ABOUT THE REAL SEED CATALOGUE – VEGETABLE SEEDS THAT GERMINATE QUICKLY AND GROW WELL.
Seed You Can Trust
We’ve been producing seed for fourteen years now, and we pride ourselves on our reputation for excellent seed quality. We only send out really good seed; we are gardeners too and we know the frustration that poor seed could cause. We are registered with DEFRA: all our seed is grown, dried and stored professionally, and gets fantastic feedback from people.
Our Seed Collection
We’re a bit different from other places you might get seed from. We also grow all these veg for our own family use, so if it’s in our catalogue, we know well how it grows, and how it tastes. We don’t like things that are fiddly or difficult to grow, so we just don’t offer them.
Over the years we have tried thousands of varieties and collected together what we think are the very best vegetables in existence for the home gardener – both valuable heirlooms and really good modern strains.
You’ll find no hybrids or genetically modified seed here – just varieties that do really well and taste great when grown by hand on a garden scale.
Seed You Can Save Yourself
One of the main aims of the company – written into its deeds – is to educate and encourage home seed saving. All our varieties are real, open-pollinated seed (non-hybrid), so you can save your own seed for the future, using instructions we supply. We have written freely-copyable seed-saving guides, and we sell a more detailed seed-saving book at a subsidised price. There’s really no need to buy new seed every year – you can just save your own.
How our Catalogue is Different
We only offer what we know is really good, rather than listing lots of different varieties just for the sake of it. But most importantly, everything here has been chosen – from hundreds of trials – for a particular reason , which we try to explain in the description.
You get the benefit of our experience because we print you out detailed instructions and observations with your seeds. For the more unusual plants, you get recipes too. So no need to worry that you won’t know what to do with it once you’ve grown it!
We make our own catalogue and our own website, so they’ve been written by gardeners, for gardeners – it may not be particularly flashy, but we think you’ll find it easy to know what each variety does, how it grows, and when to sow it.
We really hope you enjoy these vegetables as much as we have enjoyed tracking them down and trying them out. Each & every one has been chosen for its merit in the kitchen as well as the garden.
Our aim is to offer you the very best seed of the best varieties we can find!
Ben Gabel & Kate McEvoy, with lots of help from Catherine, Tam, Anja, Jemma, and Kate S.
We had always grown our own vegetables, and slowly came to realise that most modern varieties have been bred for the needs of large-scale chemical farming, where all aspects of the environment are controlled with fertilisers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.
Supermarkets demand shiny fruit that are tough to survive shipping and display, and these are what are being bred.
But these commercial varieties give poor results when grown on a home scale without all their chemicals. And whatever has happened to qualities such as flavour and tenderness?
Luckily, we found that there do still exist many old heirloom varieties, representing centuries of careful selection and breeding for small-scale growers.
We track down and try out those that sound promising, and those that do well we add to our Collection. They come from many places – we trade with other plant collectors and heirloom vegetable projects, government seed banks, and donations from the public.
We also look for interesting plants that are well known in other countries, and could do well in the UK, but have so far remained relatively unknown.
Our aim is simple: to assemble the best collection of really reliable, tasty and interesting non-hybrid vegetables for the home gardener, allotment grower, or smallholder.
Who and where are we?
We are a family business. Kate has grown vegetables from childhood, and Ben studied as a plant scientist, which comes in handy for the more complicated breeding projects. We try to live a low-impact lifestyle – we grow most of our own food (all those trial vegetables!), and our house and office are completely solar, wind, and water-powered.
We also have several people who work for us helping grow, harvest and pack the seeds, as well as helping run the office and send out orders.
We started growing in Cambridge in the 1990s, later moved to Spain for seven years, and are now based on a small farm in Wales. These three very different climates have given us a really good overview of how our different vegetable varieties do in different conditions!
No matter what you choose, you should expect excellent germination, fantastic growth, and great flavour.
We work hard to choose good varieties and grow good seed – we take pride in supplying the best available.
And we want you to feel that you can really rely on it – so here is our unique guarantee:
If you are in any way not completely happy with your seeds, plants, or even the flavour of the resulting crop, we will cheerfully replace your seed, refund your money, or send a credit note – whichever you prefer.
We don’t think you’ll need to use this guarantee, but if you do have a problem, just get in touch – we need to know about it so we can fix whatever went wrong, and do it better next time.
WE DO NOT SUPPLY HYBRID SEED OR GM SEED
We only supply Real, Open Pollinated seed. Here’s why:
Real Seed breeds true, so you can save your own seed.
But that’s not the only reason . . . real vegetable seed is better:
Hybrid (“F1″) seed is the result of a cross between two different , but heavily inbred parents. Seed you save from these plants will either be sterile or a give a whole mix of shapes and types, usually producing a poor crop.
Only the seed company knows what the parents are, thus only they can produce that particular variety. If you want to grow it, you have no other source – good for the seed companies but not for you! Small growers should be able to keep their own seeds, selecting each year the best plants most suitable for their own land and conditions.
Yes, there are a few exceptions, but in general, the hybrid seed business has been a public relations victory over the small grower. For example, you will soon see more and more hybrid leek seed offered to you. This is because the supermarkets have set incredibly rigid limits on leek size, and the only way to achieve this is through hybridising two inbred varieties, so all leek seed production is switching to hybrids.
You will be told that these new leeks are ‘more uniform’, ‘straighter’ and so on. But what about flavour and adaptability? People seem to forget that we want to eat & enjoy these things – food is not just a commodity!
Despite common urban myths, there is no magic about hybrids. So-called “hybrid vigour” is the simple fact that good hybrid seed is better than bad real seed, and that sadly much of the real seed you get now has been badly maintained. But good real seed – which admittedly requires time, care and patience to produce and maintain – must, by virtue of the genetics of these things, be just as good, and in fact much more adaptable to different soils.
The key here is that it takes less manpower to make the hybrid seed, so the wholesale seed growers are much happier to let the old varieties fade away.
And as for the cost of hybrid seed, this is another mystery. Hybrids are not made by hand. Yes, they were in the past, but not for many years now. Most hybrid pollination nowadays is done by chemical sprays, not hand pollination, so hybrid seed shouldn’t be any more expensive than other seed. There may be a slight extra cost associated with the spraying, but it certainly doesn’t justify the high prices and tiny packets some companies are offering.
Basically, seeds are now bred for large industrial farms (which is where the money is) and you, the home grower, just get fobbed off with a few of the same thing. Modern advert copywriting sometimes tries to disguise this. So when you’re offered something that’s ‘good for freezing’, what they mean is that it was bred to ripen all at once for machine harvesting & you’ll get a glut.
Here are a few examples from 2004 catalogues that we found: How about ‘really uniform fruit’ – which often means ‘inbred for the supermarket, narrow genetic base, may not adapt to your soil’. Or ‘straight long shanks’ usually means ‘bred to fit the packing machine.’ Or the best one yet – ‘Leafless peas – easy to find the pods’ translates as ‘much smaller yield (the plants have no leaves !) – but at least now we’ve got rid of the leaves we can harvest them with a combine.’ What a sad situation this is, with marketing people rather than gardeners writing the descriptions in modern seed catalogues.
In summary, hybrid seed can indeed have advantages for the industrial-chemical farmer who wants to harvest all at once. But for the small home grower who wants a good yield over a long period, real seeds are usually more productive.
This has been shown time and time again, and we think that once you have tried the real open-pollinated varieties we have found, you will agree.
A NOTE ON GENETIC ENGINEERING OF PLANTS & OTHER GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS (GMOs)
Although Ben studied genetic engineering at university, all of our breeding is by traditional methods only. On grounds of both safety and ethics we strongly oppose all genetic engineering and the patenting of plants.
The subject is very complex, but the dangers are very simple. We believe that, without exaggeration, the release of Genetically Modified crops truly is a dangerous practice that threatens the entire ecosystem.
It is simply not true that Genetically Modified crops will solve third-world food problems or require less pesticides. This is no more than advertising ‘spin’.
Genetic engineering is NOT just a variant of what farmers and breeders have done for centuries. It is a completely new science that can give very odd, very different and highly unpredictable results. It is not ‘natural’ for a plant to have a fish gene in it, and there is no knowing what odd poisons the plant might make as a result of finding fish proteins floating around in its sap.
GM plants are probably unsafe to eat, but we don’t know for sure, because due to intense political lobbying, none of these plants have undergone any food safety testing(!) – which is why it is important that food should be labelled as to whether it contains GM ingredients or not. The only benefit of GM crops is to the large multinationals that are using them to take control of the worlds food supply.
We will not knowingly have anything to do with genetically modified seeds