Gardening: Time to go wild about vegetables

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THIS summer we’ll be investigating the wild relatives of some of our most familiar vegetables with our ‘Really Wild Vegetable’ trial at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

All crops have been developed over thousands of years from wild plants.

Many of the wild relatives of our familiar crops are still around today, although a few are now rare or endangered in the wild.

We plan to grow wild vegetables alongside their domesticated cousins in order to compare them. This trial is part of our Talking Science Programme, exploring the science of trees and gardens throughout Scotland.

Domestication of crop plants involves selection of desirable traits to increase yield and uniformity. A consequence of selection is that genetic diversity is lost. Crop wild relatives are therefore a pool of genes that can be used to grow disease-resistant and improved varieties.

The trials will be conducted both at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh by the Edible Gardening Project and by community gardening groups across Scotland. Girvan Community Garden in Ayrshire, Good For Ewe and Applecross Primary School in Wester Ross and Whitmuir Organic Farm in West Linton are all taking part.

Plants to be included in the trial all have wild relatives native to Scotland. We will be growing sea radish, radish sea beet and Swiss chard wild cabbage.

The Edible Gardening team at the Botanics sowed the seeds a fortnight ago and the plants are already germinating. Interestingly, the wild varieties have come up first and some of the traditional varieties have not emerged yet. We will be blogging about the project so take a look for updates over the summer and for the results in the autumn.

• The Edible Gardening Project is supported by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh we teach people the skills and knowledge they need to grow their own food.