Veg to grow for a leaner long term

Courgette sunstripe 
'Sunstripe' courgette

Recent trials at the University of East Anglia show that diets rich in flavonoids (antioxidants) can help prevent weight gain. This gives me even more reason to enjoy growing and munching on my own celeriac, lettuces, apples, strawberries, raspberries, sweet peppers and parsley – just a few easy, delicious crops that are bursting with flavonoids.

Every year I grow a fair range of vegetables and every year I try different varieties, but our weird weather inevitably gives rise to surprises. My fennel (also high in flavonoids) sown in mid-July overwintered well and was surprisingly quite pickable till early December despite being outside and uncovered. I love fennel and will sow a couple of crops to pick quite small as baby fennel (far easier to grow), starting with the thinnings.

My celeriac 'Prinz’ has also stayed out. Commercial growers, who give it unflattering nicknames like “the ugly one” and “knob celery”, say it doubles in weight between mid-September and the second week in November when they lift it. Because of the warm weather and no risk of frosts, I lifted only as needed, prepared to do a last-minute dash to harvest them if a hard frost was forecast, but those not yet eaten are still in the ground and as big as those in shops, with sturdy green leaves.

Wasabi rocket Credit: GAP Photos

This highly nutty crunchy veg is a top favourite of mine raw in salads. To cook it I dice it in 1cm squares and sauté it in butter or oil with just a mean dessert spoon of water and some seasoning until it softens, serving it in the emulsion so nothing goes down the sink. It tastes unbelievably sweet even though it is low in calories but high in nutrients. This year I will again sow my celeriac in plugs indoors in March and plant out in mid-May.

A new plant I tried last year was a compact primo cane raspberry, 'Little Red Princess’ from Lubera ( It only grows just over 2ft high, so I stuck it in a large pot, and it coped brilliantly, producing large, very tasty fruit into December. Being a primo cane, it fruits on first-year growth, so if I cut it to the ground now it will fruit again next August/September.

Lunchbox Pepper Sweet Mixed F1 Credit: Thompson & Morgan

My sowing season is starting in earnest now. Nearly all my crops will be sown in plug trays in my greenhouse or on my kitchen window sills. I had some shallow galvanised trays custom-made to fit my long, thin kitchen window sills about 20 years ago to replace a collection of grotty saucers. This means I use every square centimetre of sill, with my plug trays cut to fit.

Most seeds germinate quickly with a little heat, I then move them out to my cold greenhouse or cold frame. I cheat further with Phillips LED lights ( These are brilliant, especially as one greenhouse faces north.

Impeccable taste

As for new varieties this year, there are some interesting introductions.

Wasabi rocket by Thompson & Morgan is something I will sow inside now and again later on if it is as tasty as they say. Apparently, it really does have the horseradish taste of true wasabi.

I will also sow carmine pink broad beans 'Karmazyn’ this weekend. As I often use young beans raw in salads I will be able to appreciate the rosy tones. Sadly they go grey/green when cooked.

'Mountain Magic' tomatoes Credit: GAP Photos

For those that suffer from blight on their outdoor tomatoes, 'Mountain Magic’ F1 is a breakthrough. It has golf-ball-sized fruit and has done brilliantly in taste and performance tests.

My favourite tomatoes are the tastier beefsteak types, although sadly they ripen far later than the smaller ones. 'Bloody Butcher’, a current favourite, is an heirloom variety. This ripens earlier than most and has excellent flavour. Another, 'Big Daddy’ F1, is said to be a top performer with big, meaty fruit and great taste, so both are all on for sowing in a few weeks.

The lunchbox-type sweet peppers are popular. Last year I grew 'Traffic Light’ grafted plants from Sutton Seeds. Some are still fruiting now in my cold greenhouse. Their small size makes them good for snacking. Also, the few seeds are clustered up near the stalk so you can discard them easily. This year I am trying 'Lunchbox Pepper Sweet Mixed F1’ ( I’ll sow these in a few weeks’ time and put a few plants outside in a sheltered raised bed in late May.

Broad beans 'Karmazyn’ 

Lettuce and salad leaves get top billing from me, as I like to make a different type of salad every day. Andrew Tokely of Kings Seeds ( says his wife’s favourite is 'Analena’, a newish butterhead lettuce. I don’t usually rate butterheads but this one reportedly has great flavour. It stands well too, for three weeks or so when mature. 'Intred’, is a red-leaved gem type, also from Kings Seeds, which, unusually, has red leaves throughout.

My new spiraliser will be put to great use ringing the changes and textures with many salad and pasta dishes. I am trying a new yellow and white striped courgette, 'Sunstripe’ F1 (Kings Seeds), which will be a colourful candidate for spiralising. Apparently it is high yield with good flavour and texture while being compact and, of course, high in flavonoids.