Friday, 21 November 2014

Great British veg

I thought it fitting, in the light of yesterday's launch of The Great British Cookbook, to write a post about the great British vegetables currently growing in my veg plot...

One of my most favourite vegetables is Purple Sprouting Broccoli. This year I have six plants, 2 each of 3 different varieties. This one is the rather unimaginatively-named "Early Purple Sprouting":

Although this vegetable is not due to produce its crop until Late Winter / Early Spring, you can clearly see that it already has lots of well-developed sprouts.

This is the crown of one of the other varieties, "Red Spear". It looks almost like a tiny cauliflower.

Here is one that needs no introduction - the Brussels Sprout. This one is "Bosworth", no doubt named after the battle of Bosworth Field (1485) in which King Richard III was defeated by Henry Tudor who went on to become Henry VII.

This next one is named after one of Britain's most well-known adversaries - "Napoleon". I'm not sure that it is aptly named, because it is very tall and slim, whereas the real Napoleon Bonaparte was rather "vertically challenged" I understand!

Elsewhere I have these "Toledo" Leeks. You can see the big difference in size between one of the original batch of 16 and one of those planted later to fill in the gaps left by harvesting.

Not many of the first batch remain - three, I think - and the later ones are not ready for harvesting yet.

Down at the far end of that bed are my Swedes, about which the less said the better. Only one of them has reached anything like a decent size:

One of the others is worthy of a prize, but not the usual sort of prize! It has two heads, but practically no root. (Was this yet another effect of my contaminated compost problem??)

I also have a few cabbages on the go, though they are still pretty small. This one is "Tundra".

I have three like that, but also one of "Caramba" - officially a Summer cabbage, but this particular specimen got out of phase for some reason. It is only very tiny and may never come to maturity, but you never know...

Another archetypically British vegetable is the Parsnip. My bed of Parsnips is currently not very exciting to look at:

...but underneath that foliage there are hopefully plenty of these little beauties:

All of the above are vegetables which are considered British, but I wonder how many of them are actually native to our isles? And how long will it be before the Aubergine, Capsicum, Okra and Mooli are thought of in the same way? These days we are a nation very diverse in its food culture, and I think the same applies to the plants we grow too. I'm all in favour of that, because it gives us gardeners so many more opportunities - and challenges!


  1. I wonder what we would call American vegetables. I haven't a clue. I'd probably have to go for the native three sisters. Squash, beans and corn. But as you noted it isn't what is native, but what your culture cooks with. Our country has a lot of diverse cultures though. Here I'd probably stick with the three sisters above and add broccoli. Thanksgiving is one of our major holidays and a harvest holiday to boot so it is all about food. The typical vegetables there are squash, sweet potatoes and green beans. Though roasted root vegetables, Brussels sprouts and spinach are pretty common too. I did notice on your list that all your veg are cool weather vegetables which makes sense considering the climate there. In our south okra, lima beans, and sweet potatoes are much more common that here in the north. But then again they are easier to grow there too.

  2. Lovely selection & congrats on featuring in the book.


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