Let’s talk about kale. Listening to the lyrics of an Ed Sheeran song recently it occurred to me to wonder when exactly kale changed from a humble winter green to a fashionable symbol of healthy eating. Kale has actually been grown since at least Greek and Roman times, and there’s evidence of it gracing the tables of 14th century England.
Kale is part of the cabbage family but unlike a classic cabbage it doesn’t go on to form a ‘head’ – the football-like vegetable we’re used to thinking of as cabbage. Instead it produces a series of edible leaves. Interestingly for the home grower, if you leave the plant in the ground it will continue to produce new leaves for months. I’m actually still cutting new leaves from kale plants that have been in our vegetable patch since May and it’s now September. In my non professional gardener’s opinion that makes it extremely good value!
So if part of your new normal is going to be a commitment to growing some fruit and vegetables – what are you going to grow?
Let’s start with the obvious – well perhaps it is obvious, but it needs saying anyway. Grow what you and your family like to eat. Plants take space – and whether you’re the lucky owner of a large garden or of a small patio, there’s little point raising edible crops you don’t want to eat.
We all make mistakes in the midst of our enthusiasm. Earlier this year I dug out and gave away two mature gooseberry bushes after finally accepting that my husband doesn’t particularly like gooseberries and actually they’re not my favourite fruit either!
Before you write a long list of desirable fruit and vegetables, it’s worth looking at the practicalities. Some don’t grow well in this country, others take space most of us don’t have or require specialist care. So to avoid disappointment, it’s important the final version of your list combines what you like to eat, with what will grow in the space you have available, plus – to start with at least- what is easy to grow.
My favourites are courgettes, tomatoes and salad leaves – which I grow in pots every year, plus various herbs, beetroot, kale, broccoli and carrots. I find carrots the hardest of this list, but that probably has something to do with the abundance of wildlife in and around our garden! Courgettes are brilliant for their ease of growing, great for getting kids into growing as once a courgette pokes its first leaf above the soil you’ll see progress from one day to the next.
I also grow peppers, cucumbers, aubergines and gherkins in the greenhouse, but if you have a sunny, sheltered spot and pick your varieties carefully you can grow most of them outside. My favourite cucumber is called ‘Mini Munch’ They’re ripe at about 6 inches long (15cm), fresh, crispy and perfect for a lunch box.
So why not grab a cup of coffee, browse a few of the seed selling sites for inspiration and we’ll be back with more soon.
Some UK seed sites: