Thursday 30 December 2010

Inspiration for the Winter months


2010 hasn't been the best of years. Since returning from France at the beginning of November for the holidays it's been hard to find anything of note to be joyful about. The weather has been grimly cold, one ambition after another has been thwarted and I haven't been able to find any hope in my usual lifelines of seeds or plans for the garden. Frankly I'm at the bottom of a very deep well of despond.

I came across this book while doing the xmas shopping on Amazon and immediately added it to my own wish list! It was very good to receive it at our delayed family festive gathering.

And it's been a welcome reminder of the warmer seasons. Patrick Barkham has accurately captured the sights and smells of the countryside and the hopes and trials of the pursuit of butterflies. His book has transported me back to happier times, promised that the sun will return and with it has given me hope that there is something good to look forward to.

It's not a learned treatise, not really a text book of butterflies, sometimes rambling but the geeky quirky premise of tracking down all the native British butterflies in the course of a year is carried off with chatty aplomb. It includes useful snippets about food plants and habitats, some biological facts I had no idea about, for example that some butterflies make their own scent; smelling like flowers to attract mates, and some history of the butterfly collectors, a bizarre collection of eccentrics who have set the tone of butterfly conservationists to this day.

My only real criticism is that the pictures aren't great. There are a few plates of standard identification examples which are pitifully small (and look a bit blurry to my tired eyes) and another few pages of the author's own photos. I know I shouldn't be harsh, it's exceptionally hard to get butterflies to pose for beauty shots but these aren't great photos, more snapshots of the expedition, useful for historical reference but not enough for lust. No matter, there are many many photos on the internet and it's easy enough to find sharper images of anything that catches your imagination.

So after months of despair I feel like I'm emerging from my chrysalis at last, letting my wings dry and expand and with them regaining some ambitions for the year to come. We have Marsh fritillaries in the Forest, I may even have seen them but never tried hard enough to get a proper identification. It's time to learn to distinguish the various white butterflies and name them in our records. There are Purple Emperors to track down and numerous little brown jobs that remain tantalisingly elusive. I may yet have a plan.

Tuesday 7 December 2010


ice leaves 2

It will be little surprise to anyone to learn that we've been having a bit of weather recently. More particularly, very cold weather.

Plans to head back to France for a late autumn clear up, garlic planting and car rescue have been put on hold indefinitely. Harvest of the oca has been abandoned. It's really all rather depressing.

It probably won't surprise anyone that I'm not going to participate in any seed sharing this year. Hopefully things will get back to normal in 2011 - I certainly hope so.

If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for subjects they'd like to read a blog on, I'd be very grateful for the inspiration.

Monday 1 November 2010


It's that time of year again, closing down for the dark months, saying goodbye to the sun. All rather sad and full of nostalgia for the season past.

This maize, a dent corn which is supposed to be dried and ground for making tamales, is the variety Oaxacan Green. I was expecting it to be completely blue/green seeded like the lower cob but as you can see some are rather more colourful than that. I wondered if the seed has become contaminated over time, it's extremely difficult to keep maize varieties pure because they are wind pollinated and need a long distance between varieties to avoid cross pollination but looking at the Kokopelli site it seems it grows this way for them too. So, a mystery that's not likely to be solved, unless you know better and can help. It didn't cross here, as this was the only variety to survive the deer and grow large enough to flower.

This growing session has not been a good one and I'm not sure yet if I will have anything to put on a seed swap at all this year. The oca was chewed down by deer last week, the beans all failed except for a few Ice Crystal Wax, and I'd decided not to save seed from pumpkins this year so didn't make any attempts to isolate varieties. I need to have a good clear out and reassessment of where things are going before making my plans for next year.

Friday 15 October 2010

The Hunt

two deer

It's autumn, time for the deer to rut. These two fine gents were just enjoying the warm sunshine and some fresh grass so that they could spend the night bellowing and tearing up the turf in anger. It's interesting to see the variations in coat colour although I've yet to spot a white one. That would be special.

In Normandy the hunting season started a couple of weeks ago. Although hunters are not supposed to fire their guns within 50 metres of the house and I have asked them not to hunt on our land anyway I'm still somewhat nervous for myself and the cats. I feel I should wear a fluorescent jacket and keep the cats on leads with me whenever we go outside. And that's just for the casual hunters out for small game.

On days when there are formal hunts in the forest dates are published, notices are put up on the boundaries and warning horns are sounded. Unfortunately living within the forest I'll only see the signs if I happen to go out, the dates are yet to be published and the horns are not very directional or helpful, still there have been no accidents here yet.

Naturally as vegans we don't take part in the hunting, except for hedgehogs. Hedgehog mushrooms that is.

sheeps feet

In France these unmistakable and common fungi are known as Pied de Mouton, Sheeps Feet. They grow under the trees close to the boundaries with fields, often in the company of chanterelles. For the beginner collecting their first wild harvests it's their spines which help to confirm that they are safe to eat. There is nothing else quite like them.

We gathered a fine crop a couple of weeks ago but the freezer was stuffed full of tomato paste so I needed to find a way to use them. This Scandinavian style treatment reminiscent of pickled herring is an interesting recipe. I'll give it as I found it but if I was making it again I think I'd change things as bit as indicated.

* 750g hedgehog mushrooms
* 1 bay leaf
* 10 allspice berries
* 1 onion, cut into rings
* 125ml water
* 20ml white vinegar
* 75g white sugar

Place the mushrooms in a saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 3 minutes. If I were doing this again, I'd slice the mushrooms first, drop them into boiling water and blanch for just one minute. Drain and cut them into 3-inch slices. Place in a glass container together with the bay leaf, allspice, and onion rings. I used half a teaspoon of ground allspice as it was what I had, o.k. but leaves unsightly speckles. I'd also add some black peppercorns next time.

In a large saucepan cook the water, vinegar, and sugar together for about 2 minutes and pour over the spices and mushrooms. I couldn't bring myself to use so much sugar even on first attempt and used just 50g which I felt was plenty sweet enough. I'd also up the vinegar a bit, say to 50ml and add half a teaspoon of salt. Let cool and serve. --Carla Sundström

The liquid doesn't quite cover the mushrooms. Use a jar or bottle you can seal tightly and give it a good shake from time to time. The mushrooms will keep in the fridge for about a week and can be used in sandwiches, salads or in a tomatoey pasta sauce which is really good. I'm sure the same treatment would work on button mushrooms from the supermarket if foraging lets you down.

pickled fungi

Wednesday 6 October 2010

The Bad, the Worse and the Ugly

Right, let's get this over with before paralysis causes a fatal termination of the blog. The pictures aren't going to have much relevance as I've also failed to capture the failures on film.

Leaving the woods to return to the lane.

This year hasn't been a good growing year in many respects. Yes, unusually perhaps, the bulk crops of alliums, potatoes and tomatoes have all done well. We've had many courgettes, the pumpkin crop is sufficient and I've even managed to grow a few cabbages from seed, a personal best! However, the more interesting, the more esoteric and the frankly untried have produced little. Some of it may be that intrinsically they are unsuited to the conditions and weather here, the rest of it is undoubtedly poor care on my part.

The Devil has spat on the blackberries now, luckily he missed this ladybird.

I had half a dozen or so new crops to try this year; two sorts of cowpeas, lupini beans, grain amaranth (not entirely new, I've grown it once before), millet and some types of pea from HSL which looked interesting.

The cowpeas didn't do at all. Although they made plants and even looked as if they might flower once or twice nothing came of it. Given that it was an exceptionally warm and dry early summer here which should have been ideal for them I'm not expecting that these will ever be successful here. One type was planted on poor soil which might have caused a problem but the other was in quality ground and did no better.

The lupini beans grew well but didn't start to flower properly (apart from one stunted and possibly diseased plant) until a couple of weeks ago. The large plants have since been knocked over by strong winds and torrential rain. I don't think we'll get even a handful of beans from them.

The grain amaranth has grown well but wet weather is hampering my inclination and efforts to harvest it. This one will be a fail which is mostly down to me - I need some tarpaulins/ground sheets to hang the drying seed heads over and I've avoided sorting it out until it's much too late.

The millet was a proof of concept experiment. I bought some ornamental F1 seed just to see how it did, and it did o.k. but the deer had four out of six plants and the F1 seed is of limited value for saving. Given my own poor performance this year in tending novelties I'm not sure it's worth attempting again with open pollinated seed that will likely be less robust and weather proof.

The peas had a horrible time. First of all they were washed out of their pots before germination. They were planted out in drought and barely got going before the bloody deer ate them back to stumps. I managed to get a handful of Beltony Blues for seed next year but we lost all the first crop of Irish Preans and what the deer haven't had of the second flush have gone mildewed.

Other more regular crops have also suffered. I planted the beans on poor soil this year, reasoning that with some top dressing they could look after themselves. The hot dry spell stunted them and by the time they got going weeds and lack of feeding finished them off. Possibly my worst ever year for french and runner beans.

The Golden Bantam sweet corn fell to deer just as it was about to flower. The Flint corn in the three sisters bed is just about making cobs but I'm not sure they'll be mature enough to dry properly before the end of the month.

Time for a new start.

The blue sky of tomorrow.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Kitten Diary #11

raven and crow

Not sure where my enthusiasm for growing has gone. I have plans for a post about this year's failures, perhaps that's what's cramping my style. Anyway, here are some pictures of the pets, some creatures I nearly always have enthusiasm for.

Raven and Crow have a love hate relationship. He is needy and bit jealous of my attention so will jump on her if she's sitting with me but she takes it all very personally hissing and lashing out with annoyance. He has no sense and then pursues her all around the house instead of giving her time to calm down. At other times though they curl up together like the loving siblings they are.

my boys

This picture was taken as we were about to leave for a walk in the woods. The boys and I had got as far as the edge of the forest when we heard Madam Raven crying behind us. So we waited and called, and she sat there and cried and in the end we went back for her and a cup of tea instead. Which was just as well as the rain came down in buckets just as we got inside. It's not what was in her fluffy head though, she just wanted to make us pay attention to her.

cross rook

The feral cat is still about. We nearly walked into it yesterday morning and the boys saw it off while Raven slipped past me and pretended to be doing something else entirely.

cross crow

I don't think they are very concerned by it, some puffed up fur and cross expressions seem to be all that's needed to keep it under control.

raven hunting

Madam is enjoying chasing butterflies here. Such a naughty cat.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Butterflies like a photo

Blogger has now made stats available to users. This is interesting although I've always had a Sitemeter counter on the blogs.

Peacock Butterfly - we've not seen so many of these this year, I'm guessing the very cold winter killed most of them in hibernation, so I'm hoping for a long warm autumn to allow the summer brood to hatch and mature.

The new stats along with a lot of comment on the food blogs about a blogger's conference in North America somewhere focussing on site engine optimisation (SEO) has made me consider the sort of traffic I get to my blogs.

The common blue butterfly is very variable which makes identification a problem. There are several similar species and in all of them there are differences between the males and females. We've also had Holly blues this year but I've not managed to get a good picture of one.

Of course, I would like to get more people reading, enthralled with my life and writing. Everyone likes to be noticed. On the other hand, the sort of cynical approach needed to flag the attention of the search robots isn't really my style.

small tortoiseshell
We don't see that many Small Tortoiseshells (and I think I've never seen a Large one!). I think of them, with Peacocks, as the quintessential butterfly of my youth but I don't know if the reduced numbers we have here are because conditions are wrong or general environmental decline.

What people attempting SEO are really doing of course, is increasing traffic past their advertising. It's just to maximise revenue. I tried adverts here for a while and accumulated a massive £10 over six months, well below the level that Google would pay out so I gave it up as a bad job. I like money as well as the next person but I'd like to be paid directly really. It's all about recognition for me. Having said that, I noticed on another blog someone had published a link to an Amazon wishlist. Now that appeals, if anyone loves my work enough to buy me a present!

The Ringlets hang out in the dappled shade of the woodland edge feeding on blackberry flowers and being rather shy. Not a showy butterfly but sweet enough.

Looking at the stats it becomes clear that the most traffic is generated to the articles I've written that are rather more on the edge. The most popular, for example, is the one about magic mushrooms and others that get a lot of attention are for odd vegetables and fruit. More worryingly, there is nothing in the list of most read posts written this year.

white butterfly
The white butterflies are so frequent that they are almost overlooked, but there are a lot varieties in and around the woods. The Large and Small whites are pests of brassicas which means I've been contributing to their demise this year by squashing caterpillars and eggs on my cabbages. This makes me feel bad so next year we'll go back to caging the veg. to keep the butterflies off. I have patches of sacrificial nasturtiums for their nurseries.

I did realise that for the last couple of years, my output was dropping off both in quantity and quality. This is partly due to having said a lot of it before, some to do with personal issues, perhaps a little blog fatigue. I mean, is there anybody there?

The Gatekeeper is quite common around here but along with the Meadow Brown (not pictured but plentiful this year) is quite shy of being photographed. This one posed quite obligingly for a change.

So I suppose I have a choice, increase my output of whacky researched articles or, another route to success, include a lot of personal details about sex and drugs and rock'n'roll. Some of the most popular blogs I've seen rely on that to get readers.

tatty wall butterfly
The Wall butterfly is under threat and I'd never seen one before we came here although they have been common in the UK. This one is a bit tatty, one of the perils of feeding in the thistle patch.

But I think I'm still not ready to prostitute my soul to strangers. Isn't living a self sustaining, wildlife friendly, fruit and vegetable growing, back to nature lifestyle in a foreign country enough. Or am I in an interest minority of very few to one?

wall butterfly underwing
The Wall has a particularly pretty underwing.

I think I'm so lucky here and I really want to share it, but perhaps it comes across as smug self satisfaction.

female sooty copper
Probably a female Sooty Copper. Like the Blues the Coppers are very difficult to identify. It's even possible to confuse Blues and Coppers, unlikely as that sounds. A couple of days ago I thought I'd spotted a Brown Argus too, but the butterfly didn't hang around long enough and the picture wasn't good enough for certain identification.

What brings people here by chance is almost entirely search engine results for images although there's a small trend of visitors from Dandelion [waves]. At least the search terms used are fairly innocuous - on the food blog one is 'cat chopped up in blender' which is bit worrying.

painted lady
The Painted Ladies are migratory or at least, they come up from the south. Opinion is divided as to whether any of them ever make it back. Last year we had plenty, this year just one or two. The same applies to the Clouded Yellows, just one this year and do they hate being photographed?

So which way is the wind blowing? I don't know. Perhaps my skills would be better directed towards a book or a more formal informational site? At the moment, blogging seems to fit in fairly snugly as something complementary to my other activities but perhaps it's sapping energy and direction. Perhaps it's responsible for all the world's ills. Maybe I should concentrate on my painting, or even the weeding?

jersey tiger moth
Jersey Tiger moths aren't butterflies, but it's not obvious. They are brightly coloured and fly by day. What is the difference between a moth and butterfly anyway?

Originally I only expected blogging to provide a journal of my days for friends and family but my ambitions have grown. Sometimes it feels good to pull together experiences, pictures and research that might interest or help others doing the same sort of thing but without viewers it's a bit like sex without an orgasm - lovely but doesn't quite get me there. Who said I couldn't drive search engine traffic!

The Brimstone is another butterfly that flies twice a year. This is one of the summer produced insects and possibly the best photo we've ever taken of one. They just won't sit still. This shot is one of Paul's.

Just a reminder, all content and images are copyrighted, either by me or Paul (or just occasionally another originator). I've not noticed much of an issue with people ripping me off on this site. On the other blog there is a common problem that many bloggers experience but I'm not even going to mention it here. Not all robots are as benign as the Google and Nachobots.

speckled wood
There are plenty of pretty Speckled Wood butterflies around here. Also reputedly in the forest there are Marsh Fritillaries. I'd really like to see one of those.

Which raises another question, when is a lot of attention too much attention? I do worry a bit about people identifying my exact location because of the snippets of personal information that inevitably get revealed. I don't want the blog to become the target for some of the attacks that I've seen happen to others. Like being on Facebook or Twitter it requires discipline to keep the details locked down but I suspect that anyone with a really evil agenda could use the information here against me, either directly or virtually. Is that paranoid?

red admiral 2
Red Admirals are so big and strong and impressive looking. We have quite a lot at the moment feeding on the fallen plums.

Also spotted this year but not pictured here - the summer form of the Map butterfly, a female Lesser Purple Emperor and probably, a Swallowtail butterfly. We've also seen caterpillars for the Swallowtails and a new one to us, the caterpillar of the Willowherb Hawk moth. Perhaps we need to have a session trapping the night flying moths for photography - there are some magnificent creatures out there.

So this is my blog about butterflies and SEO. I shall be tracking it closely in the future and I hoped you enjoyed it. Please say something!

Wednesday 25 August 2010

It's raining

Arran Victory

The rain can stop now, I'm bored.

These Arran Victory are the first of this year's harvest. Pretty aren't they, and positively glowing on this very grey day.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Around and about

green toms

The tomatoes are excellent and heavy cropping but very late ripening this year. These are the Tondino di Manduria from Kokopelli


This mallow seems to be a hybrid. I saved the seed from a found plant that had seeded itself in the front garden of my son's house in New Maldon. Lovely flower, and I hope that it can be used in the same way as the common mallow.

pink strawberrry flower

These pink flowered strawberry plants are really for ornamental use although they do sometimes produce the odd, small but well flavoured fruit. It is some sort of hybrid between Fragaria and the marsh cinquefoil, Potentilla palustris, but I don't seem to be able to find this exact variety pictured commercially. I'd love to be able to make a reliably fruiting form although I think that's going to have to stay on my list of desirable but probably unattainable projects for the time being.

butternut squash flower

As usual the butternut squashes have set no fruit yet. Last year we were lucky and did manage to ripen half a dozen but at this rate we will have none at all this time.

asturian tree cabbage

This is the Asturian Tree Cabbage from Realseeds. I didn't cage the cabbages this year and they have been attacked by Cabbage White caterpillars which I have been grimly dislodging and squashing every few days.


Sloes are ripening already and the elderberries will soon be ready for cordial and ketchup.


The hops are beginning to come too, although I rarely make use of these.


And then, reward for our patience, I found the first tomato.

the first

Friday 30 July 2010


ice crystal wax plant
Ice Crystal Wax Dwarf French Bean

It's been so dry here many of the peas and beans have all but given up. However, I was pleased to discover that these Ice Crystal wax beans have started producing and are looking well on the conditions.

Ice Crystal Wax beans are a very old heritage variety which mysteriously enough seem to be under represented on the web... just went looking for stuff to nudge my memory and there's almost nothing out there. Anyway, they are sturdy little dwarf french beans producing plentiful short pods which are almost white in colour as you can see in the picture below. The dried seed is white and rather small, about the size of a mung or azuki bean.

I've grown them several times in the past although the seed this year was newly sourced from the HSL at Garden Organic. The pods make a marvellous bean salad but you need to pick quickly and regularly or they toughen up unpleasantly. With any luck I'll have enough to offer these in seed swaps this year.

ice crystal wax beans
Ice Crystal Wax beans with some others for colour and length comparison

Every year I have a go at the Three Sisters bed system of growing maize, beans and squash. It's never terribly successful although I think I've got the spacing better this time. The maize is a green kernel flint type and the squash Waltham Butternut but the beans I've no idea about, they were part of a swap I made with Riana Laplace and all she could tell me about them was that they were grown by her neighbours on their plots.

three sisters bed
Three Sisters bed

So the variety could be something ancient and heirloom but it might just as easily be some very well known and modern type. The French aren't terribly sentimental about vegetables, they grow for flavour and yield and welcome new varieties that promise improvements in either.

Whatever they are, selected by growers in the hot south, they've had a perfect summer here and are producing tender green beans where my other french beans are failing alarmingly.

unnamed beans
Unnamed black/brown seeded climbing French bean from the south of France

Other beans that I hope are having a good time in this heat are the Lupini which are still growing although they do look a little wilted and stressed in the hottest part of the day. They are just coming into flower now and I'm looking forward to seeing how they progress.

lupini flower
The edible lupin starts to flower

And I'm kicking myself for not taking better care of the soy beans I started way back when. I have only a few plants but the weather this year couldn't have been better for them and so I've missed a crop I was really looking forward to, green soy beans in their pods which are called edamame in Japanese.

It seems best to grow your own of these. The soy bean has such a bad press for so many reasons and yet it really is a good nutritious foodstuff in moderation.

soy composite
Soy beans - Glycine max

Finally, I couldn't even bear to take pictures of the cowpeas. If they were going to succeed in Normandy this would have been the summer for it I would have thought but sadly, the plants are stunted and puny. Very disappointing. I'll try again next year but I suspect these are varieties that need high input fertilisers and are therefore unsuitable for my style of gardening even if the weather could be guaranteed.

p.s. just posted this to the food blog. silly me, now removed, so don't be alarmed!

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Playing Chicken

Not my chicken

One of the things that is most feared by any gardener of potatoes or tomatoes is blight. This year, partly through laziness, partly through a sort of inane over confidence, I've been ignoring it and so far, I've been lucky.

The first two years here our potatoes were devastated by blight - smelly rotten destroyed plants that left us feeling helpless and depressed. Determined never to be caught out like that again I signed up for Blightwatch and the Potato Council's Fight against Blight and instigated a programme of preventative spraying with Bordeaux mixture. By this time of the season last year I had sprayed potatoes five times and the tomatoes twice. It worked, or seemed to, we had insignificant amounts of blight. Unfortunately we also had a lot of copper spread around and the eating of a tomato warm from the sun in the field became a thing of the past. Everything needed a really good wash before consumption.

This year after the punishingly cold winter and conditions that are approaching drought the blight seems to be at bay. Although the blight organism is evolving and becoming more able to withstand freezing conditions we're such a long way from anyone else I think the blight spores here are relatively old school (how do I know, I don't but I can hold an opinion can't I?). More importantly still, the very low humidity prevents the damn stuff from reproducing at all, so the need for chemicals is reduced although we're paying for it in smaller yields. Constantly expecting the worst and yet doing nothing, we seem to have got away with it. If I had to take the potatoes up now there it would by no means be the end of the world and the tomatoes are looking fine, just need a few more weeks to ripen.

However, the garden is dying and I'm praying for rain. From all over the place others are reporting that blight has moved in, my nerves won't stand it any more and today I sprayed.

Saturday 24 July 2010


Skimming through blogs in my google reader, Agricultural Biodiversity pointed me to a post about heirloom cereals in Denmark. Interesting enough stuff but within the text a couple of lines that intrigued and entranced me.

There are apparently lentil varieties that will grow that far north. I've wondered about growing my own but believed they needed a hotter climate for success. Does anyone know more about this? Is there in fact, a usable crop to harvest or are the lentils just a green manure with nitrogen fixing skills? I'd love to know.


Sunday 18 July 2010


garlic harvest

Today I harvested the hard neck garlic. It might have benefited from another 10 days in the ground but I've found that if it gets wet after starting to go dormant it becomes difficult to clean and shatters easily. This is proof, if it were needed, that this variety was selected in another part of the world to this country. Ability to stand in indifferent weather is an eagerly sought characteristic in Northern Europe.

I also took one of the elephant garlics. You can see in the picture that not only is this as huge as you might expect but there are small offsets which form between the layers of the bulb attached to rootlets. A useful way of multiplying up the stocks for next year's planting although they will take a couple of years to reach full size. I wasn't expecting them to have flower heads but when they started to show it was intriguing enough to leave them. I wondered if they would also make bulbils on the heads like the the Babington leeks, but they didn't and I'll just nip them off next year.

And the Babington leeks don't seem to have liked this hot dry weather at all, they have died right back and a bit of excavation failed to find bulbs at any depth. I'm hoping they'll renew themselves come the autumn but in the meantime I'll have to mark the row carefully so that they don't get turned over by accident.

Still one more garlic crop to come; the Arno garlic, still growing strongly and miraculously free from rust. I think that will probably be another month finishing.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

Day of the Bastille

Bouquet of Magentaspreen, the tree spinach.

Other people have blogversaries, I have the anniversary of when we first made our decision to buy this place. Happy 5th Year completed!

It's been rather a pared down season, oddly as the weather has been so dramatically hot. Apart from the usual overdose of courgettes and magentaspreen nothing much is showing any signs of being ready to harvest. Even the potatoes are much later than usual.

int kid and welsh onions

We've had a few of the Stroma but today I took the first sensible handful of the International Kidney which have been growing strongly but more slowly than either the Stroma or the Mayan Queen. They are delicious, so well worth the wait. I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever taste a really good potato again and also if all the hype about 'Jersey Royals' was just that but I needn't have worried.

Talking of the Mayan Queen it is a bit confusing. I ordered Mayan Gold from Alan Romans but the bag of seed tubers I received were labelled Mayan Queen. Looking at the descriptions of Mayan Queen though, the potatoes I've dug so far don't match. They look like Mayan Gold! So I don't know what to make of it, I'll have to order both next year and do comparisons.

In the box, some welsh onions. I grew these from seed last year and they didn't do terribly well then but this year they're very pleasing, coming well through the icy winter, bulking up vigorously and providing an easy alternative to spring onions (or scallions if you prefer). Just right for me as I can take a few at a time as needed without having to worry about successional sowing or everything maturing at once. The seed came from Real Seeds, Helen's Welsh Siberian Perennial Bunching Onion and is recommended.