Not since the war years has vegetable growing been so popular, as gardeners turn their talents to producing more of their own food for better flavour and better health.
Sales of vegetable seeds continue to out-strip those of flowers. Last year there was a seven per cent increase in the sales of vegetable seeds, according to the Horticultural Trades Association, which represents the UK garden industry.
This year looks like having a similar outcome, according to some of the big seed companies.
"The early indications are that vegetable seeds sales will outperform flowers," says Catherine Matthews, product manager at Unwins. "The popular varieties are fairly conventional vegetables, indicating that the Jamie Oliver effect is continuing and people are growing their own food for both the improved taste and health benefits."
Francijn Suermondt, marketing coordinator for Suttons, says that in some regions Suttons seed sales ratios are 70 per cent veg to 30 per cent flowers, while Dobies mail order sales ratios so far for 2008 are 74 per cent veg to 26 per cent flowers.
"Seed packets are now featuring recipe cards, while speedy season veg give quick results and this is all influencing sales as well," she says.
Anyone visiting their garden centre for inspiration will find acres of seed packets promising wonderful harvests of succulent veg - but which do you choose?
New varieties are coming on to the market every year, but are they any better than tried and tested types?
Results of trials of new vegetables, revealed in the latest issue of Gardeners' Which?, the Consumers' Association magazine, show the best of the bunch.
Samples of more than 30 new vegetable varieties were trialled last year before they were available to buy.
The best performers included Courgette Tristan (Thompson & Morgan), which produced large vigorous plants and a heavy crop of typical dark green tasty fruits, and Radish Amethyst (Dobies, Marshalls, Mr Fothergill's), a new purple' type, best picked small, with a dark red skin, which will add fantastic colour to your salad bowl.
Other winners in the test included the large-fruited tomato Country Taste (Thompson & Morgan), which produced some huge, smooth fruits weighing up to 500g, and the cherry tomatoes Piccolo (Dobies - plants; The Organic Gardening Catalogue; Suttons plants) and Apero (Dobies- seeds and plants; Suttons - plants), which cropped from August until September in the greenhouse. Both had tougher skins than supermarket cherry tomatoes, but made up for this with intense sweet and sharp flavour.
Carrot Tendersnax (Thompson & Morgan), a new, early, sweet carrot, proved a winner with nearly 600 triallists. From an April sowing most harvested from mid-July to mid-August, averaging awo kilos from a two metre row.
Some 80 per cent of triallists rated the flavour good or very good.
Lettuce Marshall (Marshalls, Suttons) was a decorative lettuce, great when paired with another new variety, Ashbrook (Unwins).
The red leaves turned deep purple, almost black when mature, but they bolted rapidly last summer. The taste was good, with just a hint of bitterness and kept well in the fridge.
* Gardening Which? is a subscription-only gardening magazine. For details on how to receive three issues for £3, telephone 01992 822800 or visit www.which.co.uk.