As allotmenteerists, we’re always in search of that magic variety; the one that never lets us down, and provides a solid, productive harvest every season.
I love that endless pursuit. Of course, I’ll always try new varieties, but it’s a lovely feeling of contentment when you find a reliable seed that you know will always have a place on your plot.
Here are 6 different favourite veg varieties that I’ve discovered since taking on my allotment that now feature permanently on every season’s seed buying list.
Turk’s Turban squash (pictured)
I finally got around to trying Turks Turban this year and am over the moon with the results. They genuinely are the most remarkable looking vegetable I’ve ever grown, and I’ve had both admiring and confused glances from neighbouring plotholders.
The good news is, as well as being aesthetically tremendous, they taste good too. Due to their shape, Turk’s Turban is tricky to peel (a decent veg peeler is a key here – mine cost me 7 quid but is worth its weight in gold when peeling squashes), and the flesh inside is tougher than other squash, but that soon softens during cooking.
Being a lovely, elongated tubular shape makes these Cylindra a joy to slice and use. Each slice is the same size, so much easier to work with than an uneven round beetroot, and looks very presentable on the plate. In fact, this is an attractive veg all round. As well as the unique shape, the skin is shiny and smooth and the colour deep and red.
One real bonus I’ve found is that the roots don’t go woody. They just keep growing happily and even the biggest root I’ve harvested (about 6 inches) tasted sweet. I’ve still got beets in the ground now, and they’re tasting just fine.
I went off growing the traditional varieties, such as French Breakfast, as I find they grew big and woody quite quickly. I love the sweeter, spherical varieties, such as Sparkler as they’re not as prone to this. They’re also attractive little things to look at, with a beautiful cherry colouring.
Cavolo Nero Kale
Cavolo Nero is an Italian leafy kale and used widely in many staple Italian meals. Until recently it wasn’t readily available in the UK, but this is changing.
The best thing about Cavolo Nero is the slight sweetness of the leaves. During winter, they’re a welcome contrast to the other wintery greens available, like cabbage and curly kale. I was genuinely surprised by the delicious taste when I tucked into my first leaves.
Burpless Green cucumber
I started growing outdoor cucumbers on my first allotment when I didn’t have a greenhouse. They were a roaring success, and they’ve been one of the first seeds down on my growing list ever since.
Essentially these cues are big gherkins and share the same rough skins but the idea is not to let them grow to the same size as the cucumbers you’d find in the shops. I pick mine when they’re about 6 inches long, or half the length of a conventional cucumber.
A super way of enjoying homegrown cucumbers without needing a greenhouse.
Sarpo is a potato with everything going for it. They’re a beautiful light red colour, blight-resistant, and don’t seem to be affected by the local slug population.
A floury potato, Sarpo makes a smashing chip. I tried them for the first time this year, and the yield was fantastic. Well worth a spot on the plot.
Due to the Sarpo’s lengthy dormancy period, they’re excellent storers too.