Rose to the Challenge, Keen on Quinoa, Amazing Amaranth & Ex-seedingly Good Idea

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 13th January 2018 
Rose to the Challenge

One of the lovely things about the new year is finding seed catalogues amongst the bills on the mat when you come home.  They make great reading at this time of year as a welcome reminder that spring is just around the corner.  I have already seen snowdrops out and daff leaves are pushing up determinedly. ‘We are the right side of Christmas’, as my dad used to say!

Although, I have also had a rose in front of the cottage, which has continued to flower throughout the winter – and is continuing to do so.  It has brought so much pleasure to every short winter day – through frost, wind and even snow, and has brought a whole new meaning to ‘Christmas Rose’.

Keen on Quinoa

As well as my old favourites, I always try to grow something new each year – last year I tried chickpeas and lentils (honestly) from the Franchi range. Apparently they are ‘easy to grow’; not on my plot they weren’t.  The chick peas didn’t even germinate.  I’ll probably try again, but I’m going to stick with the ‘superfood theme’ and try growing some healthy grains as well.

The Real Seed Catalogue offers Quinoa (Keen-wah) – and even two varieties.  The Rainbow quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), with it’s variety of colours, has been selected for it’s open flower-shape that sheds water easily and helps grow good seed even in slightly damper climates (like the west coast of Wales where Real Seeds are based.)  One of the many lovely things about this company is that they have experience of growing their seeds in the often-awkward Welsh climate.

The plants will reach around 6ft tall, with attractive flower-heads (that start off green but turn beautiful rainbow colours, hence the name) and would be a great addition to the back of a flowerbed if you don’t have a veggie patch.

The second variety they sell is ‘Temuco’ Quinoa, which they have found to be a good cropper.

Amazing Amaranth

I will also be trying the ‘Mixed Grain Amaranths’.  As I don’t eat meat or dairy products, I use a lot of Amaranth for protein.  It is a great grain to add to soups, stews and even to rice to add a nutty flavour.

Each plant can contain 200,000 seed per plant, and the Real Seed Amaranth Mix has been specially bred from their trials over 20 years.  It produces early, and gives a good yield of seed that is easily threshed.

They recommend simply starting seeds from late April in pots like tomatoes, and plant out as seedlings.  They, like Quinoa, are not fussy about conditions and are easy to grow.  The red, pink and yellow flower-heads are also attractive in their own right, so another good addition to the mixed border, reaching around 60 cm

There is lots of really helpful advice (and interesting bits) on the website, including how to grow and harvest.  And it’s not at daunting as you may think.

Pop into www.realseeds.co.uk/grains.html for more details or call 01239 821107. The other thing I love about the company is that they are obviously grafters – they are not sat in a warm office all day but usually outside working in the fields. For this reason, they ask you leave a message or ask your question via email.

Ex-seedingly Good Idea

Once I have placed my orders, I always use the seed catalogues for wrapping paper – recipients love the idea (occasionally seemingly more than the present!) and it’s a great form of recycling. Decoupage is another great way to recycle old seed catalogues. A creative and time-rich friend used some of my old seed catalogues last year to cover a tatty Ikea bookcase, which she then varnished.  It looked great, fair play. Being long on creativity but short of time, it did inspire me to stick some old magazine columns on the side of my bookcase to funk it up (see pic).  It won’t win any design awards but has started a few conversations.

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