Cuttings: In blue-chip company

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The Independent Online
HAVE YOU ever eaten a blue potato? Not a rotten one or a computer-designed crisp, but a genuinely blue potato. I have been reading Roger Phillips's new book on vegetables, which devotes 16 pages to potatoes, including their social history, and it is fascinating.

The strength of Phillips's books lies in his clear use of photographs. Where else would you find a photograph of rock ledges in Mexico, where potatoes still grow wild? There is also a whole page of blue potato cultivars.

The book tempts one to be much more adventurous when choosing which vegetables to grow. As a source of ideas it is excellent. All kinds of lesser-known vegetables, such as Chinese leaves and broccoli, are explained and photographed. Even old vegetables are included, such as the perennial weed, Good King Henry, otherwise known as Lincolnshire Asparagus.

It is stated that the Chinese eat Houttuynia cordata, which we grow as an ornamental plant for damp areas (the form 'Chameleon' is popular for its multi-coloured foliage). It is a pretty enough plant, but the stench of its bruised leaves is, to my Western mind, distinctly foetid and underworldly. I hope it tastes better than it smells.

'Vegetables', by Roger Phillips and Martin Rix, is published in the Pan Garden Plants series ( pounds 17.50).