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Many people are moving towards developing a veg patch in their gardens - a small corner of land separate from what will inevitably become one of two things - a recreational area for child and adult alike, or what is effectively a living painting, creating your own palette of visual loveliness.
However this week I’m going to suggest a few species that would argue that the aesthetic and the practical need not be mutually exclusive.
I’m talking about unusual vegetables. Not in reference to John Wyndham's titular Triffids however, but to the ilk of the purple Mangetout ‘Shiraz’ that made RHS news recently.
Here are five other candidates:
Several major domestic gardening stores can provide a variety of this sweeter alternative cultivar - the yellow tomato is well known for its less acidic content thus allowing its natural sugars to penetrate through to the taste buds. The trade-off for this is a slightly lower level of Vitamin C. In terms of cultivation this species should be treated like its more common red cousin. It will require plenty of sunlight and heat and this, combined with the preference of cane support, would indicate a greenhouse as the ideal setting. You should avoiding wetting the leaves in fruit whilst watering as this, along with poor ground support, could lead to rot.
Despite the common association between this root vegetable and the colour orange, it is believed that actually the purple carrot long pre-dates its orange descendant. Believing to originate over five millennia ago in what is now modern Afghanistan, it is supposed that the original purple got cross pollinated with the yellow and white varieties that populated the tables of the Roman Empire, finally ending up in the hands of Dutch horticulturalists, who tailored the finished product for sweetness and practicality. Whether the colouring was altered to emulate Holland’s house of Orange remains to be seen!
As the name suggests this variety of corn retains a steely blue complexion before and after cooking, the latter appearing a somewhat more mellow tone compared to the former. However this dwarf variety usually levels out three feet tall earning the species the title ‘The only corn you can grow in a container’. The ears generally grow between 4-6 inches long and yield a far sweeter flavour to their yellow counterparts.
On the subject of corn, this unique plant can provide some truly British popcorn. The seedling if sown correctly - around April, in a heated container and good soil - will yield fist sized ears with the shape and blush of English strawberries. Aside from being a great lure to gardening for children, their heritage means that once popped it will provide a slightly fruity tinge to the corn. Even if home cinema isn’t your bag, they certainly make for pleasant mantelpiece fodder.
Red Brussel Sprouts
This long season harvest has made news recently for its apparent popularity around the festive season, so much so that supermarket chains like M&S have begun to stock them. However this may be due to a common misconception that the sprouts themselves appear crimson. The raw vegetables are actually a rich purple and it is only the cooking process that causes their red colours to bleed through.
So, here you have the start not only to a more interesting vegetable patch, but one that may be easier to tailor to your aesthetic preferences, now the carrots can sit with the clematis and the tomatoes with the sun flowers without concern for a colour clash.
Pretty and practical, and not a little tasty.
By Josh Ellison