It's been super warm here in Cornwall today and I thought it would be a good time to start sowing some of the hardy annuals. I sold cut flowers to Jamie Oliver's restaurant 'Fifteen Cornwall' last summer (above) and due to a sucessful season, I've decided to experiment with lots of new varieties. I sowed Cornflower 'Black Ball' today which forms deep red flower heads (seed above), as well as the traditional blue type. Also sowed were California Poppy, Nigella 'Love-in-a-Mist', Ammi Majus (delicate lace-like flowers similar to cow parsley), Papaver Somniferum (opium poppy!) and Euphorbia Oblongata which is a good foliage plant with lime green leaves.
Following on from the post below, here are a few other suggestions for a hint of red in salads...
Above: The far red plant is Red Orach, an impressive annual that can grow up to 6ft high! Use young leaves for salads. They have a spinach-like flavour and silky texture.
The near red plant above is Perilla. An annual herb that is part of the mint family. I grow a variety called Shiso and the leaves look a little like stinging nettles. The flavour could be compared to mint or fennel.
I can also recommend the fiery purpled-leafed mustards such as Red Giant. They add a bit of a kick and vibrance to salads. Pick the leaves young, as the peppery flavour intensifies as the plant begins to run to seed and can make your eyes water! They are slower growing than the other oriental brassicas but I also use them as a cut-and-come-again crop.
Above: My January sown Mizuna growing at Buttervilla in 2007. This Japanese brassica is a good staple salad leaf and makes an excellent winter crop in the tunnel. It is very easy to grow all year round and seed germinates quickly - I sowed some on 11th of March and seeds had germinated in a week. Leaves are glossy, green and serrated with a mild, peppery flavour. I use it as a cut-and-come-again crop and it will keep on producing for several months. If left to go to seed it throws up dainty yellow flowers, also edible with a subtle mustard flavour.
Above: A trusty Cornish shovel. I had never used one of these until I started at Heligan and I have never looked back! I found the technique quite hard to master at first but once I got the hang of it, digging became incredibly satisfying - you can cover ground far more quickly with less effort. They key is to keep your back straight and take the strain in your arms and stomach muscles. Some people also turn the shovel over their upper leg. I dug over the whole tunnel with one this winter and it really saved my back!