By Heather Driscoll-Woodford
The new, and really quite attractive, Flower Sprout took 10 years to perfect
A new vegetable which has been invented by a seed firm in Cobham is due to arrive on the shelves in supermarkets this week.
The staff at family-owned Tozer Seeds took 10 years to perfect the vegetable.
The Flower Sprout is a cross between a Brussels sprout and kale.
Just one variety of the new legume has been released so far, but the scientists at Tozer Seeds say there are plans to release other varieties in a range of colours.
I just wish I'd known all this in advance.
"I'm very busy" I squeaked, as my colleague advanced across the newsroom towards me, brandishing a large gnarled purple, green and black club-shaped object.
"Come back later" I shrilled, feet scrabbling for purchase, little static sparks flying from the nylon carpet, as I desperately tried to back my swivel chair away from this optical monstrosity.
"Dear God!" I cried, as I made one last-ditch attempt to escape by hiding under my desk, behind my PC's hard drive. "What the hell is it?"
My colleague smiled and waved the object closer, causing me to shrink further into the dark recesses of my emergency hidey hole.
"It's a new vegetable" he said, patting The Thing reassuringly.
"I think I'm allergic!" I whined. "I'll swell up, I can feel my eyelids going puffy already" I continued, squinting up at him.
And then at my watch to check it wasn't 1 April.
"No, really" he explained. "It's a Flower Sprout. And no-one has ever seen one before."
There's a reason for that, I thought privately, crawling out from what I could now see, was my slightly embarrassing position, cowering under a giant brassica.
At eye level with my colleague's knees.
I straightened up to take a closer look at the offending item.
And do you know, he was right.
Admittedly the new legume won't win any prizes for Best Looking in the Vegetable Drawer, but it was actually prettier to look at, when it was close-up. And not coming at me menacingly.
In fact, it was almost quite attractive in a wrinkled, dragon skin, type way.
Its dark purple stalk, was dotted with what look, for all intents and purposes, like small, frilly, mauve and green Brussels sprouts.
Which is less surprising, when you find out that is exactly what the Flower Sprout is.
A combination of kale and the humble sprout.
Rebecca Dawson, whose family own the business, says it's the first new vegetable for a decade.
And therefore, I suppose it deserves a better reception than the one I gave it.
Dr Jamie Claxton, senior plant breeder at Tozer Seeds, said: "Because we're a small company, we get to have the freedom to do this sort of thing."
And although Dr Frankenstein probably thought the same about
his little project, the Flower Sprout is different.
Far from being some sort of hybrid monster, it has been developed over the last ten years using traditional breeding techniques, with no genetic modification whatsoever.
It has a Brussels sprout-like growing habit with its tall stem and rosettes forming all the way up to a frilly-leaved top.
A bit like one of the more imaginative hats you see at Ascot Ladies Day.
And its appeal may go further than just the aesthetic.
Brussels Sprout haters around the world, could possibly be won over by its milder, sweeter flavour.
But for those of you who, like me, are of a nervous disposition and get easily frightened by funny shaped vegetables, be warned!
The Flower Sprout is coming to a supermarket near you.