Grow for Flavour

Grow for Flavour, James WongAt this time of year everything seems possible in the garden. There’s still time to plant whatever we want to grow. Perhaps if I spent as much time gardening as I do getting myself inspired by reading about it and watching Gardener’s World, I’d get a bit further.

Veg beds as they were in 2012, which, as that's 3 years ago, is the way they will be this year.
Veg beds as they were in 2009 and 2012, which, as we try to keep to a three year rotation, is pretty much what we’re aiming for this year.

I’ve enjoyed two recent books which offer different approaches to which varieties of vegetables to grow and how to grow them. Kew on a Plate takes the view that for taste we might try going back to the heritage fruit and vegetables that predate the standardised, high-yield varieties required by the supermarkets. There’s been a tendency to go for varieties with a long shelf life, which are tough enough to survive transportation, but that doesn’t always go hand in hand with improved taste. But things are changing and most supermarkets are now making efforts to offer a range of locally grown produce.

leeksThe book tells the story of the project to reestablish the Royal kitchen garden at Kew. One problem that the gardeners had was with the heritage soft fruits which attracted the attention of grey squirrels, foxes and probably even a few human visitors who found them just too tempting.

Raymond Blanc devised the recipes, often inspired by his memories of the kitchen garden of his childhood in a village in Franche-Comté, eastern France.

barrowIn Grow for Flavour, James Wong takes a rather different view. For instance he reminds us that it’s not always true that heritage varieties are the tastiest.

He looks at simple ways to boost flavour, for instance by cutting down on watering. Overwatering results in bigger fruits and vegetables but often at the cost of diluting the flavour.

Trials have demonstrated that it’s possible to get improved results by deliberately putting a plant under a modest amount of stress, by tricking it, for instance, into thinking that it should start producing more fruit or into protecting itself from attack by pests, sometimes producing bitter-tasting compounds which result in a more complex flavour.


Pizzabox from Sutton's Seeds
Pizzabox from Sutton’s Seeds

James Wong, Grow for Flavour

Grow for Flavour seeds are available from Sutton’s who also produce a Stacks of Flavour Crate Collection with all you need to grow salad leaves in three weeks, or if you’re more patient, a Pizzabox Crate in which you can grow the entire topping for a pizza in 8 to 10 weeks – blight resistant tomato, basil and oregano (pepperoni not included). You can even have your crate personalised with a message.

The Kew on a Plate garden

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  1. Richard, I have serendipitously stumbled across your website and spent a few (well, several) minutes idly enjoying the eclectic mixture of gardening, family momentos and the lovely illustrations you do. You make some interesting points in the ‘Grow for Flavour’ post that reminded me of something similar.

    In the book by Jennifer Davies that accompanied the television series, ‘Victorian Kitchen Garden’, Peter Thoday wrote in the Foreword that he felt that the old fruit varieties tasted superior to modern ones but that the old vegetable and flower types were generally inferior.

    Still, that didn’t stop Peter and Harry Dodson, the head gardener in the series, from lavishing praise on at least one of the old pea varieties, ‘Ne Plus Ultra’, so maybe thery weren’t all bad.

    Good luck with the garden and the publishing.

    Vic Gardener.

    1. I remember that series. I wonder if the rhubarb that grows in my late mum’s garden is a Victorian variety. The rhubarb patch was well established when we moved in 58 years ago. A local pipeworks, Naylors, make traditional terracotta rhubarb forcing pot, which is impressive but isn’t what mum and dad used; any leaky old galvanised bucket was relegated to the rhubarb patch. Whether this actually worked or not, I can’t remember, but when we needed a papiere mache alien’s head for my sister to wear in a home-made science fiction movie, I took her to the rhubarb patch and tried several buckets against her head until we came up with the right size to use as the mould.

      1. Richard,

        Please forgive me. After your reply to my email on 22nd May, I didn’t go back to the article and check for a further reply there – until today.

        It was very kind of you to do so, as I’d already heard back from you effectively.

        Like a lot of the sorts of produce seen in ‘Victorian Kitchen Garden’, we also grew rhubarb from as far back as I can remember. Well, my uncle did at least, when we all lived in my grandmother’s house. He carried on living there until he died,
        still with his rhubarb patch.

        He had the luxury of a couple of glass cloches but for him, too, the rhubarb forcing-pot of choice was an old galvanised bucket with a rusted hole in the bottom and a piece of slate to cover it.

        And I can well visualise your alien head-sizing episode. I don’t think that my sister would have trusted me to put a selection of buckets on her head, though.

        Your more recent reminices about Walton Hall as a hospital also chimed with me. The recent (September 13th 2015) National Heritage Open Day allowed me to go round the converted manor house that had become the hospital where I parted company with my tonsils nearly 60 years ago. I was pretty sure where my ward/bed had been but something wasn’t quite right. Then I looked up to see the plaster cornice ended against a new wall that had sliced the end off the original ward, putting ‘my bed’ in what is now a corridor. Hospital beds in corridors? Surely not?

        Keep up the good work.

        Kindest regards,


        1. I didn’t realise that Walton Hall had ever been used as anything other than a maternity ward. Wakefield Historical Society made a cine film documentary of Charles Waterton’s life which included shots inside the Hall at the time that it was used as a hospital.

          1. Sorry Richard, I now realise that my previous comment was a bit ambiguous. I was referring not to Walton Hall but to a different hospital, which had also been converted from an old mansion, near to where I live (sadly, not in ‘God’s own Country’).

            I listen to Radio 4’s Today programme when I can. At about 07:50 this morning (24.09.2015) I was able to relate to a reference in the ‘Though for the Day’ slot which I wouldn’t have been able to, had it not been for your blog.

            Done by Bishop Tom Butler, he started off saying he lives “just down the lane” from Walton Hall, and referred to Charles Waterton and the visits to Walton Hall by Charles Darwin.

            So, thanks to you, I knew where and who he was talking about.

            Best wishes, Vic.

          2. Pleased to hear that Waterton got a mention on the Today programme. We’re hoping to get some publicity for an exhibition of artwork for the forthcoming Waterton comic strip at the opening on Wednesday.

    1. Wednesday went well thank you Rob. Publication pencilled in for the end of this month or very beginning of November. It’s looking superb – and I don’t just mean my contribution! I wonder what Waterton would have thought of an Anglican Bishop promoting his good work!

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