I recently went to a talk by Paulo Arrigo who runs Seeds of Italy the British offshoot of Franchi Seeds, a company that has been growing and selling seeds in Italy since 1783. It was a fascinating talk on many levels; I hadn’t realised that (as in everything else) the Chinese now dominate the seed production market and much of the seed sold in the UK is of Chinese origin (often via Holland) and not always of good quality. Kings Seeds is the only large scale seed producer that still grows all its seeds in the UK, while Franchi remains a purely Italian producer offering many regional varieties. The Italians have always believed in ‘growing local’. In case you think that Italian seeds won’t do well in the UK Paolo explained that 2/3rds of Italy is alpine or sub alpine, so the majority don’t need a Mediterranean climate. He also explained the different qualities of tomato varieties, which inspired me to buy a packet of San Marzano – the variety traditionally used for making sauces because there are hardly any pips, just solid flesh. Fingers crossed for a good summer and a very welcome tomato glut! With this in mind I’m also growing some Heritage tomato varieties from the Organic Plant Company. They have collaborated with the Heritage Seed Library to produce this collection.
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