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Catalogue of reading to be done; outdoors colin hambidge.

As the leaves start to fall off the trees, so the latest crop of seed and plant catalogues starts to fall through the letterbox, providing gardeners with plenty to read during the darkening autumn evenings.

The major seed companies all report that sales of vegetable seeds are now higher than those of flower seeds, and with tough economic times ahead I believe that trend will continue.

One of the best reads for the kitchen gardener is the DT Brown Fruit and Vegetables Catalogue 2009. No mention of seeds in the title, although it is mainlyaseed catalogue-and nomention of flower seeds, either, although it offers as wide and varied a range as other catalogues. It is surely a sign of the times that the catalogue features a page of eastern European specialities.

I like the look of leek Starozagorski Kamus, which is a fast growing variety said to produce a harvestable crop as early as July. If you enjoy leeks, you will appreciate a variety that prolongs the cropping season.

Another example of eastern European plant breeding is tomato Bejbino F1, which is also featured on the back cover of the catalogue. This newcherry tomato is being offered at the promotional price of 50p for a packet of 10 seeds for the 2009 season. Plants are claimed to be remarkably disease-resistant and the fruits have a very good flavour.

Seed potatoes are a major part of the DT Brown offer. Old favourites such as British Queen and Epicure sit alongsidemuch newer strains such asAnya, a much earlier selection of the famed Pink FirApple, andLady Christl, a top class salad potato. If you have only a small garden, bear in mind that potatoes can crop well in containers of compost, producing remarkably fine, blemish-free tubers. I grow Jersey Royal in pots and they are a real treat in early summer.

DT Brown's fruit offer seems to improve every year and once again there are some interesting introductions for the season ahead. The honeyberry is a new one on me. It is apparently a form of edible honeysuckle, producing long, purple fruits from May onwards on bushes that grow to about 3ft tall.

These seedless berries are said to have a similar flavour to that of wild blueberries.

Returning to the eastern European theme, I note that Brown's new blackcurrant Ebony was also bred there. It has a much higher sugar level than other blackcurrants and the company claimsthat the large fruits are as good to eat as black cherries, but without the stones. It certainly sounds worth trying. One plant ofEbony costs pounds 7.95, while three cost pounds 19.95. Equally intriguing is Kiwi Arguta, which produces a good crop of grape-sized kiwis that can be eaten whole.

In my opinion nothing beats the flavour ofhome-grownstrawberries eaten straight from the garden.

Next year I shall be trying a new variety called Lucy, which is said to produce a fine crop whatever weather the British summer throws at it. This could just be what we have been looking for.

To request a copy of the catalogue, telephone 0845 3710532 or visit dtbrownseeds.co.uk
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 24, 2008
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