Darsham Nurseries Cafe, potager, kitchen garden, vegetables from seed, harvesting vegetables,
The Daily Dibber

Kitchen gardener for the Darsham Nurseries Cafe. Seedaholic. Grower and lover of food and flowers.

Best in Sow 2015

It’s the 25th of November and finally the frost has arrived. Christmas will be here soon and the potager has transformed into a winter larder. The summer seems a distant memory so this seems as good a time as any to compile the harvesting highlights from the warmer months of 2015 . It’s a long and varied list, so I will begin with the best lettuces of the summer:

Lettuces
‘Descartes’ is quite simply the “Marilyn Monroe” of lettuces. The mature heads are flower like and uniformly perfect. This is the most costly lettuce we have grown, but every sowing has been worth the outlay. It has never bolted, but that could be because it always ends up on the plates at the café.
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‘Navarra’ is a deep red oakleaf lettuce, this was visually superb planted next to crisp green lettuces in our entrance bed.

The striking entrance bed mid summer.

The striking entrance bed mid summer.

‘Mohican’ is a handsome cherry red batavian looseleaf lettuce, tasty and slow to bolt.

Contrasting lettuces.

Contrasting lettuces.


‘Marvel of Four Seasons’ is also known as ‘Merveilles des Quatre Siasons’ , this french heirloom lettuce can be relied upon what ever the time of year. Its handsomely bi-coloured, flavoursome and easy to grow.

‘Spotted Trout ‘ ( Forellenschluss) is a sweet romain lettuce originating from Austria, and it gave our café beds a boost in early summer. It’s unusual speckled leaves became a talking point amongst customers. We were lucky enough to have a packet of seeds from Hudson Valley in USA, but with a bit of searching online, other seed companies in the UK do have it for sale but under its Austrian name. The down side was this did not perform well once the hot weather arrived. So its best to aim for a May/June harvest.

'Spotted Trout'

‘Spotted Trout’

‘Little Leprechaun’ is a small baby red romaine, this also looked great in our entrance bed along side ‘Descartes’ and did well later in the season.

‘Merlot’ sadly this is a rare variety sourced by David in America. Rumour has it that it is the darkest red lettuce in existence. It was superb, but again gave a better display in early summer.

Climbing Beans

‘Selma Zebra’ was a revelation, we were all surprised when these amazing purple and green mottled beans appeared. An unusual climbing bean, many of our customers were intrigued by these. Yields were very good and it tasted great and pickled well.

‘Trionfo Violetta’ is a deep purple stringless bean. This variety did not give the best yield but was so pretty and flavoursome we forgave it.

Freshly harvested beans.

Freshly harvested beans.

Pickled beans

Pickled beans

‘Marvel of Venice ‘from Franchi caught us all by surprise. This was a late sowing, the flowers seem to drag on and on before the beans arrived. But boy did they make an entrance: boxes of beans every day of yellow slender pods.Delicious and outstanding.

The humble bean transformed by Lola

The humble bean transformed by Lola

My personal favourite was the sweetest surprise of the summer. David on his travels in America picked up some ‘Calypso Bush’ bean seeds. I sowed them in containers in the polytunnel, and other than watering, I never really gave them any attention. When the pods dried and turned brown, I popped one open, and there in my palm sat the cutest beans. They did actually look like little orca whales. We didn’t get many, but like 8 week old puppies they brightened up the day for everyone who caught a glimpse of them.

Can beans get any cuter?

Can beans get any cuter?

Broad Beans

‘Stereo’ proved very reliable, Lola used the pods whole whilst still young and the harvest of the more mature pods was impressive. An autumn sowing meant that the dreaded black fly was avoided.

The first harvest of Broad Beans

The first harvest of Broad Beans

Even the Broad Bean flowers were used.

Even the Broad Bean flowers were used.

‘Crimson flowered’ was visually a showstopper, its magenta flowers didn’t disappoint. Sadly the spring sowing meant that just as these were at their peak, so was the black fly.

Turnips

The variety worth repeating was ‘Purple Top Milan’. Turnips on the whole don’t seem to like the clay soil at Darsham, but this variety was very popular for pickling in the café.

'Purple Top Milan' lived up to it's name.

‘Purple Top Milan’ lived up to it’s name.

Turnips transformed into wondrous pickles.

Turnips transformed into wondrous pickles.


Courgettes

‘Sunburst’ is a fabuously shaped courgette, brightly coloured and a gave a great yield, a ‘must have ‘ courgette.

‘Floridor’ is unusually spherical and golden, a generous cropper, we will be growing this again.

A bowl of 'Sunbrust' and 'Floridor' courgettes.

A bowl of ‘Sunburst’ and ‘Floridor’ courgettes.

‘Lebanese’ is a rare courgette favoured by David. It has a mild nutty flavour with a pale skin. This was the first courgette to start fruiting and the last to be sadly removed from the potager. Not a heavy cropper, Lola and David became increasingly competitive for the fruits causing harvesting to become almost furtive.

Managed to slip a few 'Lebanese' courgettes past David.

Managed to slip a few ‘Lebanese’ courgettes past David.

Spring Onions

‘Reddy’ was the star. Who knew a simple spring onion could taste so good. We already have made an autumn sowing of about 2000 of these, still …will it be enough?

Freshly sliced 'Reddy' spring onions.

Freshly sliced ‘Reddy’ spring onions.

Fritti Misti' feat 'Reddy'

‘Fritti Misti’ featuring ‘Reddy’

An ingenious recipe for our special spring onions.

An ingenious recipe for our special spring onions.

‘Crimson forest’ was also good, but just not as good as ‘Reddy’.

Radishes

‘Oriental Rose’, ‘Candela’ and ‘French Breakfast’ were the favourites with the chefs.
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‘Malaga’ was a overall good performer for a dark purple late season radish.

Cucumbers

A pickling squabble ensued here at Darsham this summer.‘Beth Alpha’ and ‘Boston Pickling ‘ were pickled by both Lola and David. Tricky indeed. Both varieties were easy to grow and and gave a respectable harvest.

Pickle contenders

Pickle contenders

Tomatoes

In this tiny crazy corner of Suffolk, tomatoes are taken very ,very seriously.

They have even got their own catalogue !!!

They have even got their own catalogue !!!

The staff taste test in the late summer evening sun seems a distant memory now. Tomatoes were sown under heat on the 6th March.Two further sowings were made, this resulted in a large, and prolonged harvest.

Clipboards at the ready.

Clipboards at the ready.

Taste test winners scoring 4 out of a possible 5.
• Black Crimson
• Orange queen
• Green grape
• Beauty King
• Berkeley tie Dye
• Chocolate Stripes

A selection ready for Lola and Toms magic.

A selection ready for Lola and Toms magic.

Tomatoes with a score of 3/3.5
• Gold Medal
• Black Cherry
• Cherokee Purple
• Yellow Brandy Wine
• Dads Sunset
• African Queen
• Sweet Solano
• Black Zebra

Yes, very seriously..

Yes, very seriously..


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Not even tomatoes were safe from the picklers.

Not even tomatoes were safe from the picklers.

Chillies and Peppers
It was a good year for chillies and peppers with consistently high late summer temperatures. We grew successfully:
• Anaheim
• Poblano
• Sante Fe
• Padron
• Pepperoncini

Chillies delivered to the kitchen.

Chillies delivered to the kitchen.

The word started to spread…

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My next page titled ‘O Seed D’ is the start of the 2016 plan of new vegetable varieties we hope to grow.

limegarden@sky.com • 25th November 2015


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