The right variety
Commercial veg varieties are selected mostly for qualities like high yield, cosmetic features, uniformity (hugely useful in packing and presenting fruit and veg on the supermarket shelf) and early maturity. The more you intensively select for yield or early maturity, the more you sacrifice complex, harder to quantify traits like flavour and nutritional value.
Over thirty years, we’ve seen many varieties we’ve selected for flavour dropped from seed breeders’ lists because they’re deemed less commercial. Consolidation in the seed trade just adds to this; after a global buying spree, including the buyout of fellow giant Bayer, the multinational agribusiness Monsanto now owns a staggering 29% of the global seed trade. This follows the merger of Dow Chemical with DuPont in 2015, leaving a staggering 51% of the world’s seed market under the control of just two companies.
We persist with trialling new varieties, testing them with the chefs in our farm restaurant, and listening to the customers who buy direct from us every week: for many of them it is a revelation that potatoes can actually have flavour rather than being a bland medium for salt and butter! Yields may be a little lower, but better small and tasty than a mountain of watery cucumber and bland carrots.