A4A Seed Saver Group 2017


Bolivian Giant Achocha (jagged type seeds). I originally got my seeds from Realseeds where mine were only the jagged type. They have always been a reliable cropper and I do tend to grow this variety in the greenhouse. Using the fruits stuffed or chopped up in place of green pepper.  Penedesenca

Bolivian Giant Achocha (round seeded)–  Galina says ‘A seed circle repeat.  My seed source was Jayb, who in turn got them from Real Seeds.  Both Real Seeds and Jayb recommended growing in a greenhouse or poly, but as the plants are big and vigorous I started them off indoors and planted out later.  Which only just worked in the first year, but Clumsy, who also grew them had much better success.  From those seeds that were only just emergency ripened, I again grew them outdoors.  And also in the greenhouse, but as soon as the weather got warmer, I directed the plant out of the door.  An alternative would be to give cloche protection initially.  Last year’s fruit was just huge and it was earlier too.  Maybe we are acclimatising these achochas to the UK.  And hopefully in just a few more generations they will be as easy to grow as the more familiar achochas Fat Baby and Lady’s Slipper.
We were also wondering about the seed shape.  This achocha has two shapes, the jagged type and a round type.  Both Clumsy and I started with round seeds and have only seen round seeds for two generations.  It may be a true-breeding characteristic’. Galina

Above: Bolivian Giant Achocha (round seeded). Photo provided by Galina

Jayb said in 2014 ‘a late season cropper, enjoying the cool and shorter days of the autumn season. This is my first season growing this variety and they proved to be vigorous climbers grown inside a poly tunnel, I expect they would manage well enough in a sheltered sunny spot outside, though cropping might be a bit reduced.  The fruits are quite a bit larger than both the regular type Slipper and Fat baby varieties. Taste is on a par with the other types, though these are an ideal size for stuffing, plus they are have thicker flesh. I sourced these from Real Seeds, two types of seed were in the packet,  a smooth rounded and a rough irregular type. Also noted on the packed ‘some fruit are spinier than others’. It’s possible they have been supplied as a mixed landrace variety, you might get some variation in future generations and hopefully there will be some adaptation to local growing conditions’ .

Fat Baby Achocha. Frost sensitive but grows well outside. Germination success tends to be only about 50%. Plants that have been sown indoors several weeks before the last frost don’t produce any sooner than plants that have been sown direct outdoors on the last expected frost date. Produces a hollow fruit that tastes like cucumber. Can be eaten whole when small (<2 cm), or wait until they have become hollow, at which point it’s easy to remove the seeds from a fruit that’s been nicked open with a knife.  Annual. Martinburo


Allium Canadense – Meadow Garlic. Seed originally bought from Chiltern Seeds . Chiltern says  ‘In the kitchen you have a choice: dig up the whole plant when young and use like scallions, pickle the bulbils and enjoy as a snack with your favourite beverage, or use the pure white bulb, crisp and mild as a standard onion’. The flowers are loved by bees and stand well in cut flower displays. Penedesenca

Walking Onion  ‘Catawissa’. Walking onions grow from these little bulbs into large spring onion type plants.  The second year they send up flower scapes with one or two tiers of top bulbils.  At the same time (a bit like shallots) the original bulb also divides.  Eventually when the top bulbs have matured, the the scape dries up and falls over.  And the topset onions root where the stem came to rest, a little way off the parent plant.  The new onions appear to have ‘walked’ away from the parent plant.  There are many uses for this plant.  Like spring onion, the multiplied onions like shallots and the top sets for pickling onions or for stews, also good in salads.  They are propagated from the smaller top set bulbs, I have never seen true seeds although there are flowers among the developing top set onions. Galina

Walking Onion ‘ Moritz’. This variety is very similar to Catawissa, but the top bulbil clusters are a little larger with more little onions and they are more purple red at the base.  I got this variety from Hector on A4A and it is doing well. Galina

Welsh Onion. Welsh onions are a great addition to the veg patch whether they are used or not. They are hardy and grow away steadily without being thuggish. The flowers are loved by bees. In the kitchen they can be used as onion greens or a strong replacement for chives. Penedesenca

Climbing French Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)

Brutt e Buon. It is an Italian bean. And if Google translate got it right it means something like ‘ugly and good’.   Green pods with a lot of purple speckling. https://www.theeasygarden.com/threads/2017-little-easy-bean-network Ruud

Croft’s Italian CFB originally from HSL. HSL says ‘A white seeded, Italian variety, originating in Urbino. They are so pretty that our donor, HSL volunteer Rob Croft, grows these beans for their decorative qualities, rather than to eat. It produces tall vines (>2m), cream flowers followed by green, pencil pods with a good ‘beany’ flavour. Let us know what you think’. Markfield Rover

Gigandes originally from Chris Cross. A nice fat butter bean type. Pumpkinlover

Mennonite Stripe. Galina says ‘My source for these beans was Chris Cross from A4A.  This is a giant of a bean.  Huge pods and very thick too.  Light green with purple stripes.  Does not take many to fill a pot for dinner.  We love them as green beans, but Chris mainly uses the large seeds as drying beans.  As the name suggests these hail from the Mennonite communities in the USA.
http://secretseedcartel.com/product/waterloo-county-mennonite-pole-bean/ Galina

Above: Mennonite Stripe Bean. Photo provided by Galina

Ortner Speck Bean. http://www.bohnen-atlas.de/sorten/o/1629-ortner-speck Ruud

Ray’s Butter Bean originally from HSL.  An Australian-bred ex-commercial variety – which has been lost from cultivation in Australia – benefits from an early sowing.  Very heavy crops of delicious yellow flat pods which hold very well  ‘ Markfield Rover

Dwarf French Beans

Emperor of Russia DFB  Originally  from Adam Alexander, veggingoutwithadam.com
His description…. One of the finest French beans you will ever eat . Prolific and very early. Sow seeds under bottle cloches for their first month of growth in early May for a crop on early July. An abundance of very long pencil thin and completely stringless pods are bourne on plants that grow to 2′. Support with string and a network of short stakes . Harvest when 5″ long. For late crop sow in July to harvest from September. Markfield Rover

Giant Stringless dwarf bean from last years HSL. HSL says ‘Donated as part of a collection given to HSL in the early 1980s by American, Russell Crow. This 19th century American heirloom produces compact (40-50cm) plants but BIG beans. An early producer of long, stringless green pods with dark seeds. HSL member D Giblin says, “When picked young it has a fine delicate flavour, and as a dried bean it is on par with the best!” Sow to harvest 107 days (approx.)’ Pumpkinlover

Royality DFB.  Originally from HSL . Markfield Rover

Xenia Field dwarf bean also HSL. HSL says ‘Journalist, professional gardener and politician Xenia Field died, aged 103, in 1998; this bean is without doubt a
tribute to a most fascinating woman. Once available from
Unwins it was claimed to be high yielding, disease
resistant and perform well in British conditions. White
flowers are followed by straight, green pods that are best
picked when young and string-less. Also freezes well.’ Pumpkinlover says ‘I think that this is the nicest pencil bean I have grown, it was a torment not to pick and eat it.’ Pumpkinlover

Runner Beans

Painted Lady runner bean. Chilterns say ‘Originating before 1855 and recommended in Nicholson’s Encyclopaedia of 1888, this is still a variety to grow in your kitchen garden to receive a regular quota of runner beans to keep you healthy. With an abundance of beautiful, bicolored red and white flowers, this is a plant that will not be out of place anywhere in your garden, and the family will enjoy the outstanding flavour of the very tender, medium length pods.’ Pumpkinlover


Ragged Jack Kale. Frilly blue purple leaves, can be sown in spring for a main crop of kale or later in the year for smaller leaves for salads and stir fries. Robert Brenchley


Melon ‘Petit Gris de Rennes’ Little grey melon from Rennes.  A small greenish netted melon with very sweet flesh if left to ripen fully.  After so many years of trying and trying again to grow melons in the greenhouse, this variety finally worked and I hope it works for you as well.  These are large grapefruit sized fruits, just enough for two.  Galina

Herbs and Edibles

Turkish rocket. What I’ve sent in are seedpods with a single seed in each. It might increase germination success if you crack the pods open. But the plants become quite substantial, ~40cm across, so you probably don’t need to worry about having every single seed germinate. Tastes somewhat like endives. Perennial. Martinburo

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) 

Australian Yellow Leaf. An extra large, loose-leaf variety, extremely slow to bolt.  Very striking, bright yellowy/lime-green leaves, making a beatiful contrast with other varieties.  Source:  Realseeds. Earlypea

Above: Australian Yellow Leaf with Bath Cos and Cinmarron (thanks Galina!) in background for contrast. Photo provided by Earlypea

Peas (P. sativum)

Blauwschokkers Purple Podded Peas aka Tall Dutch Grey. Description here
https://www.dobies.co.uk/Garden/Vegetables I first got these seeds in a seed swap a few years ago, and have grown them ever since. Very pretty in flower you can eat them when small and skinny as mangetout, but mostly I freeze them for winter, making soup or ‘mushy peas’ as they are a bit more starchy. Plot 18

Pea Carter’s ‘Daffodil’ My source was a swap with a gardener, who in turn swapped these from the USA, where a chap, who called himself ‘the American Gardener’ intended to start a seed shop for old heritage varieties.  He ‘liberated’ the variety from a seed bank in USA.  Yet this is a quintessentially English pea from the famous Carter’s seeds in Raynes.   And it definitely warrants being grown today, as it is still a good variety.
This is Carter’s own catalogue description: (Wrinkled Marrowfat, 18 inches)  A  dwarf and very prolific Marrowfat Pea with the highest possible commendations, being of the rich deep colour of the Stratagem type, and a decided improvement upon British Wonder and the new types of English Wonder.  It is a first early of bushy habit, and about 18 inches, obviating the necessity for sticks and rendering it serviceable for borders.  Its pods are larger than most of the well-known Peas of the early dwarf class, while the quality of flavour of the Pea is delicious.   More reading here:  https://archive.org/stream/JamesCarterComa00JameAM#page/82/mode/2up/search/daffodil  Galina

Telephone. An early maincrop pea dating back to 1885. 6ft+ vines, can get to 10ft. Heavy yields, lovely sweet flavour. Pods swell before peas are full size so check a few pods first before you pick them all! Silverleaf

Pepper, Chilli (Capsicum)

Trepadeira Werner’ We had this in the seed circle already from Goodlife, who was my seed source.  Very nice little chilli, not too hot but excellent flavour and the plants were loaded with these little pepper ‘cherries’.
http://seedsaverscircle.org/seed-circle/a4a-seed-saver-group-2014/  Galina

Urfa Chilli.  Ruud

Pepper, Sweet (Capsicum annuum)

Mila’s Bulgarian is an early red pepper, originally from Irish Seed Savers. http://www.irishseedsavers.ie/supporters/tomatoes-and-peppers.php  As long as you pinch out the growing point, so that they branch, they will produce lots of flowers/fruit. I grow mine in supermarket flower pots in the greenhouse. Plot 18


Carrot:  Gniff (not self-saved) Very enjoyable to grow.  As described below there is a lot of variety in each.  As you slice in you find a different world each time.  They are slow-growing and small but bulbous.  I believe they should do well in heavier soil (I have fine, carroty soil myself).  The pictures below are from August after an early April sowing.  Ones that I dug up in the Autumn hadn’t grown any longer, but grown in breadth with multiple roots and looked like purple mountain landscapes (if you turned them upside down!).  They have an ususually dense texture so not good for raw eating, but keep for much longer before going floppy. Source:  Kokopelli.
Here is the history from rareseeds.com “A very rare landrace from the Tessin region of Switzerland. These amethyst colored carrots were re-discovered in the 1950s in the picturesque Alps village of Bre being grown by local women who sold them at famers markets. “Gniff” is translated to purple in the local dialect. Being a landrace, there is a range of expression of colors in this carrot, always a purple exterior with a various amount of violet inside. This is a slow-growing storage carrot that is tradionally pickled; locals will steam, slice and preserve in olive oil, parsley and garlic.” Earlypea

Above: Gniff carrot. Photos provided by Earlypea

Parsnip. This is F5 now, I think. I started out with several varieties, Tender and True, Avon resistor, and at least 2 others that I can’t find back now. Biennial. Martinburo

Parsnip Guernsey Half-Long. Seeds originally from HSL and the seeds sent into the parcel are a mix from 3 parsnips I left to flower and set seed. I really like them – they did very well in my heavy clay soil without many that looked tentacular. Sparrow

Squash/Pumpkin (Cucurbita)

Winter Squash ‘Figleaf Pumpkin aka Sharkfin Melon’ My seeds came from this seed circle.  It is a winter squash also, but the longest storing of all, up to two years.  Cucurbita ficifolia as the leaves look a little like fig leaves.  This one is rampant and does need space, but produces generously.  The pumpkins are large, egg shaped and look pretty much like an oblong water melon.  The white flesh has a curious ‘thready’ consistency, which is why a classic use for this squash is making jam – angel hair jam.  A bit like the shredded orange bits in marmalade.  My preferred use is in chutneys with raisins.  Can be substituted for apples, for cucumbers in pickles etc.  Recently somebody on A4A mentioned using it in soup.  We tried that and it is really good as mock sharkfin flesh.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cucurbita_ficifolia . Galina

Above: Figleaf Pumpkin. Photo provided by Galina

Squash Potimarron – depending on who you read, this is either a larger variant of Uchiki Kuri or the same thing. Either way they are very tasty. I have been self-saving these for a few years now and these seeds were crossed with male flowers from 4 different parent plants, which I hope is enough to maintain vigour for now. Lovely chestnut-flavoured flesh. Sparrow

Winter Squash ‘Todo el Año’ A cucurbita maxima squash originally from Real Seeds when they were still in Spain and called Vida Verde.  A traditional Spanish Squash.  The name  translates to ‘all year round’, because it stores so well.  This was the only c maxima squash in the garden and the neighbours  only grow lawns, so fingers crossed it hasn’t crossed.  I have handpollinated one fruit but that had barely a dozen seeds.  Nice dark yellow fleshed squash, good for cutting into wedges and baking in the oven, but equally good cut into smaller pieces, steamed and mashed or just fried in olive oil with a bit of chili and a clove of garlic.  This is a medium large squash.   No need to peel, the skin cooks soft which is just as well because of its bumps. Galina

Above: Todo el Año squash. Photo provided by Galina

Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum)

Black Seaman Totally Tomato says ’75 Days  A hardy Russian heirloom that looks odd but tastes delicious. Rich, tangy tomato flavor in medium-sized, 4 to 8 oz. fruits with brown-black skins and pink shoulders. Fruits are slightly plum-shaped, revealing skeleton-like veins when blanched and peeled. Short, potato leaf plants. Plant early for best results.  Determinate’ Robert Brenchley

Bosque Bumblebee tom. J and L seeds says ‘This new and very rare tomato has deep purple shoulders on a glorious yellow background. It is a smaller salad tomato, juicy, with luscious texture and a sweet citrus flavor. You can pick a couple a day over a long season off the vigorous 6 foot indeterminate plants. Bumblebee takes about 70 days to produce ripe fruit from transplanting. Bred here on our farm.’ Ruud

Fox Cherry Tomato. Acquired via a swap with a head gardener near Norwich but originally from HSL. Perfect if you want large cherry toms on the vine. Not my first choice for flavour or quantity but it is definitely worth growing once in a while. I have grown this is a hot green house, a cool green house and outside and it has always performed. The fruit will also last on the plant if you are not ready for them. Penedesenca

Reif Red Heart Tom. Tomatofest says ‘ A family heirloom from Italy. From J. Reif in PA, who got the seeds from an elderly Italian man. Big vines with wispy leaves producing lots of beautiful red, 10-12 oz., heart-shaped fruits. Meaty & very flavorful. Ruud

Tomato ‘Roughwood Golden Plum’ This is a bright golden yellow sauce tomato with thick flesh, which was bred by food and garden historian and chef William Woys Weaver.   He crossed Yellow Brandyvine with San Marzano.  This one is a superior cooking tomato, but can also be used for salads and sandwiches.  Almost round, not quite plum shaped.  It isn’t quite a determinate and not quite an indeterminate either.  I grow it on a support stick, but don’t prune the side shoots.   My seed source was that magic seed parcel from Jeannine and Jayb that did the rounds a few years ago. https://store.tomatofest.com/Roughwood_Golden_Plum_p/tf-0431.htm Galina

Early bush tomato:  Silvery Fir Tree – Notable for their unusual frothy, silvery foliage (didn’t manage to capture the beauty of it on camera).  Abundant flattened early tomatoes, larger than expected – very juicy. Think they would grow better in containers as difficult to manage down on the ground. Grown outside SW London:  sown 6 March, cropping from 13 July in what was a good summer. Earlypea

Above: Abundant, but quite difficult to manage plants. Photo provided by Earlypea

Above: First proper harvest 2nd week July (some others tomatoes in there – it’s the large flat ones that are silvery Fir). Photo provided by Earlypea

Taxi. Totally Tomato says ‘ 65-70 Days The best yellow variety for short season areas. Bright yellow 4 to 6 oz. fruits are smooth and blemish free. Flesh is meaty, mild and acid free. Excellent fresh for salads, sandwiches or adds a nice splash of color to salsas. Heavy yielder over a 3 to 4 week period. Determinate’ Robert Brenchley

Yellow Brandywine but Platfoot strain originally bought from Tomatofest
“The Platfoot strain of Yellow Brandywine, from Gary Platfoot of Ohio, is considered to produce smoother fruit and a better yield than the original strain from Charles Knoy of Indiana in 1991. ”
https://store.tomatofest.com/Brandywine_Yellow_Tomato_Seeds_p/tf-0084.htm Earlypea

Above: Yellow Brandywine Tomato. Photo provided by Earlypea

True Potato Seeds

Russian Blue. Offspring from the F2’s of 2015 (Russian Blue TPS (F2) – Russian Blue and Skagit Magic seeds were from last year’s TPS sown plants which showed a lot of variety in colour and pattern, so who knows what will turn up?) Robert Brenchley


Oca – again a partial repeat. There are 3 varieties in each paper envelope: red/white, peach and ‘black’. The latter is more of a very dark red and came from @rhizowen on twitter. The first 2 varieties were thought to come originally from JayB but do not match past dates and photos. Red/white makes fewer but larger tubers in my experience, and the peach one is just copious, but often small. There might be a couple of packs with albino tubers in too – they are meant to be red/white but the red appears to have leached out. Not sure if its offspring will stay white or the red will return. Sparrow

Taking part:

Pumpkinlover – Gigandes butter bean, Painted Lady runner bean.
Giant Stringless dwarf bean and Xenia Field dwarf bean.
Markfield rover –
CFB Crofts Italian, Ray’s butter bean, DFB Emperor of Russia and  Royality.
Penedeseca –
Giant Bolivian Achocha (jagged type seeds), Allium Canadense,
Welsh Onion and Tom – Fox Cherry
Sparrow – Parsnip Guernsey Half-Long, Squash Potimarron  and Oca.
Silverleaf – Telephone Pea
Plot 18 –
Blauwschokkers Purple Podded Peas and Mila’s Bulgarian pepper
Seacarrot – Hungarian Butter Bean
Ruud – Bosque Bumblebee tom, Reif Red Heart Tom., Urfa Pepper ,brutt e buon and ortner speck both are pole beans.
Martinburo – parsnip F5 , Turkish rocket and Achocha fat baby
Earlypea – Bush tomato:  Silvery Fir Tree, Vine tomato:  Yellow Brandywine (Sudduth Strain), Lettuce:  Australian Yellow Leaf  and Carrot:  Gniff (not self-saved)
Robert Brenchley – Ragged Jack Kale, TPS Russian Blue, Taxi Tom and Black Seaman Tom.
Galina – Carter’s daffodil dwarf pea, melon Petit Gris de Rennes, Roughwood Golden Plum Tom., Mennonite Stripe beans, chili Trepadeira Werner, squash Todo el An~o, round seeded giant Bolivian Achocha,  Catawissa and Moritz walking onions.