Friday, 6 February 2015

An Exception

I've always tried to avoid growing F1 hybrids - well, mostly. If I'm sent free seeds with an order or magazine it seems rather churlish to reject them, and a few others have slipped through the net over the years for one reason or another. It's not that there's anything 'wrong' with hybrids, but you have to support the things that you want to thrive. It's a bit like buying British or local. I want to see biodiversity and food security thriving, and hybrids undermine these by drastically reducing demand for traditional open-pollinated varieties, and because they're not genetically stable and can't reproduce to create another generation the same. I also like to think I can save the seeds of all my crops, although my seed-saving operation has a long way to go yet... And F1 seeds can be pretty expensive too!

But this year I'm making one deliberate exception, and it's this:

Aubergines are a luxury vegetable for us - something that we could easily do without, but something I'd love to eat more. I rarely buy them, simply because I'm buying less and less veg anyway - my priority is to eat what I grow and I'm far too busy eating all the courgettes and French beans and tomatoes and peppers and leafy greens coming out of the garden when they're in season. So the only way I'm gonna get to eat them is if I grow them myself!

But aubergines, lets face it, are just not really suited to the British climate - they need lots and lots of warmth and sunshine - yet I know many gardeners have moderate success with them, especially under cover. Not me; I've managed to grow just two small aubergines in five or six years of trying, and one of them went bad on the plant. There are only really two open-pollinated varieties of aubergines widely available (not counting fancy-coloured ones or mini ones, which I'm less interested in for now) and I've tried them both, without success. So when I read a recommendation for this variety, Bonica F1, on Nicky Kyle's great blog I thought well, why not have one last bash? Better to grow an F1 hybrid than not to grow them at all! Hybridisation brings the best traits together from other varieties to create new varieties that are (generally) more productive or earlier, more consistent and more reliable - the easier (though pricier) choice for any gardener, and in theory they will crop more readily where traditional varieties have failed. The plastic greenhouse we're putting on the allotment this year means we'll be able to provide them with a bit more protection than at home, too, so I'm crossing my fingers and looking forward to a bountiful aubergine harvest for once!

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