Real Men Sow

Growing Heritage Seed Library’s Essex Star (its going rather well…)

These are the two types of peas I’m growing this year:

One is a bog standard T & M Kelvedon Wonder (left), and the other is an Essex Star (right), a heritage variety from the Garden Organic Heritage Seed Library, which I’m growing under the Adopt a Veg scheme.

Adopting a Veg helps to grow and preserve vegetable heritage. Anyone that takes on a veg through Adopt a Veg is helping to fund the Garden Organic Heritage Seed Library, which ‘…works to conserve a unique collection of rare and endangered vegetable varieties’.

Leaving Everything Else in its Wake
As you can see, my Essex Star is leaving the Kelvedon Wonder in its dust. The plants are almost twice as high, and are a much healthier, verdant green than the Wonders. I don’t know whether this is because the seeds are of a far higher standard or it’s a complete coincidence, but you can’t argue that the Essex Star isn’t running away with the Best Pea on Plot 105 2012 Award.

Which is a good job, as they cost me twenty quid for ten seeds. They were so expensive, mum refused to get involved with them. “I’m too scared to touch those, I don’t want you blaming me if they don’t germinate,’ she told me when I asked her to do me a favour and plant them into pots in her greenhouse.

Expensive – But Worth It
These peas aren’t going to be top of any Veg Money Saving list, but nonetheless, growing the odd variety like Essex Star is important if it is to survive. The variety was first introduced by nearby E W King’s Seeds in 1905, and hailed as “the largest podded early pea in cultivation; very hardy, and may be sown in autumn”.

The variety was passed to HSL by King’s when they decided that they would no longer maintain the variety, and if it wasn’t for the HSL, the Star, but together with hundreds of other vegetable seed varieties, would be in danger of disappearing completely.

I appreciate £20 is a lot to spend on a few pea seeds (I’m a man keen on veg money saving remember), but something inside me wanted to help a locally cultivated veg survive.

A Different Taste from the Norm
I’m a week or so from a decent enough crop to taste test the two pea varieties, although I can report that the temptation to pick a bunch as mangetout, or sugar snap peas, has proven too much. I can’t decide which is the most flavoursome, but there is definitely a clear and distinctive difference in taste between them. The Kelvedon Wonder is crisper, but the Star is earthier.

This interests me greatly, as I often feel that the flavours in the big seed retailer’s catalogues are much of a muchness when it comes to the crunch. Of course, they are still delicious to taste, and a world apart from shop bought veg, but I can’t always differentiate between, say, one variety of French bean and another.

I really like the idea of veg that doesn’t quite taste as I’ve always thought it did, such as the earthy Essex Star, and this is why I’ll be joining Garden Organic this winter. Then maybe I can I can get my mits on some more curious, older varieties in case they disappear forever.

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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