Seed saving in 2015
2015 wasn’t an easy year for seed saving. The weather was iffy and all my cucurbits (melons, squashes, cucumbers, squashes) had a horrible time. Despite that, I didn’t do too badly:
Rosa Bianca is a lovely white and lilac striped aubergine. They aren’t the biggest, but they are really tasty. They also don’t seem to have many seeds per fruit. The one I cossetted to maturity had 29 seeds in it – if I want to grow them for a seed circle next year I will need at least 5 mature fruits.
Climbing French Beans
I have yet to eat any of these as shelly beans – fresh and boiled for 5-10 mins before eating with butter and herbs. This year I’ve focused on growing for dried beans.
Cara la Virgen de la Bañeza León pole beans came from the A4A seed circle and I don’t know much about their history. They don’t seem to be offered anywhere. They are fabulously prolific but also slow. The vines do nearly all their growing before they start to think about flowering – mine got to approximately 10ft tall. They produce lots of slim, flat pods, with 6-7 beans in each. When they are young & green the pods are very tasty but they get stringy fairly quickly. As pods mature they develop red flecks and the beans inside are very pretty. The red markings on the freshly shelled beans fade as the beans dry, but the brown hilum markings become more pronounced (see pic). They make a great bean for chillies etc.
(Note: I was initially sent these beans as Cara la Virgen de la Bañera Leon, originally bought some years previously in Mallorca, but in January 2016 the grower got in touch to say that there had been a mistake on the packet and their correct name is Cara la Virgen de la Bañeza León or Face of our Lady of La Bañeza in León. They are likely then to originate from mainland Spain, in León. Still pretty rare.)
The Cherokee Trail of Tears has a horrific history – it was one of the beans carried by the Cherokee on their enforced winter march from Tennessee to Oklahoma in 1839. But if I could only grow one bean I’d grow this. It is prolific, though it doesn’t climb as high as others, about 8ft. The dark green round pods are delicious and don’t go stringy till late on. The pods turn purple as they mature, with approx 8 slim, shiny black beans inside. Finally grown enough to have them in bean stews this year.
Lazy Housewife beans date back to around 1800 and mine came from the GYO Virtual Seed Parcel. There are lots of varieties with this name around – the ones I grew are white-seeded climbers. They aren’t strong climbers. After a bit of wind mine slipped down the twine on the munty frame, compressing the vines and I think that affected amounts of flowering. There are 4-5 fat white beans per pod, and they mature early. I found the pods became tough quickly, so I’d use them as shelly beans or dried beans over green beans.
Mrs Fortune’s beans came from the Forum seed circle. I didn’t think they were very heavy-bearing or much good as young beans – the flat pods have a curly tail that grows hard very quickly and they were stringy. But the dried beans are very pretty and perhaps that’s the best use for them in winter stews to add a bit of colour. I might try growing them in better soil/position next year to see if that makes a difference. Apparently they are very good as shelly beans.
Dwarf French Beans
Black Coco produce about 8 flat green pods on plants about a foot tall. They are very tasty as young green beans, and are supposed to be great in soups and stews, though I won’t find that out till next year. This year I’ve grown them for the Heritage Seed Library seed guardian scheme, and all but next year’s seed is being returned to them to go into the National Collection.
Nun’s Belly Button are more of a half-runner than a dwarf bean as they grow to 3-4ft tall and need supporting. Seeds came from the seed circle I ran on John Harrison’s forum. The beans are in flat pods. My plants were covered in blackfly this year, so I didn’t get to taste them. I do love the look of the dry seed though.
Vermont Cranberry came from the HSL catalogue, Again they have flat pods on plants about a foot high. The one bean I tasted was ok, but I think I will be growing these more for dried beans to eat over winter than fresh.
I have 2 types of oca, peach and red & white. This year I am experimenting to see whether large tubers on planting will give me larger tubers come harvest time in January 2016. The leaves are edible too, with a lemony sorrel taste.
Kent Blue Pea This is a mangetout pea – you can eat them as a proper pea but they aren’t that sweet/great. The flowers are gorgeous, starting off as maroon and then turning a deep blue before they fade. The plants reach 3-4ft in height so a whole swathe of them is a lovely sight and very different to the more standard white flowers.
Flat White Boer (c. maxima). There are 2 versions of this: van Niekirk and Ford. I don’t know which I have, and the lovely people at Baker Creek couldn’t tell me either. I think I opened this a little early (see the green edges to the innards) and so I didn’t get the greatest number of ripe seeds out of it. The flesh might go a bit more orange with some more storage time – mine had about a month after the plant had died off. It has a smallish cavity and thick, smooth flesh that tastes to me like sweet potato when roasted in slices. I love it – it looks so striking on the plot, being a really reflective white, and am really pleased it tastes so good. It weighed in at about 4kg, and produced one per plant in this year’s rubbish season for squashes.
Geraumon Martinique (c. moschata) is supposed to originate from the island of Martinique. It is a beautifully marked squash, starting as dark and pale green/white. The lighter green markings turn pinkish in storage as the fruit matures. It’s not big, or at least it wasn’t big this year – enough for two meals as a side dish for two people. The flesh is smooth, yellowy and sweet, it roasts and mashes well. Definitely one to grow again.
Black Cherry (cordon) have really large, savoury-tasting tomatoes on (this year) enormous trusses of 15-20 fruits. They are vigorous plants – I’m growing them undercover this year and they were the first to hit the top of the greenhouse. I love the flavour of these, and that when I grow them outside they are usually one of the last tomato plants to succumb to blight. They are good in salads and cooked.
Blush (cordon) isn’t the strongest of growers. It’s got to just about 6ft in the greenhouse and 2ft outside. The tomatoes are beautiful elongated teardrops with red splashes on a yellow/orange skin. The flavour is very intense tomato and not too sweet. I got these from the A4A seed circle and am passing them on into the seed circle I’m running.
Dancing with Smurfs tomatoes (cordon) turn a deep purple or almost black where the sun hits them. They look really striking. Their flavour has a fairly distinct antho taste, which I like, but they are fairly slow to ripen, and, given that they go red where the sun doesn’t shine, checking for ripeness can be a bit awkward!
Orange Banana (cordon) seeds came from the Virtual Seed Parcel on the GYO site. They are fantastic. The trusses are very generous, the tomatoes are very big and they taste brilliant both sliced for salads or cooked to a sauce.
Purple Ukraine (cordon) came from the A4A seed circle and have done well both outdoors and in the greenhouse. They have large plum tomatoes which are great for slicing when slightly under-ripe or good in sauces when properly ripe. The trusses are pretty large too and need supporting or they snap. My plants have reached 7ft in the greenhouse and 5ft outdoors.
Sandpoint (dwarf bush) are ultra-early tomatoes on a bush about 2ft high. All the fruit on the bush ripens at about the same time, and in theory the plant would then flower again. This summer has been a bit rubbish so neither of my plants did. It didn’t help that I forgot they weren’t cordons and kept taking out the sideshoots. Also from A4A.
And the failures: Salsify and beetroot. Which is annoying because they take 2 years to grow for seed. This Spring was cold and I don’t think that there were many insects about when the salsify was flowering. My beetroot survived the local sparrows, which treat both it and my chard like a local salad bar, and then was covered in blackfly. Absolutely covered. So I gave up on it and pulled the lot up.