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Mandy Barber of Incredible Vegetables

Perennial Vegetables take centre stage @ORFC 24

Perennial Vegetables: promise and propagation, kicked off the 2024 Oxford Real Farming conference with a packed out room of eager delegates. Mandy Barber from Incredible Vegetables, Guy Singh-Watson (Riverford) and Tom Hartley (Soil Association). You can watch the session here.

Warp Factor Nine ‘Star’ engage

Perennial Nine Star Broccoli Field Trial ‘Project Nine Star’ is underway. After raising hundreds of plants from 11 accessions of Nine Star seed including kind donations from Warwick University gene bank, Brown Envelope seeds and other generous individuals, the plants finally made it into the ground at the beginning of June. This is our first venture into small scale plant breeding, both exciting and daunting! and we may need our hands held along the way by friends and colleagues with more experience. Perennial Nine Star broccoli has special significance for us as many years ago it was the first vegetable plant that got us interested in perennial growing. 

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Perennial kale cuttings

Perennial kale cuttings – latest update

Perennial kale cuttings – latest news. Our waiting list is temporarily closed while we fulfil existing orders and replenish our stock plants

Because we have received an unprecedented number of order enquiries for perennial kale cuttings following mentions on Radio 4 and in the Guardian / Observer we are working on a strategy so we can fulfil orders and try and meet all requests in the coming years. Basically we have Taunton Deane perennial kale stock plants growing which we make stem cuttings from. Because of the increase in the demand, we are busy propagating more stock plants so we will have more in the future to ensure a steady supply. We don’t want anyone to miss out!

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Purple tree collard cuttings

Purple Tree Collards

Purple Tree Collards seem to be the most elusive of the perennial brassicas. After waiting patiently for many years, a tiny Purple Tree Collard cutting came our way. We nurtured that little plant and it is now a majestic specimen and we are carefully taking a few cuttings to start propagating these on a larger scale. Our aim is to plant out lots of stock plants so we can begin to offer stem cuttings in the future. 

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Hablitzia tamnoides vine

Hablitzia T takes over

Hablitzia Tamnoides likes to take its time establishing but is well worth the wait. As each year goes by the plants become more vigorous, the leaves become larger and deeper green and I have seen the most remarkable growth spurt as May approaches…something like 30cm or more a week.

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Three year old skirret plants

Skirret harvesting in the sun

Skirret harvesting…It’s early March and we have been busy lifting some of our mature skirret plants. We left these to grow for three years undisturbed as an experiment to see what size roots would develop. The plants have produced quite sizeable clusters of good sized eating roots. The ones you can see in the images below had a nice snap to them and a sweet crunchy taste. The plants produced some very healthy looking offsets too. Offsets are the growing tips that cluster and naturally multiply around the top of the crown. These can be pinched off with a little bit of root attached and popped into a pot of compost to develop before being planted out in their final position. You can propagate and increase your stock very rapidly this way and offsets grow into mature plants in a short space of time.

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Hablitzia plants head skywards

Sown three years ago, our Hablitzia plants are really going for it this year. In their first year the plants were quite small, in their second they managed to grow a few feet and now in their third they are sprawling their beautiful edible leaves outwards and upwards reaching a height of 8ft and it is only June!

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Stephen Barstow visit

Stephen Barstow – The Extreme Salad Man and author of Around The World in 80 Plants made a special visit to Incredible Vegetables field as part of his whistle stop tour around the UK visiting various sites and giving talks and workshops. Stephen was particularly interested in how we grow our Ulluco tubers after being dazzled with images of our 2015 harvest. He also checked out how his Hablitzia ‘offspring’ were doing ( Our plants were grown from seed that Stephen sent us from Norway a few years ago).

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Hablitzia tamnoides - Caucasian Spinach leaf

Hablitzia Tamnoides – how to grow

Hablitzia Tamnoides is a semi shade loving perennial climber with mild edible spinach type leaves. Originating in the Caucasus region, it has been grown in Scandinavian countries as an ornamental before making a bit of a renaissance recently by author and plant expert Stephen Barstow. Now permaculturists and forest gardeners as well as those interested in perennial vegetables are beginning to give it a try as another possible staple that can happily grow in any garden with a shady spot. The young shoots can be eaten in early spring as well as pickings from the more mature leaves over the summer. Hablitzia seeds need a period of cold to germinate. Sow outside in a cold frame over the winter or sow in spring and place in the fridge for 10 days to trigger germination.

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Ulluco tubers – how to grow

About Ulluco

Ulluco (Ullucus tuberosus) are exquisite looking edible Andean root tubers and are members of the plant family Basellaceae which includes Malabar spinach. After the potato it is one of the most widely consumed of the Andean tuber crops, but is almost unknown outside the Andean region where it is grown. Ulluco has many varieties and colours such as the vivid green Ravelo Lisa, the mottled red and yellow Pica de Pulga, Round purple, Chugua Roja, Colombian Long Red, Long Yellow, white spotted, Cusco Market ( an orange variety with pink flecks) and many more. They are found in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentine and Venezuela and are known also as Papa Lisa, Olluco, Ruba, Chugua and Melloco.

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Guild of Oca Breeders

We have joined the Guild of Oca Breeders The following text is from the Guild of Oca Breeders website www.ocabreeders.org … Read more

Perennial Nine Star Broccoli

Perennial Nine Star Broccoli – Brassica Oleracea Botrytis Asparagoides. Is an amazing hardy vegetable that produces a central large creamy white cauliflower type head with a myriad of sprouting side shoots from as early as February through to May. To keep the plants sprouting year after year you have to cut off all the florets for eating and any flowers that try to emerge so you don’t allow the plants to go to seed.

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Cardoon Cyanara cardunculus

How to Grow Cardoons

How to grow Cardoons – article first published in Grow Your Own Magazine May 2015 growfruitandveg.co.uk

Cardoons are fantastic edible, ornamental and bee friendly plants. I’m obsessed with resurrecting long forgotten varieties and started growing Cardoons 14 years ago after discovering they were stars of the vegetable garden in Britain right up to Victorian times. I thought it was time for these architectural edimentals to make a re-appearance.

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Taunton Deane perennial kale (potted plant)

Taunton Deane & Daubenton’s Kale

Taunton Deane kale (Brassica oleracea var Acephala) a very old variety of perennial kale that keeps growing for years giving a tasty supply of greens all year round. It is also known as cottager’s kale and would have been common in vegetable gardens up until Victorian times. Plants can grow more than two metres tall and wide and are very hardy. Being perennials they withstand pests very well, survive all kinds of weather and have a flourish of new growth each spring and summer. They are extremely nutritious as they have many years to accumulate minerals and have a great flavour and are tender enough to eat raw. Taunton Deane plants do slow down after about 5 years, so it is worth making cuttings every now and again to produce new stock. 

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“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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If at all possible please contact us by email at info@incrediblevegetables.co.uk, rather than by phone, as we can answer you much more quickly by email. 

If you do need to phone, the number is below - leave us a brief message and we will get back to you as soon as we can. Most days we are out working in the field so sometimes we are unable to answer the phone if we have our hands full.

We look forward to hearing from you,

Mandy and Julien

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