The episode will feature presenter and gardener - and long-term Garden Organic member - Sue Kent as she visits our Heritage Seed Library (HSL) on the search for unusual heritage seeds. She'll chat to head of the HSL Catrina Fenton about how we conserve rare, heirloom vegetables to help protect plant diversity.
Tune in at the later time of 9.30pm on Friday, 9am on Saturday 17 February or if you're in Wales, 6pm on Saturday night. If you missed it, please watch again via BBC iPlayer here, and look for Episode 4, to hear us spreading the important messages of organic gardening and seed conservation.
In the episode Sue pays a visit to our seed library, polytunnels, and greenhouses to learn more about old ex-commercial varieties and heirlooms.
Monty Don described our work as "heroic" in his wrap-up of the segment, first aired in June 2023.
He said: "The work of the Heritage Seed Library over the years has been heroic and really important in conserving varieties and rare seeds that otherwise would have long disappeared. And growing them at home, nurturing them, enjoying them - that’s the way they have been kept alive. So three cheers for their work!"
Taking a slice of heritage home to Wales
Presenter Sue has been gardening in Wales for more than 30 years and was keen to take a local seed variety back home to grow on the Swansea coast. Catrina recommended several delicious varieties, which Sue went on to grow and show to viewers in Episode 18.
Our Heritage Seed Library maintains the National Collection of Heritage Vegetables, conserving 800 varieties that are not widely available. We share seed with our members to grow and enjoy and they in turn help to keep our heritage varieties alive and increase plant biodiversity for the future.
The heritage seed varieties mentioned during Gardeners’ World:
- Achocha ‘Fat Baby’: This variety of achocha has been known in the Caribbean since the 1930s. It produces an abundance of plump, yellow-green fruits covered with soft spines. Best picked when young and tender if using fresh, when the mild cucumber flavour can be appreciated. When a little more mature they can be fried or stuffed and braised.
- French bean ‘Kew Blue’: Originally from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, this variety has been handed down for at least three generations in the donor's family. The purple-pink flowers are complemented by purple-tinged leaves and stems and followed by flat purple pods. A healthy and vigorous vine producing a prolific crop of tender pods. Perfect for eating fresh or freezing, and when dried the beans have a rich, nutty flavour.
- Dwarf French bean ‘Navy Bean Edmund’: This variety came to the HSL from RHS Harlow Carr. Navy beans were first cultivated to sustain Australian forces during WWII and are the type used as 'baked beans'. The compact (around 20cm), branching plants have white flowers and short green pods with small round beans. The pods are held free of the ground, reducing slug or rotting problems. Principally a drying bean but can be eaten as a green bean too.
- Cucumber ‘Perfection’: A long fruited ridge variety once grown extensively for the seaside salad trade. Vigorous, hardy and productive, the straight, almost spineless fruits grow to around 20-30cm (8-12 inches) and have an excellent flavour. Suttons 1977 catalogue states: “it will crop well into the autumn provided that the fruits are cut before they get too old".
- Lettuce ‘Asparagus’: Originating in China and cultivated for its stem rather than its leaves. First described by Vilmorin-Andrieux (1885) when introduced to Europe, probably by missionary botanists working in China. The stem is excellent raw, like celery.