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The best crops for flavour

Posted: Thursday 28 March 2013
by Adam Pasco

Growing your own brings a host of benefits, like better freshness and saving money.

Growing your own brings a host of benefits, like better freshness and saving money. One of the most important to me, is being able to choose specific crops that have the very best flavour.

I think, what's the point in buying supermarket produce simply sold as 'sweetcorn', 'tomato' or 'white potato' when you haven't a clue what the variety actually is? We can be far more discerning, as both consumers and gardeners, choosing and growing named varieties of crops that have the flavour and eating qualities we enjoy.

I have noticed punnets of soft fruit, like raspberries and strawberries, are labelled with their variety as well as the country of origin. When you’re looking for one in particular, you can then take your pick, but the choice is usually fairly limited.

By growing your own you can be sure of what you're getting, and like all gardeners I have some 'tried and tested' favourites that I believe are hard to beat for flavour. To my taste, tomato 'Gardener's Delight' is perfection itself. You don’t have to just take my word for it, though, it’s one of Alan Titchmarsh's favourite tomatoes too.

There are dozens, possibly hundreds, of tomato varieties available, and other experts will have their own favourites. Do try them before making up your mind, but don't expect to like them all. Everyone’s taste is different.

Seed companies are always introducing new varieties, and trying to tempt us to grow something different. Tomato 'Sweet Aperitif' is one such introduction this spring. The company are so keen to convince us it's a sweet tasting and thin-skinned red tomato we'll love, that they are offering our money back if we don't agree.

I know many people who are wax lyrical about strawberry 'Mara des Bois', claiming it has the flavour of a wild strawberry. Catalogue descriptions try to tempt us more by saying it's a much sought-after variety, but I don't like it. Last summer I trialled a new strawberry called 'Irresistible' which really stood-up to its name. It’s everything I look for in a strawberry – sweet, juicy, excellent flavour, and great yields too.

Of course, crops offer other characteristics in addition to flavour, like colour, texture, disease resistance, yields in poor weather, cooking qualities and so on. All these play a part in helping us choose varieties to grow at home.

But for me, flavour remains high on my list of priorities, which is why old favourites like 'Conference' pears and 'Victoria' plums are hard to beat.

Now let's just hope this growing season is an improvement on last year. It can't possibly be worse, can it?

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