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seed is identical, in every packet, year after year - no adaptability for different soils, or for changes in climate over time.”


Hybrid plants have been developed for industrialised agriculture to give good yields, weather and disease resistance and easy harvesting and distribution. Everyone wants a good harvest but open-pollinated seeds have been preserved by gardeners with other priorities too - what does well in their soil and climate, tastes great, and ripens more conveniently. Unlike the big growers, a gardener doesn’t want to harvest all her broccoli on the same day!


29 | ukhandmade | Autumn 2011


So, what you get in an heirloom seed catalogue is a tempting choice of plants that you can select from to work in your garden, for your cooking needs. Last year we chose an old tomato variety called Amish Paste - a huge tomato which makes amazing sauce and wonderful beans called Cherokee Trail of Tears - you can eat the pods, or the beans, fresh or dried. Delicious!


It’s good to feel that you can help protect the wonderful variety of vegetables. I asked Kate about their favourites, and she told me that they are proud to have preserved a traditional Victorian pea. They were


sent their initial seed by a customer, Robert Woodbridge, who told them: “I am going to send you some seeds of a Pea called Champion of England. My grandmother grew it in her very large garden in the village of Pickworth and I promised that I would always grow it and keep it going. She got the seed from the head gardener at a big country house during the war where my grandfather worked as a carpenter repairing wooden greenhouses and cold frames. As to the pea, it grows to ten foot high and the peas are 8 to 10 per pod, and you start picking from the bottom and work your way up.” And that sums it up: delicious vegetables, from plants selected because they work well - and sometimes you get a bit of history too.


For further information about heritage seeds visit: www.realseeds.co.uk


Images courtesy of Real Seeds and Ali Burdon of Very Berry Handmade


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