Posts Tagged ‘winter veg’

Fascinating Facts: Brussels Sprouts

December 10th, 2018 | News | 0 Comments


Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera
Origins: Native to the Mediterranean region along with other cabbage species.

First cultivated: Although a forerunner to the modern sprout may have been grown in Ancient Rome, Brussels sprouts, as we know them today, were first grown in 13th Century Flanders (part of modern day Belgium).

Types: There are green varieties available (including the popular and reliable ‘Cascade’ and ‘Revenge’), and red varieties (such as ‘Rubine’).

Did you know?

Britons eat more Brussels sprouts than any other nation in Europe. Our sprout industry is worth £650,000,000, and the area covered by sprout fields in the UK is the equivalent of 3,240 football pitches. It’s fair to say that these days, no one loves sprouts more than the British.

It’s equally true that no vegetable divides opinion more than the humble Brussels sprout. While so many of us love them, others hate them, which could be due to the specific gene TAS2R38, otherwise known as the ‘Brussels sprouts gene’ which regulates bitterness perception. Or it could be down to the way they’re cooked.


The precursors to modern Brussels sprouts were grown in Ancient Rome, but the sprouts we’re familiar with were first cultivated back in the 13th century, in what is now Belgium. It is thought that the vegetable is named after the Belgian capital, where they became a popular crop in the 16th century.

Sprouts only became popular in Britain at the end of the 1800s. However, up until relatively recently, many of us were only familiar with the overboiled Brussels sprout, dished up at festive family feasts in December. Mushy, yellowing and with a smell akin to rotten eggs, the tendency to overcook sprouts helped secure its reputation as one of the nation’s most hated vegetables.

These days, steamed, sautéed and stir-fried sprouts have helped drive the popularity of the vegetable, convincing sprout sceptics that they can be rather delicious. They’re also highly adaptable. From salads and skewers to curries and pizzas, Brussels sprouts can lend themselves to most recipes. For those who insist on boiling them, there remains the contentious matter of whether a cross should be cut into its base. While some cooks believe this age-old tradition helps the vegetable cook evenly, others feel it makes no difference, and a spokesperson for the Brassica Growers Association recently claimed it ruins the vegetable!

fascinating-facts-about-brussels-sproutsIn fact, the tradition of cutting a cross in the base of a sprout might have less to do with culinary technique and more to do with superstition. In Medieval times, it was believed that evil spirits and demons lived between the leaves of the vegetable, and they would enter anyone who ate them, making them ill. A cross cut into the base of the sprouts was thought to  drive the evil spirits away.

Nowadays, we’re more familiar with the nutrients hiding inside the vegetable. A 80g serving of Brussels sprouts contains four times more Vitamin C than an orange, which helps strengthen the immune system, repairs tissue damage and promotes iron absorption. Sprouts are also rich in Vitamin K, which contributes to strong bones and can help with blood clotting.

There are more than 110 different varieties of Brussels sprout available, as well as the Flower Sprout, a sprout/kale hybrid which contains double the vitamin B6 and C of a traditional sprout. It’s certainly worth devoting a section of your vegetable patch to Brussels sprouts, they’re relatively easy to grow, adaptable in the kitchen, and packed full of health-boosting nutrients. And what could be better than serving up your own homegrown sprouts at Christmas?

To browse all our varieties of Brussels sprouts seeds just follow this link to the Brussels sprouts seeds section of our website.


December Gardening Advice

December 2nd, 2017 | News | 0 Comments

December is the month where we swap our garden wellies for festive frocks and a glass of something bubbly. As well as looking ahead to 2018, we should also take a moment to reflect over this year’s gardening achievements. What worked, what didn’t, and what could you do better next year?

Frost in Winter


Now is the time to retreat to a cosy nook, or settle down in front of a warm fire and armed with a laptop, seed catalogues, and pen and paper, start drawing up lists, and make seed orders for next year. Maybe think about re-designing your garden, building a greenhouse, or growing something new on the vegetable patch?

As the days get shorter, the temperature drops further. But remember, this month sees the shortest day of the year (Thursday 21st December), and after that, the days get longer, with the promise of spring on the horizon.


In the flower garden


If you haven’t done so already, there’s still time to move those pots and containers. If you don’t have a greenhouse, polytunnel, or shed, then group them together in a protected area of the garden. Also, try to keep them raised and off the frozen ground. If your containers are too heavy, think about wrapping horticultural fleece around your treasured shrub. Bubble plastic is another option, a wrapped potted plant won’t only benefit from the added warmth, but your expensive pot won’t crack from the frost.

Dahlia 'Karma Choc'Storing tubers

It’s not too late to lift and store dahlia tubers. By cutting the foliage to a couple of cms above the tuber, any foliage dieback won’t reach and damage the tuber. Before storing them in a cool, dark place, let them dry-out upside down for a few days in the greenhouse, to drain the last of the moisture. Brush off the excess dirt, and place them carefully into a protected box or crate. Sand or old newspaper makes good insulation, but ensure the tubers aren’t touching. Check them regularly for any sign of rot. Dispose of those accordingly.


As December rumbles on, you may want to consider pruning deciduous trees. With leaves now fallen the tree’s structure is clearly visible. Think about the three ‘Ds’: dead, damaged and diseased. Prune any branches that fall under these categories, but remember overall structure, and try not to prune too hard. As winter is a time of dormancy, many ‘sap’ based shrubs and trees, such as vines and acers, can also be pruned. It’s also time to start winter pruning wisteria. Ensure you cut summer side shoots back to no more than three buds.


New Chelsea roses 2017: 'Simple Yellow' (left), 'Margaret Greville' and 'Vanessa Bell'


Another plant that will benefit pruning now is bush roses. Bare root varieties can now be planted up. Ensure all climbing roses are sufficiently tied-back, as winter winds can cause damage. A fresh supply of mulch around your garden plants will help protect them from the cold.

Root cuttings

Consider taking root cuttings from herbaceous perennials. This will increase your flower border supplies, and save you the expense of having to buy new plants next season.

Leaf mould

Continue to keep borders and paths clear; debris and foliage can make paths slippery as well as harbouring slugs, snails and other pests. If you have the space, why not create a large bin for leaves to break down naturally.  Four posts, forming a square, pegged into the ground, and surrounded with chicken wire is an easy and cheap solution. Twelve months from now, you’ll be looking at a wonderfully rich leaf mould that can be spread across the garden.

Christmas trees

With the festive season upon us, like many, you’ll be considering buying a Christmas tree. With so many pine varieties to choose from, it’s worth thinking about a pine tree that can be planted after the festive period. The potted Christmas tree has been steadily increasing in demand as consumers have become more environmentally conscious. Ten years from now that small tree you bought could be happily maturing in your garden, giving you and your family, not to mention the garden wildlife, great pleasure.

Failing that, don’t be so quick to throw away your tree. It can be chopped up, and used as mulch for acidic plants, such as blueberries. The branches could also find use as support canes for growing peas on your allotment.

Christmas wreath

If you’ve been growing ivy or holly, then you might want to consider creating your very own Christmas wreath. By using cuttings of evergreen, or branches of crab apples, and pyracantha berries, this is the time to let your creativity go wild.

Garden wildlife

Ensure all bird-feeding stations are clean and replenished regularly. A fresh water supply will also help our feathered friends at this time of year. Check all water features, including ponds, don’t freeze over, as this can damage the structures as well as being harmful to the fish and garden wildlife.

Freezing temperatures

Keep an eye on the weather reports and overnight temperatures. If you have plants in the greenhouse, then a heater might make all the difference on a cold night. If there is a snowfall, ensure all snow is removed from the greenhouse exterior, as any plants growing in the greenhouse, will need all the warmth they can get. However, a warm greenhouse does increase the risk of pests and diseases, so regularly check all plants, pots and trays.


On the veg patch

Winter veg carrots

Winter veg

With the festive season upon us, it’s time for your winter veg to play their part on the Christmas day menu. Continue to check crops for pests and diseases, removing any fallen, yellowing or rotten foliage. The later you can leave digging up the veg, the fresher it’ll be on the big day. However, take into account the possibility of the ground being hard or frozen. If you haven’t started growing your veg yet, have a look at our range, which includes salsify, kale, squash, broccoli, cabbage and much more!

Primary cultivation

As winter veg gets dug up, and plots start becoming bare, remove old debris and add to the compost heap. If the ground’s not too hard, turn over the soil to expose dozing pests and to aerate the soil. If you can, spread a thick layer of compost, or well-rotted manure over the plot. If you have a compost heap, turn it over, as this will help it break down.

Bare root strawberriesFruit

If you’re growing currants or gooseberries, take hardwood cuttings. If you’ve been growing rhubarb for some years, dig up the crowns. Split them, top to bottom, with a spade, and then re-plant. If you’ve purchased new varieties, get them into the ground also. Remember, leave a newly planted crown untouched for a year, that way it can become established, and produce quality stalks.

This is a good time of the year to plant bare root fruit bushes and trees, such as gooseberry and currant bushes or apple, fig and cherry trees. Again, if you have established fruit trees, these can now be pruned. Think about the three ‘Ds’, as mentioned earlier. Check all staked fruit trees. If not securely tied-in, windrock can cause damage, and potentially kill the plant.

Winter salad

Winter salad

Continue to successional sow winter salads; check leaves for any slugs and pests. And if not grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel, ensure they are protected with a cold frame, cloche or horticultural fleece.

Prepping tools

If the weather has taken a turn for the worse, retreat to the potting shed. Once warm, set about cleaning and sharpening all hand tools. Service all power tools, including the lawn mower. Thoroughly clean all empty pots and trays, in hot water and diluted washing up liquid. Carrying out these tasks now will ensure your tools last for years to come.



Indoor plants

Add colour to the home with poinsettias, hyacinths or cyclamen persicum. However, keep watering to a minimum, and place them in a draught-free environment, out of direct sunlight.

Finally, rather than buying decorations from the shop, why not bring the outside in. Cuttings of evergreen, and sprigs of holly, can make excellent mantle and table displays. Of course, with mistletoe hanging from a doorway, it’s a great way to make friends and share the spirit of the season. And for the ones that simply can’t get enough of gardening, we have a little indoor option: the herb grow kit, which may be the perfect Christmas present for a loved one.