Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Ten things for my garden-beans, carrots and more

I'm going to pick up here where I left off last time.

The general theme is what to plant in a small garden...what gives a real bang for your buck, taste-wise and production-wise.

I love beans. One little seed really goes a long way.

And I must say I struggled over which bean I would plant if I could only plant one. But, the winner has to be Dragon Tongue, despite the fact it isn't quite as versatile as some green beans because it doesn't freeze particularly well.

But this awesome Dutch heirloom tastes magnificent and produces really well, and for that reason it has my vote.
It is an easy to grow, pale yellow bean, with delightful purple stripes, and it's juicy flesh is quite distinctive. Lovely.

I grow lots of carrots, but some are really more for my restaurant business than they are for home eating. Purples, oranges, blacks,whites, yellows and reds- I grow them all. The first seed I sell out of is always Purple Dragon, with its' showy purple skin and glowing orange interior. It's a good carrot-but not the one I would plant if I could only plant one. I like BIG carrots, so am swayed to Danvers, which is big around the middle. But my vote is for Scarlet Nantes, which is long, sweet and crisp-always. Yum.

Let me begin talking about peppers by saying I don't like green peppers. After all, they aren't ripe! When all hot and sweet peppers are ripe, they are red and the sweets are super-sweet! I like thick walled and fleshy peppers, and although I do have some that are standards in my garden, like the sweet frying peppers Jimmy Nardello and the great bell King of the North which is the best for our northern gardens, I love the pimento types and Tennessee Cheese is the one for me.

It has those great crunchy thick walls, is a convenient size for picking and eating out of the garden (a necessity for me), and it is wonderfully sweet. I think it is a winner.

I love beets. There is nothing like them with their earthy sweet taste. Again I grow lots of different varieties of beets and their cousins mangels. I love them all-whites, goldens, yellows, chioggias, and a good selection of different shaped purples. But if forced to pick one, I guess it would be Cylindra.

Lots of people choose Cylindra for it's shape, which is ideal for pickling. But it is much more than that. It has a wonderful sweet flavour, especially after a frost, and I like the fact it can get big, and still doesn't become fibrous.

And if you are only going to grow a limited number of crops, beets and carrots too are especially good because they have great storage abilities. I layer mine in barrels with hay straw or leaves and store them for the winter in the garage. I can usually keep them nice and firm for the entire winter, just pulling some out when I need them. Beets and carrots and you are on your way to self sufficiency!

I love fresh salads, but choosing only one lettuce to plant is a challenge. There are so many gorgeous and tasty ones to choose from-green, red, speckled, frilly, romaine, and on and on.
But for me one has always been a standout. For appearance, it's ability to hold well in the garden, and it's lovely flavour and crunch, I would choose Bronze Arrowhead. It is a very pretty purplish- oakleaf type. If you haven't tried it, perhaps you should.

So few vegetables give you as much bang for your buck as swiss chard. I love it! I consider it's taste better than spinach, although I know some folks wouldn't agree with that.
Plant it in the spring and you can continuously pick leaves all season, even well after a frost.
I just seeded more in my unheated hoophouse yesterday, knowing that it will grow and produce all winter too.

As with most other veggies, there are lots of very nice varieties of chard as well-how to choose?
Well, I guess go for looks as well as functionality, the heirloom Five Colour Silverbeet, also sold as Bright Lights. The colours of its' stems are unparalleled in the garden. Brilliant reds, yellows, oranges and more.

And three more veggies to go. Let me think about this....to be continued!

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