Here is my pick of five of the best vegetable seeds to order now. It is a hard task; I can’t resist those seductive images. But here are five interesting and delicious vegetables that I can recommend. If you only buy five packets, these should be the ones to try.
I couldn't wait for spring and tried sewing a few of these in late autumn. This is the traditional tight curly endive 'lettuce' that you see on all French market stalls. It has a long growing season. I plan to succession sew regularly, between April and August, which should keep me eating this delicious, slightly bitter, salad from May to November. They are best blanched in the traditional way, by placing an upturned flower pot over the heart. Alternatively you can splash out on a couple of terracotta blanching pots.
I've been trawling the seed catalogues for Courgette de Nice, since I read about its vigorous tendencies. For small plot gardening, planting climbing versions of traditionally spreading plants, like courgette, is a great space saver. Courgette de Nice has cricket ball sized, round green and cream speckled fruits. It is supposed to be a staple crop in the French Midi, which suggests to me that it needs lashings of sun. Check with seed merchants in Britain too. I've found De Nizza (the Italian spelling) as well as Rondo or Tondo in the title. It seems that not all strains are vigorous climbers, so ask before buying. But I’m pretty sure that this French supplier sells the real McKoy.
Mustard Greens (Brassica juncea)
I discovered this little beauty in a mixed packet of cut and come again salads last year. The dark green and red serrated leaves, do look beautiful in a mix. But it is so delicious; tangy and crunchy. I've decided to grow rows of these next summer.
Purslane is the plant we should all be eating. The scientists say that it is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fats and has 10 to 20 times more melatonin, an antioxidant, than most other fruit or vegetables. It grows almost all year round and it crops densely, so small space gardeners really benefit. Golden Purslane has larger yellowish leaves and deep rose coloured stems. The leaves may be eaten raw or coked.
Miniature versions of larger crops are a boon for the roof top veg plotter. This year I'm going to try growing the Blanche Ronde, which is a creamy coloured fruit, and looks like an egg! It is renowned as a heavy and early cropper, as long as you keep picking. Its compact habit makes it perfect for a pot, and it is also highly decorative.