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The big tunnel 6 months on

We have had the busiest year of all time as the passion for perennial vegetables has grown. We expanded into our huge new polytunnel back in May and have been propagating and diversifying what we do, so we can begin to offer you more plants and seeds for your perennial vegetable garden. Below are some pics of our flourishing perennial plant nursery and outdoor space at Baddaford farm, ten minutes from our main site in Ashburton. Plants are waiting to go off to their new homes and a nice pic of Yacon and Dwarf Jerusalem artichokes growing out in the field back in October.

Incredible vegetables nursery
Our new plant nursery with plants waiting to go off to their new homes
Incredible vegetables nursery
Reichardia picroides plants on the bench
Incredible vegetables nursery
A view across the plant nursery
Yacon and Dwarf Jerusalem artichokes in the field
Yacon and Dwarf Jerusalem artichokes in the field

Apios americana (Hopniss) project

We have been working with 40 varieties of Apios americana (Hopniss) this year, trialling the plants and attempting to produce seed pods as well as tubers. To get seed pods, you really need a population of leaf cutter bees as they have the right weight and anatomy to ‘trip’ the flowers to allow insects to access the stigma. We ended up trying to do this by hand, but despite our best efforts we didn’t get any to set seed. However, the plants have flourished in the warmth of the tunnel and our main crop have produced fabulous yields. An exciting development is a collaboration with researchers at the University of Aberdeen who have been doing in depth analysis of the tubers and leaves and nutritional profile for humans as well as its potential as an animal fodder crop. Some of our collection will be sent off for analysis and also form part of further trials.

bee on Apios flower
A bee visits an Apios americana flower
Apios americana vines
Apios americana – main crop plants growing up tall supports
Apios americana
Apios americana – 40 experimental varieties growing in large tubs
A view of the tunnel
A view of the tunnel in mid summer with Apios vines growing down each side
Mandy amongst the Apios vines
Mandy in her natural habitat amongst the Apios vines in summer
Apios americana harvest
A bumper harvest of tubers from our main crop in December 2021

Seed production projects

Seed production is underway for Aster scaber ( Doellingeria scabra ) or Chwinamul a Korean fragrant leaf used as a side or wrapping vegetable. A very beautiful edible ornamental plant. Seed is being dried and tested so we can offer it in the spring. Reichardia picroides – we had a fantastic harvest of seed this year of this delicious perennial salad leaf. Hardy perennial Turkish rocket (Bunias orientalis) seeds will be ready in summer 2022. Plants can be used for their tasty florets which are like mini broccolis as well as young spring leaves. We have a bed of Scots Lovage and a small amount of seed will be available in the new year – lovely flavour like a strong parsley and useful in the kitchen. Seombadi – Dystaenia takesimana, giant perennial celery, we have a huge number of plants growing which should produce an abundance of seed next summer. Leaves have a nice earthy celery flavour and can be used in soups and stews.

Aster scaber flowers
Aster scaber in full bloom, a truly beautiful edimental
Reichardia picroides profusely flowering
Reichardia picroides profusely flowers throughout the summer
Turkish Rocket - Bunias orientalis
Turkish Rocket – Bunias orientalis, plants in our polytunnel
Scots Lovage leaves
Scots Lovage – a herbaceous perennial with a lovely parsley like flavour
Dystaenia takesimana
Dystaenia takesimana flowering in summer

Other plants we have been trying out this year

Perennial buckwheat (Fagopyrum cymosum (F.dibotrys) a useful perennial plant, leaves are rich in rutin and can be cooked like spinach. Although foliage is frost tender, root systems are very hardy so plants will emerge again with the warmth of spring. Canadian perennial lettuce Lactuca canadensis, this is a short lived perennial flowering in its 3rd year and the peeled flower stalk can be used a bit like a romaine lettuce. We are yet to find out its longevity but will be watching its progress and save seeds from the best plants. Elatostemma umbellatum this plant is eaten as a wild vegetable in Japan, it loves a shady moist spot and propagates itself by purple bulbils which drop to the ground. A member of the urticaceae family that doesn’t sting. We are propagating lots of these so we have more in stock in 2022. Myoga ginger is a hardy perennial ginger – young emerging flower buds are eaten in Japan & Korea and give a zesty ginger flavour to dishes. We will be growing these on to make divisions next year and add them to our range. Scurvy grass Cochlearia officinalis – strong mustardy flavour with the added benefit of vitamin C, this used to be taken on long voyages by sailors to stave off scurvy, it makes a nice addition to salads.

Perennial buckwheat Fagopyrum cymosum (F.dibotrys) ‘GG’
Perennial buckwheat – abundant foliage that can be cooked like spinach
Canada perennial lettuce
A wild lettuce with a 3 year life cycle
Elatostemma umbellatum Dents de Kyoto
Elatostemma umbellatum Dents de Kyoto – likes moist soil in full or part shade
Myoga ginger
Myoga ginger growing in the tunnel
Scurvy grass - Cochlearia officinalis
Scurvy grass – Cochlearia officinalis leaves and flowers have a mustard flavour

Frost tender perennials and other additions

This year we experimented with Chayote (Sechium edule) a curcubit – we managed to produce 6 ripe fruits ( harvested in December) which is a quite a result considering they weren’t planted until June this year. Fruits can be treated like a summer squash and are very tasty. The vines were rampant growing over 4m tall – leaves, stem, root and seeds are all edible too. If we can overwinter the root system, we should get new vines appearing in the spring. Chufa ( Cyperus esculentus var. sativus) a decent harvest of tubers aided by drip irrigation as they love the soil to be constantly moist. They are rich in starch, sugar, and fat and have a nutty flavour. Flour and oil can also be obtained from the tubers. Melothria pendula a relative of the more well known Mouse melon Melothria scabra produces small green fruits and has potential as a perennial cucumber as the root systems can survive if fairly protected. Pigeon pea Cajanus cajan a frost tender perennial legume, used to to make dishes like Tur dal in India. The task ahead is to keep them alive over winter in the hope that they may flower and produce seed pods next year. What we really need are some Northern adapted types which will flower in a much shorter period before the frosts hit. ( That is plan B!). Last but not least is Talinum paniculatum, living its life under a pile of fleece at the moment. This is sometimes known as Florida spinach and a relative of purslane. Will it make it through the winter? Seeds have been saved and cuttings ensconced on the living room window sill just in case, so we can resurrect it next year if it doesn’t make it!

chayote fruits
Chayote fruits turn vivid green when ripe
chayote vines
Chayote vines reached 4m in summer
Cyperus esculentus
Cyperus esculentus harvest of tubers
Cyperus esculentus leaves
Cyperus esculentus foliage
Melothria pendula
Melothria pendula vines
Pigeon peas
Pigeon peas Cajanus cajan
Talinum paniculatum
Talinum paniculatum or Florida spinach has tasty leaves and is related to purslane

Lots more plants and seeds in the piepline for next year.

“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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