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Seed saving and new perennial crops

It’s been a busy year at Incredible Vegetables with lots of seed saving projects and new perennial and interesting food crops being tested. We have produced our first large batch of Skirret seed, have grown some very large anchote roots and fruits (Coccinia abyssinica) and are now underway with Giant Ulleung celery (Dystaenia takisimana), Ashitaba (Angelica keiskei), Aster Scaber, Ligularia fischeri and Sochan (Rudbeckia laciniata)

 Anchote -Coccinia abyssinica, an Ethiopian root crop

We grew anchote for the first time and plants were given special treatment in the polytunnel. Anchote plays an important role in the local diet of rural communities in Western and South Western Ethiopia. It’s a high altitude crop grown at 2000-2500 metres. Large starchy edible roots form underground, with climbing vines and attractive fruits above. The fruits themselves are very bitter, so the main harvest is the roots, but as a curcubit the young leaves can also be eaten much like squash leaves. It was quite an achievement producing the roots but the fruit is very exciting as we can save our own seed. Pieces of stored root can be kept frost free over the winter and then sprouted again in the spring.

Anchote - Coccinia abyssinica
Anchote harvest, large starchy tubers harvested in November 2020

The vines grew rampantly over the summer months about 15ft long and lots of very attractive fruits appeared, speckled white and green ( this is their colour when unripe).

Anchote - Coccinia abyssinica vines
Anchote vines and fruits in the polytunnel in summer

The vines were still growing strong right into November but we lifted the roots and harvested the fruits before voles started moving in on them.

Anchote - Coccinia abyssinica
Anchote ripened fruits turn a beautiful orange

Once the fruits were brought home, a few days in a warm room finished ripening them nicely.

Anchote - Coccinia abyssinica
Anchote – Coccinia abyssinica fruits cut for extracting seeds

An exciting moment when the fruits were cut open and we found lots of mature seed.

Anchote - Coccinia abyssinica
Anchote seeds fermenting ready to be cleaned and dried

We treated the seeds in the same way we would process cucumber seeds, extracting them and putting them in water for a couple of days. These will be drained and thoroughly dried and we will germination test them.

Anchote – Coccinia abyssinica some really decent roots

From five small plants in the spring, we harvested five hefty clusters of roots. These need to be cooked like potatoes, although they may take a bit longer than potatoes to become soft. More research is needed, and it is very helpful to have seed to work with so we can start to select the best plants to grow on.


“Thanks for everything, the info sheet was great. I planted the cuttings the day they arrived and have just multi sown the 9 star in seed trays. All very exciting, we’re now planning our perennial area.”

“You are right, perennial kale is fantastic! Thanks so much for the cuttings. I am a convert to having a corner of perpetual kale in the patch!”

“As the evening sun back lit the plants at Incredible Vegetables, I felt I was standing in one of the most important gardens of our time. Wildflowers working alongside an abundance of edimentals and perennial vegetables. A ‘food glade’ to rival the aesthetic of our greatest plant designers.”

– Jon Davies, garden designer, London Glades –

“I love your website and the work you’re doing. What you’re doing is exiting, useful, and one day will help to replace and enhance what human kind has damaged.With that our natural friends will return and we’ll be better for it.”

“Mandy, thank you. I am delighted with this plant – it is so strong and healthy and exceptionally well packaged – all done with loving care obviously. I shall look forward to having more plants from you.”

“Plants all arrived lovely and are growing well. I just wanted to say i was very impressed with the quality of the cuttings.. and its been a pleasure dealing with you. And I look forward to any purchases in the future.”

“The kale cuttings you sent survived the winter and are thriving. Thank you Mandy Barber you are the super hero of edibles, loving your work!!”

“I bought some Skirret seed’s off you last year. Well they grew and yesterday some got cooked and this message is just to say, they were delicious. Looking forward to a lot more next year. Thank you.”

“The Taunton Dean cuttings arrived a short while ago and never have I seen healthier looking cuttings! They are now firmly ensconced in some nice compost and are having a good drink. I even loved the packaging, which will be composted.”

“Hi I just wanted to let you know that I sowed half of my Caucasian spinach seeds and every single one grew, absolutely amazed, thanks for the seeds and keep up the good work.”

“Just to let you know that the lovely healthy looking plants arrived. Your plants are simply outstanding, every single tuber and plant are growing amazingly.”

“The plants arrived safely, I did not expect such magnificent specimens! I didn’t think I would be successful at stratification etc but I now have a whole bunch of Hablitzia seedlings sprouting after following your excellent advice.”

“Just to say, the Daubentons Kale is in the ground and looking well – thanks to the lovely damp compost encasing its roots…you do a good job at your end, I can tell by the way you package. Will be back for more of your wonderful perennials.”

“Thank you so much for all the vegetables, they really are incredible. I’m sure I’ve never before seen a healthier rootball than the one that arrived with our happy looking daubentons kale, and seeds and tubers are thriving thanks to all the useful information provided.”

“Thank you so much for sending such wonderful, healthy and very large plants. They are beautiful !! You packaged them so well and they arrived so quickly – I couldn’t get to the post office till the following day but they were absolutely fine. They’re now potted up and sitting in my ‘cold’ greenhouse while they adjust.”

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We look forward to hearing from you,

Mandy and Julien

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