Fruit Forum

Growing for Flavour: but are these the best fruit varieties?

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Terry Read reviews Grow for Flavour by James Wong

Grow for Flavour by the botanist James Wong, provides interesting thoughts about food, and despite ‘American Speak’, I felt that several of the culinary suggestions well worth following up. However being provided with endless statistics on plant chemistry from academia, does little to encourage the average family kitchen gardener, despite the fact that many of the cultural ideas are gleaned from centuries of standard practise. Recently, on ‘Gardener’s Question Time’ on BBC Radio 4, James Wong admitted that he was a botanist and not a horticulturalist. This comes across in the book and as a retired nurseryman I would challenge many of the varieties that he champions, particularly some of the fruit. Why, as an Royal Horticultural Society Ambassador, did he not consult with the relevant people, on which the RHS depends for its expertise, such as the Fruit Trials Panel, which could have added to his knowledge of pears, and saved him from praising the Blackberry ‘Ruben’, which fruits so late that, even at Wisley, it is doubtful that it is worth growing in this country.

Finally, I must take issue over his dismissal of the fig ‘Brown Turkey’, which was awarded an RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1993. Renowned fruit experts have not described this fig as, ‘the most reliable grown’, or ‘hardy, prolific and excellently flavoured when ripe’, without good reason. However, to be fair to James Wong, has he tasted the real thing? There are many figs that masquerade under this popular name. I have trialled many of them, coming from a family, that has grown figs since the middle of the 19th century, and being the person who originated the National Collection of Figs.

Terry Read

Grow for Flavour by James Wong, pp. 224, many colour photographs and drawings; published by Octopus Publishing, Mitchell Beazley, 2015, in association with the Royal Horticultural Society, £20.00, hardback.