Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Finally, some sunshine...

The weather started brightening up over the weekend and today it finally felt warm enough to start replanting my Tudor kitchen garden. Only four carrots and one radish plant have actually planted, with the vast majority of seeds casualties of the unseasonal weather. Hopefully it will stay warm now - I'm running out of seeds!

I thought that I would just do a quick run through of what I am growing. The seeds are heritage, which means that they are older varieties (although not necessarily as old as the Tudor period). They will however give a good idea of what contemporaries of Henry VIII were eating! I am only growing vegetables that would have been familiar five hundred years ago however and will hopefully be cooking up some Tudor recipes this summer.

I have two varieties of lettuce. The first is called 'Relic' and is a development of 'Deer's Tongue', which dates back to at least the early eighteenth century. It should have reddish maroon leaves which are narrow and pointed. The second variety, is Grandpa Admire's Butterhead Lettuce which was first bred in the early nineteenth century. This will give green leaves, washed with bronze and red.

I'm most excited about the carrots and have three varieties in the garden (although it is only the orange carrots that have sprouted). The first is 'Jaune Obtuse de Doubs', which is a very ancient French variety of yellow carrot. These may well have made it to the dining table in Francis I's France, perhaps even when Anne Boleyn was resident in his queen's household? The second variety are Dragon Purple carrots. Carrots were not originally orange and Tudor diners would have been much more familiar with white, yellow or even purple carrots. The final variety are orange: Royal Chantenay. Matthew Wilson, who is Channel 4 gardening expert, sourced this heritage variety for me.

The Tudors ate a lot of root vegetables. I have planted Rouge Long de Florence Onions, which are another traditional variety and should give deep purple coloured bulbs. My beetroot is a variety called 'Saungina', which means 'bloody' and I'm told the reasoning behind that name should be very apparent when they grow! I've picked giant varieties of radishes and turnips: 'Sicilly Giant' radish and 'Giant Limousin' turnip. I'm particularly excited about the turnips, which should grow to up to 25cm in diameter. It brings to mind the Russian fairy tale, the Giant Turnip, which has been a children's favourite for generations - again, this seemed appropriate to a heritage garden.

Finally, I also have a variety of winter cabbage ('Quintal de Alsace'), which is a traditional variety in France and Germany and should be very hardy, something that seems appropriate given the weather we have been having. I will also be planting some beans towards the end of the month.

I'll post again if anything happens and will also upload some photographs. It's very exciting and I am hoping that this will be an ongoing process, with the garden gradually getting bigger and more established as the years go by, just as would have been the case in a real Tudor kitchen garden.

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