A couple of weeks ago, we took delivery of our annual selection of seed from Garden Organic‘s Heritage Seed Library club. The H.S.L. aims to maintain and distribute heritage, or non-commercially available varieties of vegetables and herbs, encouraging its members to save their own seed and keep these varieties going as long as they can. It’s a great way to get hold of either reliable croppers that for some reason are no longer in favour, or varieties that just aren’t available in the regular seed catalogues.
The seed-requesting process has changed since last year. There’s now an online order form for club members which lets you know which seed varieties are still available. This means you can ask for more of your first-choice varieties, if you’re quick enough. I left it until early January to put my order in and a fair few of the seeds I really liked the sound of had already been divvied-out. Next year I’ll be online within half an hour of the catalogue coming through.
Here’s what I opted for this year, including a bonus ‘lucky dip’ freebie that’s available as an optional extra:
- Climbing French Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) ‘Dinah’s Climbing Blue’
- Lablab Bean(Dolichos lablab) ‘Ying’s’
- Sweetcorn (Zea mays) ‘Rainbow Sweet Inca’
- Leek (Allium porrum) ‘Kelvedon King’
- Kale (Brassica oleracea) ‘Asparagus’
- Pea (Pisum sativum) ‘Kent Blue’
- Callaloo (Amaranthus spp.) ‘Bangladeshi Dhata’ (lucky dip)
I also have three packets of my 2016 selection that I didn’t get around to sowing last year:
- Kale (Brassica oleracea) ‘Georgia Southern Collard’
- Squash (Cucurbita maxima) ‘Zapallito de Toscana’
- Turnip (Brassica rapa) ‘Kaskinauris’ (lucky dip)
Plus, I’ve signed up to be a ‘variety champion’ – with the aim of saving seed and sending stocks back to Garden Organic – for the following:
- Dwarf French Bean (P. vulgaris) ‘Black Valentine’
And, because I had a problem with a couple of bean varieties that refused to germinate last year (‘Major Cook’s’ and ‘Peewit’ both completely failed to break dormancy, alas), Garden Organic very kindly sent me a replacement packet of ‘Peewit’ when I mentioned it to them, so I have those to go in as well.
As for the Heritage Seed Library crops I did sow last year, results were generally good. Leek ‘Walton Mammoth’ went in late and so hasn’t yet achieved its ‘Mammoth’ stature, but the young leeks we’ve been eating over winter have been very tasty indeed, with a good, strong flavour. Runner Bean ‘Blackpod’ was superb:
Vigorous growth and a good, heavy cropper. You do have to catch the pods early, when they’re still mostly green, if you want to eat them sliced and steamed, otherwise once they start to darken to their beautiful deep purple colour, they’re a bit too tough. The dried beans store well and are very good in soups and stews. I’ve saved a few seed beans for this year as well, so I’m hoping for a repeat performance.
For more information on joining the Heritage Seed Library and helping to preserve these old varieties, see Garden Organic’s website.