Driven off the allotment by bad weather last weekend, I went home, brewed a mug of tea and pulled Beeton's All About Gardening from the bookshelf.
It's a dictionary of gardening with some nicely coloured illustrations. My copy is undated but it's probably from the 1890s or early 1900s judging from some of the entries.
I was struck by the extraordinary range of potato varieties listed by various seed companies - many more than appear in modern day catalogues. That's if you could be sure that Ash Leaf Kidney was different to Ash Top Flake in anything but name.
But one thing for certain is that catalogue writers, then as now, are not shy about being foreward in their descriptions. So Magnum Bonum was an 'enormous cropper of high quality and almost free of disease'. Early Puritan was of 'great excellence, vigourous constitution and very productive'. Best of All had few equals as a cropper, very free from disease and excellent when cooked.