid-May 9″ apart in double rows 18″ apart. In early June when the plants have formed their first true leaves remove protection and fix canes as you would for Runner Beans to allow plants to climb. Harvest beans when pods start to turn from dark green to pale. They can either be harvested fresh when a very pale green to white and cooked or blanched and frozen, or allow the pods to dry completely on the plant and harvest in late autumn and store. Also delicious as a young green bean


EMPEROR OF RUSSIA –  Seed harvested 2017 – In my humble opinion this is the tastiest French bean you will ever eat. Prolific and very early. I sow seeds under bottle cloches for their first month of growth. A sowing in early May will crop in early July. An abundance of very long pencil thin and completely stringless pods are borne on plants that grow to 2′. It is worth staking in a windy location. Sow seeds 2 together 9″ apart in rows 9″ apart. Thin the weakest plants when they have properly emerged. For a late crop sow under glass in July to harvest in October and later.Emperor of Russia harvest 1

KING OF THE EARLY – Currently unavailable – A Canadian heirloom.  Fine beans that are fast growing.  Very good for an early crop.  i grow them in a polytunnel from early March.

King of the Early2

VAL’S BEAN – Seed harvested 2016 – An HSL variety and tasty heirloom bean that yields a good crop of fine-tasting pencil pods that hold well so can be harvested when quite large.vals-bean

MAY BEAN – out of stock – This interesting and early maturing bean can be harvest and eaten green as pods or allowed to mature when it yields plenty of small white beans that are delicious in casseroles, stews, etc. Sow directly into open ground in mid May 2 seeds 9″ apart in rows 9″ apart. Protect with cloches if necessary. Thin to one plant per station. Stake if in a windy location.

VERMONT CRANBERRY – out of stock –This American shelling bean can also be eaten when young as quite tasty long podded French beans. Sow directly into open ground in mid May 2 seeds 9″ apart in rows 9″ apart. Protect with cloches until early June if necessary. Thin to one plant per station. Stake if in a windy location.  Very good grown early with protection.
Vermont Cranberry dwarf French Bean


STENNER – Currently unavailable  This delicious and prolific bean grows very long – it will give many other beans a run for their money in the ‘longest bean’ class at your local produce show. Sow directly into a prepared bed in early May 2″ deep at 9″ spacing in a double row 18″ apart. I cover each seed with an individual plastic water bottle cloche, but a conventional or poly-cloche is fine. Once the seedlings have emerged and have their first true leaves in early June remove the cloches and place a 6′ bean cane beside and to the outside of the plant so it can easily twine itself up it. Pinch out when vine has reached the top. Will crop well from late June until the frosts.Stenner2


MEESHA – seed harvested 2012 – A very nice black-seeded medium length runner bean from the HSL.  Sets well in poor summers.  Good heavy cropper. Pods need to be eaten young

BRECON BLACK – seed harvested 2017.  A Welsh heirloom that has come to me via the Irish Seed Savers organisation.  I have grown this variety for wider cultivation in Wales.  It was grown in the gardens of St. Fagans outside Cardiff and will be grown in 2018 at Aberglasney gardens in West Wales.  Tender pods when harvested young. Shows some variability in length but needs to be more widely grown and enjoyed.

MONTACUTE – Seed harvested 2016 – This heirloom has been grown on the Montacute estate in Somerset for decades.  An HSL variety I have grown for them so have a few extra to share.  Very heavy cropping, long and tender tasty beans.  if you want to save your own seed then you must grow the crop in isolation as runner beans will cross with others up to half a mile away.


JESCOTT LONGUN – Currently out of stock – If you want to win the longest bean prize at your local produce show, or even at national level then grow this beauty.  I have harvested pods in excess of 60cms.  They are also very tasty when harvested at half that length and very heavy cropping.  I have not included a photo of a winning bean because they cause envy!

Jescot Longun topshot




DANIEL O’ROURKE – Seed harvested 2017 – This pea came from the Irish `seed Savers Exchange and has an interesting provenance.  It is believed this pea, which grows to about 6 feet, was in the Vavilov collection in St. Petersburg.  Vavilov travelled widely before the Russian revolution and built the world’s first gene bank with a library of over 350,000 varieties of edible crops.  Whether he visited Ireland and collected the pea or whether a certain Irishman helped himself to this variety on a trip to Russia remains unclear.  However, it is a lovely, heavy cropping smooth pea which can be sown in the autumn for an early crop.Daniel O'Rourke
CHAMPION OF ENGLAND  seed harvested 2016 A delicious old-fashioned English pea that grows to 6 feet, now commercially available. Sow a double row in a flat-bottomed drill one inch apart by two inches between the row and cover with a good inch of soil. Firm down and keep well watered until germination. Need to be able to grow up secured pea-netting or sturdy 6′ pea-sticks.

LAOS MANGE-TOUT –  seed harvest 2017 –  Pea grows to 6 feet .  A really exciting find in a market in Vientienne, Laos in 2009.  The seed are speckled dark blue and I presumed would yield a purple pod.  The plants are rampant with pale purple flowers.  very pretty.  But surprisingly the pods are green.  Absolutely delicious they can be harvested when very young, blushed pink like a maiden’s blush as mange-tout or when starting to fill as a sugar-snap.  They can also be harvested as shelling peas. Sow a double row in a flat-bottomed drill one inch apart by two inches between the row and cover with a good inch of soil. Firm down and keep well watered until germination. Need to be able to grow up secured pea-netting or sturdy 6′ pea-sticks.
Laos mange tout ready to harvest



JAUNE DE MADRAS MANGE TOUT Currently out of stock – This magnificent pea bred by Vilmorin came from the Utrecht seed bank with thanks to Gerrit Oksam.  It was the subject of breeding activity in the USA in the late 1800’s and having been passed to the Seed Savers Exchange some years ago, it’s offspring can be bought as Golden Sweet now in the UK.  However, this 19th century French ex-commercial variety needs to be grown, saved and appreciated for its culinary and superb decorative qualities too.IMG_3013

ROBINSON – Out of stock – In my opinion this is the finest tasting pea you will ever grow. 5″ pods of fat sweet and tender peas, they are almost impossible to get to the table they taste so good straight from the vine! This variety grows to 6 feet and requires careful staking. I use pea netting stretched across bamboo poles which are cross-braced to make them rigid. Sow seed 2″ apart in spring in a 1″ deep drill four inches wide. As soon as the peas emerge put a climbing support along either side of the drill. Stretch string over straggling vines as they grow. This plant is a vigorous and heavy cropper.Robinson cu1
KENT BLUE – an HSL variety that grows to about 4 feet and is harvested as a mange-tout.  Lovely deep-purple flowers give way to pale green pods that swell quickly so need to be harvested regularly.  I prefer to let this variety gorw on to be harvested as shelling peas.
Kent Blue 20611


AVI JOAN (Avi Juan)- seed harvested 2017 – This truly magnificent pea was given to me by Jesus Vargas, a passionate seed guardian who has  collection of about 150 native and heirloom Spanish and Catalan vegetable varieties including this giant.  Bred by his grandfather and named after his grandmother, Ave Juan grows to 2 metre, with large flowers that attract large numbers of bees.  The pods are long with mostly 10 fat peas of a divine sweetness.  Excellent to freeze and because of their size a punnet of pods yields a veritable feast.  Until Jesus gave me some seed he was the only person to grow this awesome p


Avi Joan crop

Ave Juan pea



PUBESCENS ROCOTTO – Seed harvested 2012 – This is a truly remarkable chilli. It has a lovely bushy and compact habit, produces beautiful purple flowers and has wonderful plum-sized fruit with black seeds. It does not cross with other chillies either and can be grown as a perennial if kept at a minimum temperature of about 10 degrees in winter. I harvest fresh chillies right through until February when a severe prune and a good feed sets the plants off to produce an early crop. This plant grows well outside in a sheltered sunny spot.

Pubescens Rocoto ripening in mid-January

Pubescens Rocoto ripening in mid-January

BURMESE PLUM – Seed harvested 2013 – A local variety with heavy crops of small, round fruity and spicy chillies that are great used fresh as an alternative to a dried bird’s foot chilli.  Does well in a 15cm pot in a sunny and sheltered location outside.

BLACK CUBAN -Seed harvested 2016 – An heirloom that has a bushy habit with lovely mauve flowers and a forest of small black chillies that turn a deep red when ripe.  Hot and tolerant of cold.  This photo was taken in December.  Will continue to crop all year if kept at a minimum of 10 degrees.img_3438

YANGON MARKET – Seed harvested 2016 – Discovered in a market in Yangon this very hot chilli is a genuine Burmese heirloom, having been grown locally by the same family for generations.  Rough-skinned fruit that grow to 5cms are born on compact plants.  Early cropper.  I am currently testing for its qualities as a perennial.  Does very well in a small 15cm pot.img_3436

HSIPAW PURPLE – Seed harvested 2016 – A local commercial crop.  Tall plants with black fruits that ripen slowly through green to red.  Hot.

PIMENTON D’ESPELETTE seed harvested 2011 – a protected French variety that is used as a condiment in local cuisine.  Easy to grow with heavy crops of large medium spicy fruits which should be dried and then milled for use as course chilli powder or as an alternative to pepper. Great on scrambled eggs and sprinkled on fritatta as well as to spice up casseroles and sauces.pimenton-despelette-ready-for-grinding

SULAWESI – seed harvest 2017 –  limited stock – I found this chilli in a market on the island of Sulawesi in 1990. It grows to 4″ is pencil thin and very hot. Prolific, Early and easy to grow but can be slow to germinate. Sow in gentle heat in early February and transplant when four true leaves have formed. Pot on in May into 10″ pots in greenhouse. Does well in a border and outside in a sheltered sunny spot.

COTTER’S LARGE – (out of stock) – I found this chilli whilst on safari in the Masai Mara in Kenya at Cotter’s camp.  This is a large perennial but I tend to grow it as an annual as it doesn’t survive in a cold greenhouse.  Large, spicey fruit from late summer.  A delicious African heirloom.

CHILLI – THANLWIN RIVER – seed harvested 2013 – I was given this chilli by a Burmese farmer whose family has grown them for many years on the banks of the Thanlwin river in southern Myanmar.  Does well in the UK with an early start.  Abundant long hot fruits that can be eaten fresh, dried and also ground up for a great chilli powder.



CHILLI – MOROCCO – seed harvested 2016 -Seed acquired in 1997 from a desert oasis in eastern Morocco. Up to 3-inch three-lobbed boxy hot and sweet chilli pepper that turns brilliant red when ripe. Plants grow to 3 feet in height. Does well in a greenhouse border or pots. Best grown under glass but worth trying in a sunny, sheltered spot.moroccan-chili-from-gordon-templeton

CHILLI – CHIANG RAI LONG – out of stock – collected from a market in Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand this is an excellent, mild, drying chilli.  Great for red curries.
Thai chillies maturing in August



SYRIA – seed harvested 2017.  This is a classic ‘Lebanese’ type that I have grown on from seed originally discovered in Aleppo in 2011.  The local grower was Future Seeds, but sadly they suffered terribly during the civil war.  Grown to supply Syrian refugees who want a taste of their own country again this is probably the fines cucumber I have ever grown.  eaten whole straight from the plant it is unimpeachable flavoursome; sweet and crunchy.  Possibly derived from a local bred variety, Babylon, this variety has both male and female flowers so I doubt is an F1 hybrid.  It breeds true from saved seed

DEKAH (aka Dekan) – Seed harvested 2015 – I acquired this variety from the HSL and have grown it for some years.  However, the HSL has identified it as a listed variety called Dekan and so it is now no longer being included in their library.  I have grown them again this year for the HSL before discovering they don’t want them.  No worries, I now have plenty of seed of this lovely robust cucumber which grows very well outside  A prolific and tasty short slightly prickled Russian cucumber that I grow under glass in isolation. Long growing season and fairly resistant to botrytis. Early, prolific and very tasty.Dekan harvest and ripening fruit

ZANZIBAR – seed harvested 2009 – I found this seed at a market in Zanzibar in 2007. Grown for the first time in 2009 it is a rampant type with very sweet dark green fruit that go brown as they ripen. Well worth growing. Prolific and very tasty.
ripe Zanzibar cucumber400
BOOTHBY’S BLONDOut of stock – A Heritage Seed Library orphan, grown for the first time this year.  Best harvested just as the fruits start to turn yellow.  needs peeling.  Sweet and firm flesh  Very prolific.  easy to grow as a ridge cucumber.Boothbys Blond midsummer


TABLE QUEEN – Winter squash – seed harvested 2017
A delicious acorn squash up to 1 kilo that keeps well. Orange flesh within dark green skin. Sow 2 or 3 seed on edge into 4″ pots in a propagator at 70 degrees or a sunny windowsill in a warm room from early April. Thin out the weaker seedlings and grow on until May and plant out under large cloches in rich ground leaving plants at least 3 feet apart. Remove cloches in early June when the plants are well established. Stop leader at 3′ and pinch out side shoots at three leaves. Harvest in September.
ripening Table Queen
POMPEON – Winter squash – seed harvested 2010 – A delicious squash up to 2 kilos that keeps well. Deep orange flesh within dark green skin. Sow 2 or 3 seed on edge into 4″ pots in a propagator at 70 degrees or a sunny windowsill in a warm room from early April. Thin out the weaker seedlings and grow on until May and plant out under large cloches in rich ground leaving plants at least 3 feet apart. Remove cloches in early June when the plants are well established. Stop leader at 3′ and pinch out side shoots at three leaves. Harvest in September.
squash harvest 2




ASPARAGUS KALE – Seed harvested 2011 – A delicious winter kale. Leaves can be harvested and steamed or used in a stir fry. Delicious with garlic and vinegar. The flower spikes are edible and should be cooked like asparagus when they start to grow in the spring. Sow in June and transplant 18″ apart when 6 leaves have grown.

Asparagus Kale coming into flower on 22nd April

Asparagus Kale coming into flower on 22nd April

RAGGED JACK KALE – Seed harvested 2004 – This is a beautiful and very hardy Kale from N. America. Its deeply serrated green and purple leaves can be steamed or used in a stir fry. Great with garlic and vinegar too. Sow in June in a seed bed or pots and transplant firmly when large enough to handle into a well prepared bed 18″ apart. Leaves can be harvested right through the winter and into Spring when the plants send up flower spikes.

DELAWAY – Spring cabbage – seed harvested 2008 – A delicious spring and early summer non-hearting cabbage. Leaves can be harvested and steamed or used in a stir fry. Delicious with garlic and vinegar. Use like spring cabbage. The flower spikes are also delicious when they appear in late April/early May.   A very long harvest season. Sow in July/August and transplant 18″ apart when 6 leaves have grown.


ESSEX WONDER  – An old English cordon that produces abundant fruit on sturdy vines. Best left until fully ripe before harvesting for most flavour. A good all-rounder
Essex Wonder harvest 2

FOX CHERRY –  currently out of stock Another HSL orphan that is well worth growing. A prolific cordon that is worth trying outside in a sunny sheltered spot if you don’t have a greenhouse. Profusion of large cherry fruit with a long cropping season
Fox Cherry ready for de-seeding

JERSEY SUNRISE This is the famous Jersey tomato all of us baby-boomers ate as first season crops back in our youth. A very heavy and prolific cropper. Long trusses of round fruit up to 4cms in diameter are born in profusion. Very sweet when picked ripe. Sow in early February in gentle heat and transplant into 3″ pots when four true leaves have formed. Plant into their final quarters in April/May. Worth trying outside in a warm, sheltered spot. Likes lots of feeding. A good all-rounderJersey Sunrise ripening in August

LILAC GIANT – Seed harvested 2016 – An American heirloom.  Large deep red fruits on indeterminate plants.  Absloutely great salad variety and makes wonderful gazpacho.lilac-harvest-august

PURPLE CHEROKEE -Seed harvested 2016 – A delicious large American heirloom.  Semi-indeterminate, but best grown as a cordon.  Will do well in a sunny, sheltered spot but best in a greenhouse.  Tennis-ball sized fruit which ripen to a deep purple.  A terrific cooking tomato with juicy sweet flesh.  A good all-rounder too.  Requires consistent and regular watering to avoid blossom-end rot.

MOMBASA -Seed harvested 2011 – A cordon tomato suitable for greenhouse cultivation only.  I discovered this lovely tomato in a market in Zanzibar.  Small trusses of medium-sized deep red scalloped fruits which keep well after harvest.

VICTORY – Bred as part of the ‘Dig For Victory’ campaign of WWII this standard cordon does well in unreliable English summers. Grows well outdoors. Tasty, especially when cooked.
Victory CU early August

NELLO’S PLUM – Cordon tomato – seed harvested 2017 – Suitable for greenhouse cultivation. I was given seed of this delicious tomato by a smallholder in Tuscany who was the subject of one of my TV shows. The fruits are large, flavoursome and wonderful to cook with. Also I dry them in a cool oven for an English equivalent of Italian sun-dried tomatoes. Blanche, skin and freeze for use in soups and sauces in the winter. Makes great ketchup! Sow in trays in February in gentle heat and transplant into 3″ pots when four true leaves have formed. Plant in greenhouse border and grow up canes or thread around string. Stop at 7th truss.
Nello's plum

SALT SPRING SUNRISE – seed harvested 2016 -Outdoor cordon tomato A very robust and excellent all-round tomato. Round golf-ball sized fruit born on long trusses. Does incredibly well outside inany summer and with some blight resistance too. Sow in warmth in early March, pot on and harden off before planting out in late May. Stop after fourth truss. Reliable and tasty too.
saltspring sunrise2 August

SPECKLED ROMAN – Seed harvested 2017.  This tomato was first given to me by Dave Rees.  A striking colourful large plum tomato which is great sliced in salads and used in cooking. Sow in trays in February in gentle heat and transplant into 3″ pots when four true leaves have formed. Plant in greenhouse border and grow up canes or thread around string. I have been cropping from eight trusses.
Speckled Roman harvest

HARBINGER – ADAM’S STRIPEY SPORT –  Currently out of stock  Cordon tomato. Suitable for greenhouse cultivation. A couple of years ago some of my Harbinger tomatoes developed lovely golden streaks and mottled markings on their skins. This was probably caused by a virus, which is now part of the tomato’s DNA. This ‘sport’ tastes just as wonderful as its pure red sister but only as the fruit matures does the grower know just how far this mutation is going!


LETTUCE -WHITE SEEDED SAMARA – Seed harvested 2016 – an ex-commercial British variety now in the HSL.  A fast-growing main-crop butterhead with fine flavour.

WINTER RADISH – PASQUE – out of stock – A very hardy large red winter radish of fine flavour, crunchy with some heat. Sow from July to October in a sunny location. Plants will stand into the new year. Although this is classed as a winter variety its name suggests it is an Easter vegetable. Worth sowing in February too.

RAT’S TAIL out of stock A really wonderful radish which is grown for its hot seed pods that are redolent of rats tails! A very easy plant that is happy in a border. Sow in late spring and thin to 18 inches apart. the plants are very untidy so need some staking. Harvest pods when they are about 4 inches long. Utterly delicious.  Now available commercially.

Rat's tail ready for harvesting

ONION – UP TO DATE – seed harvested 2016
This magnificent onion has wonderful long-keeping properties and an excellent flavour.


SWEET CORN – HOPI BLUE MAIZE – seed harvested 2015 – This is a truly lovely Canadian heirloom and North American native grown by Hopi native Americans.  The plants are tall, up to 2 metres.  They yield large cobs which are delicious eaten young as sweet corn just as the kernels start to turn blue.  I like to leave plenty to fully ripen to a deep blue and then harvest them as maize.  Put in a grinder they make fantastic blue maize flour for great tortillas and corn bread.  This photo ids of young plants in June grown in a polytunnel to ensure good pollination and no crossing with other varieties growing outside.

Hopi Blue maize mid-June