Purple potatoes and paint pot primroses by Helen Babbs
By: Steve Ott
Delicious oregano is delicately iced with sparkling diamond white flowers, velvet violas burn in purple and yellow, tangled knots of sweet-peas continue to bloom in old baskets and fill the air with a fuggy, rich perfume. Fragrant spikes of lavender are worshipped by bees and butterflies, and twisting runner beans are all strung about with rubies.
I’ve just harvested my second crop of spuds. Handsome vegetables that have been growing in a small jute shopping bag lined with plastic. Two seed potatoes have transformed into twenty. They’re currently in a gloriously muddy pile in an old enamel bowl, glowing golden through smears of soil.
The next few days will no doubt feature various potato based dishes, most including roof-grown garlic, sage and rosemary, perhaps with some just picked runner beans on the side. I could make a spud salad with rooftop mint, chives and chervil leaves too.
For pudding there will be a mountain of blackberries, picked from London’s wonderful Walthamstow Marshes. An urban sprawl of grassland that’s full of huge knots of bramble, laden with dark fruits. The berries taste wonderful straight from the bush, but also baked in a pie or reduced into a syrupy liquid and stirred into sharp yoghurt or sweet ice-cream.
In late July the rooftop was yellow and purple like a glorious bruise. The yolky yellow of evening primroses, blooming in a paint pot, and the iridescent purple of potato skin, just harvested from a hessian sack. The primroses were grown from my own seed, saved from last year’s plants. The thick skinned and indigo-fleshed spuds were the fruits of a wonderful trip to Prinzessingarten in Berlin.
My purple potatoes were an ‘heirloom’ or ‘heritage’ variety – or you could call them outlaws. It’s really important to grow crops like these, and then to save and swap the seeds, so they don’t die out. Speciality spuds need our support!
Earlier in the month I harvested four large, pink and white striped bulbs of garlic – the result of planting four supermarket bought cloves in a deep pot last winter. Full of vitamins, minerals, aroma and flavour, pungent garlic’s strong tasting cloves have an array of healing properties. They’re anti-infective and especially good at treating both bacterial and viral infections of the respiratory tract and digestive system.
First cultivated in the Middle East, Muslim legend has it that the smelly bulb sprang from Satan’s left footprint. It was found in Tutankhamen’s tomb and was written about by luminaries like Pliny, Galen and Chaucer, who dubbed it ‘poor man’s treacle’.
Current Issue: June 2013
FREE: 2 PACKETS OF SEEDS WORTH £4.25!
♦ Guaranteed success with strawberries
♦ Handy watering gadgets reviewed
♦ We chat to TV's favourite gardener, Monty Don
♦ Revealed: top 20 easy-grow crops for your plot
♦ Toby Buckland's 9 must-grow vegetables
♦ Top container veg: 4-page guide inside
♦ Make more of garlic and broad beans
♦ Win a new Mantis tiller worth £559
• Next issue on sale: June 6, 2013