Sunday, January 24, 2010

Must-have Veggies!

I just ordered our seeds today - spring is on its way! Although we always try some new varieties each summer, we also have a list of must-have's that we plant year after year. This is because they are outstanding in some way - heavy cropping, very disease/pest resistant, reliable or just plain delicious. Sometimes, they have all of these traits! Here are a few of our family favourites...

Beans - I love beans.. love love love them! There are so many beans available to the gardener - snap, shell, lima, fava, garbanzo and soybean, just to name a few and we grow many of them in our zone 5b/6 garden. I start planting in mid-May and the last bean usually comes off the vine in late October.

Snap beans and soybeans are family favourites and when it comes to snap beans, I tend to plant mostly pole types. They offer a larger yield per square foot than bush beans. There are also so many beautiful bean colours - from green to yellow to purple to burgundy to striped types, there is a snap bean for every garden.

  • 'Emerite' or 'Fortex' - Simply the perfect beans. These vigorous pole types produce a heavy crop of long, thin green snap beans that can be picked as 'filet' beans when young or left to mature to regular sized beans. Excellent flavour!
  • 'Top Notch Golden Wax' - This is a yellow bush bean with flat, bright yellow pods. It was the bean of choice for my parents 25 years ago and I still grow it because it is so delicious.
  • 'Purple Podded Pole' - An heirloom bean with deep purple pods that turn green when cooked. The kids call them 'magic beans'!
  • Soybean 'Envy' - Envy is the earliest maturing soybean - perfect for the North. Plant in late May and harvest in late August/September. Boil the whole beans in salted water for 5 min. Drain, plate and sprinkle with salt. Even the kids gobble them up!

Carrots - No veggie garden is complete with a few types of crunchy, sweet carrots! We harvest them all winter long - at least until we run out sometime in late February. Although we traditionally think of carrots as orange, there are actually many colours available through seed catalogues - from purple to white to red to yellow. Try planting a rainbow of carrots this year.

  • 'Napoli' - This is the carrot that we plant in early August for a late fall and winter crop. As the temperature drops, the carrots get sweeter and sweeter! The kids cannot get enough.
  • 'Atomic Red' - A unique carrot that actually becomes healthier and more deeply coloured as its cooked. The children love this one and the coral-red roots are very pretty on a plate.
  • 'Purple Haze' - An All-America Selections winner, this is a deep purple carrot with bright orange centres. The flavour is sweet and the roots grow about 7 to 8-inches long.

Cucumbers - We grow 4 or 5 different cukes every summer and typically grow them up on a trellis to save space and keep the plants disease free.
  • 'Lemon' - Crisp, delicious, never bitter.. a must-have cuke! Pick when they're light green. If they reach the bright yellow stage, they'll be past their prime.
  • 'Garden Oasis' - This is a Lebanese-type cucumber that is best picked when 4 to 5 inches long. The fruits are thin-skinned and super crisp, and the plants are disease resistant.
Salad Greens - If you eat a lot of salads, then you must try growing some of your own fresh greens! Most types are fast growing - especially if you eat them as baby greens and are also very easy to grow.
  • Arugula - I start planting seed in early April and we harvest well into winter, with just a little protection. The leaves are addictive - peppery and perfect with just a little lemon juice, olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.
  • Baby Spinach - Another cold weather lover, baby spinach (and grown-up spinach too!) is a very low maintenance salad green. Plant for spring, fall and winter crops, as the hot summer sun will cause the plants to go to seed.
  • Mache - A French winter salad green, mache is nutty, yet so tender. We pick and eat the rosettes whole in early spring, fall and winter. So good!
  • 'Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce' - An heirloom that offers a very early harvest. Plant in early April and start harvesting by mid-May. Brilliant light green leaves are crinkly and delicious.
  • 'Lolla Rossa' Lettuce - Flamboyant! The red and green leaves are heavily frilled and add colour and interest to mixed salads.
Peas - What child (or adult!) doesn't love peas? They're also cold-tolerant and can be planted in late April. Choose early, mid and late types for a long season of harvest.
  • 'Super Sugar Snap' - Possibly the most famous pea for its sweet pods and peas. Eat them whole or shell if you must. Whenever I can't find the kids (or my husband) in early July, I look in the pea patch where I find them eating their fill!
Well, obviously I could go on (and on and on), but I should stop before I write an entire seed catalogue! I will post on our favourite tomatoes in the next day or so...

Happy Gardening!

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