Last month, while wading through the gloom of January and wishing for an early spring, my spirits were raised when I received a message from a man named Fred.
Fred told me about Vital Seeds, his small, independent seed company in Devon producing and selling organic and ecologically produced open-pollinated vegetable, herb and flower seed. He very kindly invited me to try a few varieties from their range on the allotment this year.
When the bundle of seeds arrived, I looked through the variety of crops and became incredibly excited. Some of the vegetable varieties’ I’d never heard of and the descriptions were thrilling!
Since he began growing his own food seven years ago, Fred Groom has been fascinated by the process of seed production. Vital Seeds was founded in 2018 in response to the lack of availability of UK-grown organic and open-pollinated seed.
“Most of the seed planted in the UK is actually produced many thousands of miles away in countries with a drier climate and cheaper labour. This means that the varieties we grow are unable to adapt to our specific climatic conditions over time. It also means that we do not have control over this vital element of our food system, which we believe is very important.” – Vital Seeds
Open-pollination occurs by natural mechanisms such as insects, birds, wind and humans. It’s the way populations of wild plants breed. Since the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago, it is also the way cultivated plants have been bred too.
Plants that are open-pollinated become more genetically diverse as there is no restriction on the movement of pollen between them. The result is greater variation within plant populations which allows the plants to adapt to local growing conditions year-on-year.
Today, many of us grow hybridized seed. You will likely recognise the label as F1 and they have been deliberately cross-bred to create a particular trait. F1 Seeds are often expensive which isn’t surprising as they are labour intensive and can take years to obtain the traits the breeders are looking to achieve.
Hybrids have their benefits as the first generation of hybridized plants (Remember that F1?) tend to grow better and produce higher yields. However, seeds produced by F1 plants are genetically unstable, cannot be saved for use in future years and gardeners must purchase new seed each time.
Fred sent through to me their ‘Vital Seeds Favourites’ seed collection and I can’t wait to try the varieties of crops on the allotment this year. The descriptions are tantalising.
Here’s what’s in the bundle:
Lettuce – Really Red Deer Tongue. Very dark loose-leaf variety, with striking arrow-shaped leaves.
Kale – Cavolo Nero “Lactinato Rainbow”. Red, purple and blue-green leaf colours with slight ruffling on the edges, cold resistant and vigorous.
Chilli – Slim Jim. A very productive long green to red maturing chilli of mild pungency.
Winter Squash – Musque De Provence. A very large, earthy, heavily-ribbed winter squash that is subtly sweet and stores well.
Carrot – Autumn King. An RHS award-winning maincrop variety ideal for storage over the winter months.
Climbing Frech Bean – Blauhilde. A stringless, climbing French bean from Germany producing lots of very dark purple pods that turn green when cooked.
Peas – Golden Sweet. Vigorous multicoloured plants with green leaves, red-magenta leaf nodes, cream-pink-purple-blue flowers and golden-yellow pods.
Calendula – Traingle Flashback/Zeolights. A stunning version of calendula with fully doubled blooms of peach, gold and bronze colour.
Tomato – Yellow Submarine. A yellow indeterminate cherry tomato that produces lots of small pear-shaped fruits in large trusses.
Courgette – Cocozelle. Very productive courgette producing dark and light green stripy fruit over a long period.
Vital Seeds have some wonderful resources on their website. This includes a blog and helpful instruction on saving seed for people like me who are completely new to the practice but would very much like to enjoy the satisfaction of saving seed from some of the crops I grow, conserve biodiversity and contribute to the stories behind our plants.
Disclaimer: Vital Seeds have provided their “Vital Seeds Favourites” seed collection as a gift. All words and opinions are my own.
Follow Sharpen Your Spades! You can receive my posts by email – Subscribe here.
Follow me on BlogLovin.
You can get in touch with me here.