Saturday 27 March 2010

Seed guardian seeds

I should have posted on this days ago but was feeling too dreadful at the time. After sending the HSL a reminder, I got my Seed guardian info, followed a few days later by my seeds. I've taken on three varieties.

There's Mummy's Pea, one of several that the ancient Egyptian myth attaches to. I already have a few seeds of King Tut, which seems to be another of these.Egypt came under British domination after the Napoleonic Wars, and the first modern Egyptologists followed shortly afterwards. In no time, people were cashing in on all the publicity for ancient Egypt. Credulous tourists were sold peas which had been 'discovered' inside mummies, and seed merchants back home were soon offering peas with similar claims.

The remains of peas actually were discovered in Tutankhamun's tomb when it was excavated in 1922, and the myth transferred itself to this, with peas from the tomb supposedly having germinated. In fact, as you might expect, conditions in Egyptian tombs are not satisfactory for long-term seed storage. No seed from such a tomb has ever been found in a viable state, though a 2000-year-old Judean date palm from a dig in Palestine has been germinated, and found to be genetically quite different from any known date palm.

I suspect - though I don't know - that the various 'mummy peas' go back to the pre-Tutankhamun period, and those with variations on the Pharaoh's name come after. King Tut, AKA Prew's Pea (a name which has attached itself to several of these varieties) is grown in the US, and hasn't any history attached that I know of. Mummy's Pea, (also AKA Prew's Pea) comes from Durweston, near Blandford Forum, Dorset. The local gentry are the Portmans, who were friends of Lord Caernavon, who financed the Tutankhamun dig. Peas from Caernavon's kitchen garden may well have been passed on to their head gardener.

Then there's a climbing bean, Brejo, apparently a Native American heirloom. It's supposed to do well in wet springs, so it may turn out to be a winner. Finally there's an Estonian ridge cucumber, Izjastsnoi (I've no idea how to pronounce that!), which is said to be tolerant of poor treatment and cool temperatures, which is what I like to hear. Cucumbers are outbreeders which need to be isolated to prevent unwanted crosses, so it's going to be a bit more of a challenge.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Black Potatoes and Rare Peas

I've just acquired a few tubers of another old black spud called Negresse (yes I know, the name makes me cringe as much as anyone!). It's a 19th-Century French variety; the name should come adorned with accents, only I've no idea how to add them. It may well be another strain of the same variety. I'm going to grow both and see how they compare. If they survive the blight long enough to do anything that is, since they're extremely late maincrops. Many thanks to Ian for the parcel.

Supposedly, Vitelotte originated as an import from Peru. If so, then it's quite possible that there may be some genetic stability in it, or that several slightly different versions were brought over. It would be interesting to try hand-pollinating flowers, and see what grows from the seed.

Another parcel which arrived this morning, from Grunt, in Canada, contained Kent Blue Peas, the variety which launched my search for rarities, Carruthers' Purple Podded, supposed to be particularly tasty, and Ezethas Krombek Blauwshok. Kent Blue seeds are small, slightly dimpled, and adorned with purple speckles, which appear again on Carruthers, but not to the same extent. Krombek is a farm in Western Cape, South Africa, so was the variety bred, or preserved there, I wonder?

Meanwhile I'm planting peas like mad, but I've got the worst cold I've had in years, and that's about all I'm managing to do.

Friday 19 March 2010

Black Potatoes and Pink Onions

I've already posted about the probable Vitelotte I found in the market. I've now discovered a page here: which suggests that this and several other old black potatoes are strains of the same variety. It's going to be a question of growing them out and comparing them. If I can get a crop despite the blight, that is, since it seems to be endemic on the site now, and they're all late maincrops.

Not long ago I found some pink shallot type alliums in the market, which I planted to see what they did. I got the Plants of Distinction catalogue yesterday, and spotted a variety called Pink Torpedo ( , partway down the page), which looks just like it. If so they'll give me seed this year, and I'm definitely not complaining at that. From what they say, it's mild-tasting European variety.