Since getting my small allotment plot back in 2009, I’ve been able to dabble about with growing unusual varieties of fruit and vegetables, alongside staple allotment fare you would see on any plot in the UK.
Even if the produce isn’t up to scratch on the taste front, the thrill for me is in growing from seed and watching the plant mature and fruit. Last year I grew some Banana Leg tomatoes with a stunning yellow skin, but to me lacked in flavour. Once chopped up with other tomatoes the colour really made up for it. We do eat with our eyes after all.
Tromboncino squash led to some lively discussions and a few raised eyebrows at the allotment site. The young, small squash are fine chopped up in a stir-fry, or just leave some to mature to full size for sheer novelty value.
Another crop I would certainly recommend is Carlin peas. They have regional names, so tracking them down on-line did take a while (parched peas, badger peas, etc). I grew them up a small wigwam and when the peas were harvested, I made a dahl with them that exceeded any expectations that I had from such a dull looking brown pea – the recipe was obviously very good; I just grew the peas!
Lettuce variety Freckles looks and tastes good, along with old favourite Lollo Rossa!
A favourite of mine also for looks and flavour is mange-tout Shiraz. I have always found them easier to grow than standard peas. Eaten raw in salads when young you can’t beat them.
Giant tomatillos live up to their name and grow very vigorously, with a huge crop of fruit. For a sweet flavour, Physalis Golden Berry Pineapple also produced an abundance of fruit on quite a vigorous plant. Not many of the fruit reached home…..come to think of it, none of them did.
All of these plants do not need any special treatment, which you might expect from not so run-of-the-mill varieties. Each year seems to throw different weather at us, so not putting all of your eggs in one basket and diversifying seems to make sense to me.
I can’t wait to get started sowing in earnest this year; rainbow quinoa, purple Brussel sprouts (Rubine) and Reisetomato toms to name but a few.
Summing up, anything with a different shape, colour or taste is certainly worth a go – you could be missing out on something wonderful. For the sake of a couple of pounds, it is worth a punt. Next time you are ordering up some seeds, get one thing that you wouldn’t normally try – I dare you!
Sara is such a keen allotmenteer that she became secretary of her local allotment group, find out more here!