Perennial vegetable growing on Dartmoor with Incredible Vegetables
Incredible Vegetables is an experimental vegetable growing project and a research space dedicated to useful perennial edibles and future food crops and a perennial vegetable nursery set up and managed by Mandy Barber and Julien Skinner. The polyculture space includes a biodiverse mixture of perennials, self sowing annuals and plants for pollinators. Over the last ten years it has evolved into a significant botanical reserve of important perennial food crops, protecting them for the future, many of which we will all need to rely on in years to come. We undertake small plant breeding projects, for example with perennial Nine Star broccoli and a Hopniss (Apios americana) trial currently underway.
The research we are doing is absolutely essential. Mixed plantings of perennial crops and woody shrubs not only safeguard and enrich soil ecosystems, but help to draw down and store carbon from the atmosphere, a vital function to help combat climate change.
Incredible Vegetables is based on a 5.5 acre field on the edge of Dartmoor. The land is collectively owned by a small group of growers. Ten years ago it was non-diverse sheep pasture. Today, between us, we have an acre of polyculture vegetable garden, an evolving meadow, 2000 native trees and an acre of forest garden. The field is awash with diverse species of insects, birds and other creatures. We have introduced small areas of water to attract frogs and toads and sown many native wildflowers and plants for pollinators. Many of the edible perennials we grow double up as plants for pollinators and wildlife. It has been amazing to see how a polyculture develops over time, it has been a process of part design, but mostly letting go, allowing the plants to find their own spaces.
This creates something quite beautiful and attracts all kinds of life, a big lesson in just letting things be.
‘Incredible Vegetable’s productive paradise on what was previously sheep pasture in the hills of Devon is one of the most inspirational places I’ve visited. Gazing over the surrounding countryside of monotonous fields as far as the eye could see, I remember imagining a future climate friendly polyculture in a place one wouldn’t think it possible!’
Stephen Barstow, Author of ‘Around the World in 80 Plants’
Find out more on their website: