Every year we try to improve our selection of varieties from the previous year. As vegetables are more or less popular with our shareholders, or seem to do well or poorly with our growing practices, we alter our choices. We also try out new varieties — ones we’ve heard of but never tried, and some that have only recently been developed. Here is a sample of our selections for this year.
We’ll be trying two new vegetables this year, the tomatillo and the ground cherry (also known as the husk cherry ). Both are relatives of the tomato, both are sweeter and dryer than the tomato, and both grow with papery husks.
Tomatillos and ground cherries can both be eaten raw. They are sweet, crunchy, and tart. Tomatillos are also well known as the main ingredient in “salsa verde,” green salsa. We hope our shareholders will be able to give each a try this year.
[Above is a picture of some ground cherries, courtesy of vegetable-gardening-online.com]
In addition to our salad mixes and our cooking greens, we will be growing arugula, spinach, and sorrel, for an even wider variety of greens.
Sorrel is a relative of spinach, similar in texture, appearance, and nutritional content — but not in taste. Sorrel tastes like lemon, and can be used to give its sour flavor to all kinds of dishes — salads, chicken, soups, and even eaten as a tangy snack, like a “Lemonhead” (or maybe a “Sour Warhead”!) candy. We harvested some for shareholders last year, and a new shareholder requested it for this year.
As for the others, most people know arugula for its peppery flavor, and spinach for its savor. For arugula, we will be growing a standard and a heat-tolerant variety, called “Arugula” and “Astro”. For spinach, we will be growing a standard, a heat-tolerant, and a red-veined variety, called “Tyee,” “Carmel,” and “Red Kitten.”
[Image above from Kelli Foster at thekitchn.com]
We’ve given up a variety of bell peppers this year, and added a traditional Romanian type. The prolific green-to-red “Ace” pepper is our standby, and we’ll also have the very sweet orange “Gourmet,” and the richly dark purple-to-red “Islander” pepper. We’re adding a Romanian frying pepper called “Antohi Romanian,” which ripens from yellow to red, and is a little smaller and more pointed than a bell pepper.
In fact, I’m more excited for our change in cultivation practices. Last year, our peppers did terribly because they were totally overshadowed by weeds. This year, we have an excellent means for removing the weed pressure, and so I have high hopes for a prolific year.
(Photo above from Johnny’s Selected Seeds)
One of our first crops every year is radishes. This year, we plan to grow three different varieties. The first two are the familiar small globe radishes, a red variety called “Crunchy Royale” which we tried and approved last fall, and “Pink Beauty,” which we’ve grown for years. We dropped the purple and white varieties, which we found grew too knobbly and short in our heavy clay soil.
We will be trying a new type of radish, a Japanese variety called “Shunkyo Semi-Long.” It is longer than the globe radish, but shorter than a daikon, and is supposed to have a “hot and sweetly nutty” flavor. We are looking forward to these; fresh radishes are one of the many small delights of spring.
[photo above from Johnny’s Selected Seeds]