Finally, some of the biennial crops are starting to develop seed; beetroot and leeks in particular.  It feels like a long time ago that I sowed this seed - about 14 months and they finish off my first year of seed saving. Charles Dowding shared an interesting post on instagram about Boltardy beetroot from Kings.

Here are the Pablo F1 he grew to compare with the Boltardy. I grow beetroot in the same way and have to agree totally with him about Kings Boltardy beetroot. They have been very inconsistent in size (see here for one of the enormous ones that I grew - usually they are the opposite of this one) and it is one of the reasons that I started to save my own seed.

These inconsistent Boltardy beetroot are created by the seed savers collecting seed from all and any beetroot rather than selecting particular plants which are all of a similar size and shape. Like Charles Dowding, I have selected the plants to save seed from quite carefully so I hope that next year's crop will show more similarities than they do at present.

Why does this matter? Couldn't I just buy F1 seeds?

Yes I could but open pollinated seeds do not cost as much and you can save your own seed from them. The garden seed companies are going the same way as the agricultural seed companies - all owned by a few and that reduces the variety of seeds available to us all.

Did you know that Thompson and Morgan own Dobies, Suttons and the Organic Catalogue in the same way that Kings owns Suffolk Herbs. These all used to be separate companies with their own seeds and if we didn't like Boltardy from one company, we could buy from another. That becomes more difficult as the number of independent companies reduces.

Just to prove that Charles is not on his own with this problem - here are my first sowings of beetroot for the year grown in clumps of three.

Guess which are the Boltardy beetroot from Kings! Yup. The first lot. I didn't sow any F1 varieties so the comparisons here are also open pollinated. The second photo is a group of Chiogga from Vital Seeds and the third photo Bona from Vital Seeds. The Vital Seeds beetroot are far more consistent in shape showing that it isn't the fact that open pollinated seeds produce greater variety in size and shape but the quality of the seed saved by the company.

Are you growing Boltardy? How are they doing?