Tina Parsonage’s Natsuhikari cucumbers.
GARDENING ONE of the most satisfying elements of this column is being able to pass on information about varieties I’ve tried and liked over the years.
I feature two success stories — one variety which I’ve used and enjoyed for several years and another which is just coming into its own.
Of course, taste is purely a matter of personal preference — my favourite white wine of the moment may be too dry for a friend’s palate, likewise a tomato too tomatoey, thick-skinned or judged to be 'woolly’ by others.
But what has found universal acclaim is the F1 Natsuhikari cucumber from Dobies of Devon.
I recall Ray Fellows e-mailed to say he followed my recommendation and was rewarded with tasty cucumbers by the dozen. His was one of many praising the variety.
He vowed to do the same next year but there is a problem — Dobies appears to have discontinued it.
However, Tina Parsonage has ridden to gardeners’ rescue with a handy hint.
Tina writes: "Last autumn, I read your report about F1 Natsuhikari. I got the seeds from Dobies and grew them this year. They were the best cucumbers I had ever grown and plenty of them too!
"I think the seaweed compost made a difference. Four were grown in the greenhouse and three outside. All did very well."
When they came to the end of their lives, Tina thought she would order some more, only to find the Dobies cucumber cupboard bare of her new favourite.
"So, looking on the net, I found Edwin Tucker and Sons Ltd have these seeds — and better value at £2 for 20 seeds. They are based in Devon and can be found at http://www.tuckers-seeds.com
"They have sent me their catalogue and prices for seeds are very good. So I thought that you and the readers may be interested," she said.
Tuckers was established as a family firm in 1831 and remains an agricultural merchant, maltster and has country stores in the West Country.
Tina also told me she is also going to try to save the seeds.
It will be interesting to see what she gets.
F1 hybrids are a cross between two parent varieties, ending as a mix of the two.
If you save seeds they will not be true to the parent.
There is handy information on saving seed and other organic gardening tips at www.motherearthnews.com
The second success story is especially topical at this time of year when there are still many apple varieties to harvest.
Almost three years ago, I was privileged to have one of the first of the early release of apple Redlove and ran a reader offer, so there will be several gardeners out there who can probably endorse this really fine, tasty and interesting fruit.
I didn’t allow it to fruit in its first season in my mini-orchard and in its second there were just two diminutive apples, which were picked off by the birds and wasps before I noticed.
This year, they were abundant — too much so, really. I should have picked off the fruitlets early on to ensure a smaller number of larger apples.
But those I have are a delight. Although resistant to scab — which has been a problem this year — their skins have not been perfect, but that touch of ugliness is only skin deep.
Just as Suttons said in its description, the apples have crisp, rosy-red flesh with a beautiful pattern running through it.
In springtime, there was the hint the little tree was to be laden because there was a mass of striking deep pink blossom, which stayed on the tree longer than the average tree, meaning the best chance of pollination.
Not only is it a good eater with a flavour like a Cox, but with an extra hint of tartness — great in fruit salads and for cooking when it retains its colour.