Author Archives: Arthur McWerter

Vegetable seeds

Some of you will already have ordered your seeds for the coming year. Some of you will be browsing the catalogues and will be trying to reduce your initial selection, after all, you only have so much room to grow all that lovely veg! And the rest of us will be hoping that very soon we will have a garden or an allotment again in order to grow our own….boo hoo!

It is not necessarily such a good thing to have so much choice when it comes to selecting which varieties of vegetables to grow. The list seems to get longer and longer every year. Strange and obscure varieties from all over the place are now available to us, far more than probably ever before with the resurgence in growing your own. Having grown vegetables for many years now l have come to the conclusion that it is a pretty safe bet to choose the old trusted varieties wherever possible. After all, they have stood the test of time, usually have great flavour, and you know that what you are growing and will eventually eat will be the same as those folk who probably tended your plot all those years ago too. I get a great kick from that.Some modern varieties will offer greater disease resistance and possibly a heavier yield so the choice is yours. Its always good to try something new, or old come to that!

So what are these old varieties and where can they be found?

Most seed firms will offer some of these old varieties today and by scouring the internet you will also find specialist nurseries and seed companies offering ‘heirloom varieties’. Garden Organic, Chiltern Seeds, Suttons, amongst others. One of the best resources comes from Garden Organic and their HSL (Heritage Seed Library). Once you are a member they give you a choice of up to six different heritage seed varieties to grow that are not available to buy in the shops.

Back in the days of the Dig for Victory campaign seeds were generally bought loose in paper bags from your local supplier and the choice was take it or leave it! Very often it was first come first served especially when it came to seed potatoes. There were some good seed companies around who initially offered catalogues but as the war went on some decided the paper should be put to better use and hence catalogues became scarce. Seeds themselves became scarce due to the enormous demand the Dig for Victory campaign made on the seed companies which urged people to order early in order not to be disappointed. Not only do we have so much choice today we also have many other outlets in which to purchase our orders, including the wonders of the internet. I wonder what they would think of that?

The W.I. had access to a good seed supply that was given to them from the Canadian W.I. as a gesture of goodwill. Varieties included (Zucchini) courgettes and Mange-tout. I wonder what they thought of those?

Seed companies back in the 1940’s included Bees, Webbs, Lowis, Suttons, Carters, Dobbie & Co, Thompson & Morgan and Cuthberts who sold through Woolworths, of which both companies have since gone. I remember buying my seeds from Woolworths as they were usually much cheaper than the rest.

I have a good collection of books and catalogues from the 1940’s and these have adverts in from some of these old seed companies. Varieties included:

Potatoes; Arran Pilot, Duke of York, Epicure, Arran Banner, Gladstone, Majestic and King Edward.

Carrots: Early Horn, Early Market and James Intermediate.

Parsnip: Student and Tender and True.

Onions: Bedfordshire Champion, Ailsa Craig, Rousham Park Hero, Up to Date, Giant Zittau and White Lisbon.

Leeks: Lyon, Musselburgh, Prizetaker, and Walton Mammoth.

Runner Beans: Best of All, Princeps, Prizewinner and Scarlet Emperor.

Dwarf Beans: Canadian Wonder and Masterpiece.

Broad Beans: Broad Windsor and Seville Longpod.

Cabbages: Primo, Winnigstadt, January King, Offenham and Flower of Spring.

Brussels Sprouts: Harrisons xxx and Wroxton.

Cauliflower: Early London, Snowball, Allthe Year Round and Autumn Giant.

Broccoli: Veitch’s Self Protecting, Snow’s Winter White, Late Queen and Leamington.

Spinach: Long-Standing Summer, Round-Leafed Victoria and Prickly.

Celery: Covent Garden Red and Sandringham White.

Lettuce: All the Year Round, Feltham King, Lobjoit’s Green Cos, Arctic King, Stanstead Park and Hardy Winter White Cos.

Radish: French Breakfast, Scarlet Globe and parkler.

Tomato: Open Air and Sunrise.

Ridge Cucumbers: Stockwood Ridge and King of the Ridge.

Vegetable Marrows (Courgettes): Green Bush and White Bush.

This is not a comprehensive list and l will add more as and when l come across them. Maybe you can help me?

Of course, for those fortunate enough, you could have always saved some seed from last year. More on that next time.


Posted by on January 8, 2012 in January, The garden


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Here’s to 2012!

I just wanted to wish everyone a very Happy & Healthy New Year and to give a quick update on my position.

Well, we are still in our rental cottage. We have been here over 3 months now and are slowly narrowing down our search for a place to buy. It is hard work as not that many properties are coming onto the market. We love being back in good old Blighty and l have had some great book finds in the charity shops including a huge tomb of a book by the great Mr Middleton. I can’t wait to have my own garden again and hopefully in time to start a new plot for the coming growing season.

I will start to contribute to this blog again over the coming weeks but in the meantime l wish you all a great new growing year and may all your pests and bugs be few and your produce be bountiful and healthy!


Posted by on January 1, 2012 in The garden


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A New Life

Firstly, a big thank you to all who have welcomed me back to Blighty. It has been a long and tiring few weeks trying to organise everything and move countries but we have done it and, boy, is it great to be back!

I must be honest l haven’t had a lot of time to think about this blog but l do feel that by trying to continue with it whilst we only have a tiny courtyard size garden, would be defeating the whole point of what l set out to achieve. That is not to say l am going to totally abandon it, no, l will come back from time to time but my life now is here in England and until we move into our own house l feel another blog to document that would be far better than trying to keep a wartime gardening theme running along side it.

With that in mind l will set up another blog. It will follow my life and all that may bring! Question is do l use Blogger or WordPress? Both have pros and cons but l envisage a lot of photos and links so unsure. Your thoughts and experiences would be appreciated.

Well, they say a heatwave will soon be upon us and l suppose at this time of the year we can call that an Indian Summer. Better late than never! I will be harvesting some of these wonderful hedgerows over the coming days.

My next post will give a link to my new blog so until then thanks again and l hope to see you on the other side!


Posted by on September 27, 2011 in September


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Just a Quicky

We made it…just!

Its a long story but for now l just wanted to say how great it is to be back in Blighty!

The curry is lovely, the beer is even better and the fish and chips are wonderful! Oh, to be in England….

Autumn is looking great. I have never seen so much fruit in the hedgerows.

I will post more soon. Off to pub for Sunday lunch. Bliss.


Posted by on September 25, 2011 in Uncategorized



A Challenging Challenge

A new challenge has come my way courtesy of Tanya over at Chicandaluza.Thank you and l hope not to disappoint.

The rules are that I should have published a link related to the categories I´ll mention below, and that I should pass the challenge on to at least 5 other bloggers. Mmmm…this is out of my comfort zone but then l suppose that makes it all the more challenging. This is also difficult because most of my posts are on a set theme ie. a weekly post based on the advice written by Mr Middleton with comparisons to my garden so l suppose its the best of the bunch.

Deep breath, yoga breathing, count to ten, here goes……

The Most Beautiful Post: This award has to go to June- 4th WEEK. A few reasons why this post stands out for me because a) we had our son and his girlfriend stay with us that week and, although the weather wasn’t up to much, we got out and saw things together including La Roche Jagu which is just up the road, and b) it was when everything in the garden and the countryside was at its absolute best. May and June are such fantastic months to be outside and the garden was still full of hope and anticipation.

The Most Popular: Mmm, l suppose this has to go to Last Day of July. I had just got back from the UK and was full of self-doubt as whether or not l should continue with this blog. I was totally amazed at the responses l got asking me to continue. Your comments meant a huge amount to me and, even though l don’t really know any of you, l’m sure if we met in ‘real’ life we would be the best of friends.

The Most Controversial: Difficult one this as l try not to be too controversial here on, what is essentially, a gardening blog but the post that comes closest to controversy must be my criticism of the Chelsea Flower Show on Our Little Chelsea Flower Show. Ha!

The Most Helpful: It’s always nice to get feedback on any post but particularly nice when you ask for some help because then you know people out there have actually read my problems. So this has to go to June-3rd WEEK for when l asked help on protecting my carrots. I’ll be honest now, l still haven’t given them any protection and there isn’t a trace of carrot fly in sight.

The Post That Was Surprisingly Successful:
As most of you know, l love cooking and will try my hand at most things, apart from pigs trotters! So when l tried my hand at bread-making again and posted it on Bread Making it really got me fired up to get back into the fine art of baking. So l suppose you can say that by posting it on my blog then, yes, it was a success for me.

The Post That Did Not Get The Attention It Deserved: Ohhh, another difficult one because of reasons already stated. This being a gardening blog there is a wartime theme that runs alongside and now and again l will include historic moments that are relevant to that day. The D-Day landings was such a post and although l got some great responses to it l feel it is one of those dates that bypasses a lot of people but should really be better remembered.

The Post I Am Most Proud Of:
this is a no brainer. It has to go to my latest post My Sourdough- Creator of Life. I was so pleased with the results on a first attempt and that l had kept a photographic record of it so l could share it with everyone else. I often find myself doing something and regretting l hadn’t taken any photos. Yes, the sourdough is a small triumph for me.

Well, in the words of Bugs Bunny ‘That’s All Folks!’ It just leaves me to nominate 5 other bloggers. I have to admit to being a bit lazy when it comes to following others so l don’t have lots to choose from but lets see:

Plot 52


Two Chances Veg Plot

The Anxious Gardener

Ramblings From Rosebank

The gloves are off. Time to take up the challenge!


Posted by on August 18, 2011 in August



My Sourdough- Creater of Life

Sourdough, what does that conjure up in your mind l wonder? Unless you have eaten sourdough bread l should imagine it would be something like me; a heavy,yeasty, horribly sour tasting loaf that is best left to the extreme foodies of this world who have far more ‘cultured’ taste buds than me.

Well, when we returned to the UK recently l called in to Leakers Bakery in Bridport and bought one of their sourdough loaves. We had it toasted the next morning and it was delicious. In fact, it lasted nearly all week. My next step was to buy the River Cottage Handbook No.3 on Bread by Daniel Stevens.For the recipe just click here. If you are into making bread, thought of doing so or even just slightly considered it then you MUST buy this book. It will gently hold your hand throughout the whole process of choosing flours, which yeasts to use and the beautiful process of making your first or even your 50th loaf of bread. I am sure this is the process they must have used back in the war years when yeast was unavailable.

Having made a few loaves already from the book ie. White Loaf, Wholemeal Loaf and Malted Grain, which is excellent by the way, l decided to go for it and produce my own sourdough ‘starter’.

This magical process is a way of making your very own yeast from the natural yeast spores that are all around us by mixing flour with water and leaving it in a warm room for a day or so and wait for the first tell tale signs of tiny air bubbles to appear on the surface. At this stage you know you have just created a life form!

My Baby- 3 days old

Happy Birthday- 1 week old!

Ohh, scary…a new responsibility has just arrived and one that can, quite literally, stay with you for the rest of your life! Some starters have been around for 30 plus years! Anyway, having just created your new life you must throw half of it away and replace with more flour and water. This is called feeding the starter and has to be done everyday for the first 6 or 7 days. By the end of the week you should have a lively starter that is positively frothing.

Kneading my Baby

You are now ready to make your first loaf of sourdough. The recipe calls for making a ‘sponge’ with flour, water and a ladleful of the sourdough starter. Give it a good mix and leave in a warm place overnight. The next morning add the remaining flour and salt and stir up well. Then get your hands in and scoop the lot out onto a floured surface. Knead well adding a little more flour from time to time until smooth and silky.Place in a clean bowl and cover, leaving to double in size, about an hour. Then turn out and press with your fingertips to get the air out. Shape into a round and place back in the bowl and let it double in size again. Repeat twice again.

After the first proving


Place dough on a floured surface and again, using your fingertips, press it flat. Cut into sections and shape into loaves or place into tins. Cover, and leave to rise until double in size. This could take up to 3 hours. Get your oven up to a high heat, something like 240 or 250c.

The Final Proving

I place a pan of boiling water at the bottom of the oven to imitate the proper professional steam bread ovens that give the bread a good crust. Slash the tops of the loaves and bake for 10 mins . Check on the crust,if it is browning quickly turn down to 180c. Bake for a further 20 or 30 mins. Let it cool on a rack before slicing.

Look what my Baby has done!

A tin loaf

Well, l couldn’t resist a quick slice. Verdict: It is quite amazing really. To think this has been made with just yeasts from the wild is incredible. It has a nice slight tangy after taste, moist, and l can’t wait to toast some with a dollop of home-made blackberry and apple jam. Let me know if you try this too. Note: This is a labour of love really. It takes up a big chunk of your day but if you have things you can do in-between proving then its not so bad. I managed to sort out all my old CD’s ready for packing!


Posted by on August 14, 2011 in August, Cooking


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Chant de Marin…and a big shock!

So this post has absolutely nothing to do with gardening or Mr Middleton, but who cares when just 10 minutes down the road our local town of Paimpol is hosting the 10th Chant de Marin which is the biggest Sea Shanty music festival in France. Our small harbour town of just a few thousand suddenly swells to hundreds of thousands over 3 days of music and merriment.

This year the theme is Celtic Seas and the line up includes Simple Minds, The Chieftains, Sinead O’Connor, The Waterboys and loads of other acts. As well as that the small port becomes crammed with old sailing vessels from around the world some hosting acts on their decks. We have our tickets for tonight to see The Cheiftains and Simple Minds. What a line up! Just hope the weather holds as it has been grey and miserable this morning. Will let you know later so l will save this as a draft and publish it tomorrow and include some snaps.

The morning after the night before!

Hey, the weather was kind to us again, the sun came out and it was really warm. The harbour was buzzing and had some amazing boats in the quayside. So, with my sea legs on we took a walk about.

Ye Olde Galleon

There were boats of all shapes and sizes:

More old boats

There were some great acts playing around the harbour too:

Cool Kats

There were some lovely typical Breton Girls too:

Breton Girls

And then there was the music. The festival is held every two years with a different theme attracting some big names. This year The Chieftains got things started. These guys have been going for 50 years now! Incredible. Their music is beautiful as well as traditional. Paddy Maloney must be getting on a bit now. But he held things together and gave us a great show.

Paddy and The Chieftains

We were lucky and got right down by the stage for a great view. Later in their show they introduced us to someone who l remember as being a ‘spirited’ girl with Attitude! Her shaved head and elfin features have been replaced by something that must have shocked the whole audience.

Shock of the Year!

Any idea yet? In fairness to her she is pregnant but nonetheless not what l was expecting at all. Here’s another…maybe the tattoos will help you….

The new 'Mumsy' look!

Drum roll…………………..May l introduce you to Sinead O’Connor! Open jawed and staring in total disbelief the only thing that was recognisable was her voice. Well, she still has the ability to shock but not for the same reasons!

Moving swiftly on, we held our places to watch Simple Minds perform a brilliant gig. Being so close was incredible and the atmosphere was brilliant. Jim Kerr has changed, of course, but at least he is still recognisable.

Jim Kerr

They played all their hits and stuff from their latest album and nearly burst my ear drums.

Simple Minds

That’s all for me this year. It goes on for the weekend with the Mumsy Sinead O’Connor if you would like to see her. Meanwhile l think l need a soak in a deep bath to ease those pains from last night. Guess we are all getting older!


Posted by on August 13, 2011 in August


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