Below is a list of vegetables that Ben enjoys growing and considers to be reliable in the garden and useful in the kitchen. These vegetables form the "backbone" of Ben's planting and are grown every year in the kitchen garden. Images are accompanied by notes and observations, describing cultivation methods and culinary uses......enjoy!
'Claret’ is an excellent form of purple sprouting broccoli producing large succulent spears from mid Spring, continuing for up to five weeks. An essential and tasty vegetable for Spring that grows vigorously and reliable crops. Simply steam or pan fry the spears, fabulous on its own with a knob of butter and black pepper, alternatively makes a great addition to stir-fry’s.
Grow in most reasonable soils with full sun and adequate moisture, sowing or planting late Spring or early Summer and then staking in Autumn to prevent stems from leaning and snapping. May need net protection from Cabbage White butterflies and Pigeons and moluscus when young.
Maximum Height and Spread: Approximately 0.6m x 0.5m
Carrot 'Paris Market'
A fantastic 19th century French heirloom carrot that is petit in size but great in flavour. Round in shape, the bite sized roots make them perfect for cooking whole, making them easy to enjoy the sweet taste. The shallow roots make them perfect for growing in containers or on shallow or even heavy soils. Looking great on the plate this variety is very popular with restaurants and framers markets.
Sow direct from April to August in rows 200mm apart, finally thinning individual carrots to a distance of 50mm. Can be sown as early as February given protection, making this variety suitable for early through to main crop.
Maximum Height and Spread: Approximately 0.2m x o.05m
Flower Sprout 'Petit Posy'
A recent cross between Kale and Brussels Sprouts by British breeders has given rise to this fantastic new vegetable. Tiny rosettes of loose leaves, varying in colours of green and purple, grow along the upright stems in the same way Sprouts do. But there the similarity ends as the rosettes taste more like Spring Greens and can be used in much the same way as Kale. They are considered a super food containing vitamins A,C,K and Foliate.
Sow or plant out in late Spring, they will grow relatively trouble free and stand tall throughout Winter. Florettes appear from late Autumn and can be cropped throughout Winter and into Spring, bridging the gap between Winter Brassicas and Spring Greens. Some protection from Pigeons, Cabbage White Butterflies and Molluscs may be required when young.
Maximum Height and Spread: Approximately 1m x o.4m
Kale 'Nero di Toscana'
Rising from the ground like a plume, this stunning Kale has long, dark, smoky green leaves that are intensely ruffled. It looks great in the border or vegetable patch, where it will stand through winter giving important structure and interest when much is absent.
As the name suggests this variety is very popular in Tuscany and central Italy, where it is pan fried with garlic, pancetta and pesto and served alongside pasta. In fact it compliments most Italian dishes and can often be used as a substitute for Savoy cabbage. By sowing in early Spring and again mid Summer you can ensure an all year round supply, though the flavour intensifies during the colder months.
Maximum Height and Spread: Approximately 1m x 0.5m
Squash 'Sweet Lightning'
An attractive looking squash with fruit that is only 10-15cm wide, making it perfect for a single serving. Pumpkin shaped and orange in colour, the skin is heavily marbled with informal cream stripes. The flesh is string less with a delicious sweet taste that works extremely well with Indian cuisine. Due to the naturally occurring sugars, this squash is perfect for roasting or stuffing, but also great for mashing with a knob of butter and a sprinkle of nutmeg.
Trailing in habit Sweet Lightning can be grown over a tunnel or up an obelisk and will set fruit all along the stem. For best results grow in a sunny position on well-nourished soil with the addition of lots of organic matter. During the growing season tie in and water regularly. Once harvested the fruit will keep and look great in your kitchen for well over six months.
Maximum Height and Spread: Approximately 2.5m x o.4m
Tomato 'Black Cherry'
Technically a fruit 'Black Cherry' is an interesting cherry tomato with attractive dark red, almost black fruit, that will compliment and contrast with red and yellow varieties. The flesh is equally as dark and has a sweet, complex taste. It's great served with salad, cold meats and cheeses, where the colour helps create a feast for the eyes as well as the mouth.
Though listed as a cordon, it has thin wiry stems that can be allowed to branch slightly and then trained up a pyramid or wire support. Like all tomatoes, it is happiest in a warm and sunny place with good ventilation.
Benefits from regular feeding and some disbudding.
Maximum Height and Spread: Approximately 2m x o.5m