Flowers

Flowers

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Pick of the Crop!

It's raining today - finally! I've been waiting for rain for weeks and if we didn't get some moisture today, I was going to have to get out the hose and water the new veggie seed that I planted myself! (arugula, mache, Black Seeded Simpson lettuce, etc). Lucky for me, the rain has come and I can be lazy..

Lecture season seemed to start extra early this year once again the hottest topic for 2010 is organic kitchen gardening. More and more people are discovering the pleasure (and flavour!) of growing their own! Luckily, as you can probably tell from the name of this blog, it is my favourite gardening subject and I thought I'd take a few minutes to write about the best part – figuring out what to plant!

What should you grow? Grow what you love to eat. Grow what you can’t buy locally (heirlooms, unusual vegetables). Grow gourmet vegetables and herbs that are usually quite expensive to buy, but simple to grow (leeks, arugula, mesclun mix).

Here’s a list of some of my favourite crops to cultivate:

Leeks
Although I had never cooked with leeks before, I decided to plant them a few years ago for the first time - mainly because they looked so beautiful in the garden with their tall, architectural foliage. I started the seeds indoors in mid-March and transplanted them to the garden in early May. You can also buy transplants from a local nursery. As I planted each sad-looking, spindly seedling, I didn't have much hope. Yet, within a month, they were beginning to thicken up nicely and by early autumn, the plants were gorgeous - tall and spiky with long white stems. We harvested them all autumn, and when winter finally threatened, I tossed a thick blanket of shredded leaves on top on the remaining leeks and covered them with a row cover to keep the leaves from blowing away. Then, whenever I craved leek soup (Check out my early posts for the recipe!), I just wandered up to the garden, reached under the mulch and pulled a few sweet leeks. Mmm!

Arugula
Extremely pricey at the grocery store, arugula is actually incredibly simple to grow. It thrives in the cool weather of spring and fall, producing an abundance of peppery leaves in as little as 30 days - I guess that's why it's also called rocket! Plant the seeds directly in the garden as soon as you can work the soil, sowing more seed every two weeks for a continual supply. We serve arugula the Argentine way - drizzle a bowl of leaves with olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt for a simple, but sensational gourmet salad.

‘Emerite’ Pole Beans
If you can only grow one bean in the garden, let ‘Emerite’ be your choice. A true filet bean, this French-import bears generous clusters of 20-centimeter long, melting tender green beans. The pretty vines will grow about three-meters tall and will happily scramble up netting, string, or a teepee of bamboo poles. They bear their heavy harvest over a very long period of time and take up much less space than traditional bush beans.

Purple Podded Pole Beans
A treasured heirloom for almost a hundred years, this 2-½ meter tall vine offers an endless supply of meaty, stringless deep purple beans that grow up to 20-centimeters long. The foliage is also purple tinged and extremely attractive, making it an ideal edible for ornamental gardens. My children call them magic beans, as once they are blanched in boiling water, they turn bright green in colour.

Cucumber ‘Lemon’
I’ve been touting the merits of this heirloom cuke for years now and have no intention of stopping until every vegetable patch in North America boasts a few of these productive plants. Lemon cucumbers are super achievers in the garden, with their three-meter vines branching off in every direction and producing up to 20 fruits per plant! The cucumbers resemble flattened lemons with soft greenish-yellow skin and extremely crispy flesh. Grow them vertically on a trellis to save space.

Cherry Tomato ‘Sungold’
‘Sungold’ is garden candy with its irresistible sweet flavour. None of the 2 to 3 cm wide fruits actually make it into our house, as they are all eaten in the garden directly off the vines. The plants are indeterminate, often growing over 2 meters tall and produce long clusters of the golden fruits. (For more info on Sungold, see my earlier posts)

Other Jabbour family favourites include ‘Costoluto’ Tomatoes, ‘Black Krim’ Tomatoes, ‘Garden Oasis’ Cucumbers, Fingerling Potatoes, ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss Chard, ‘Atomic Red’ Carrots, 'Napoli' Carrots, Pattypan Zucchini and ‘Super Sugar Snap’ Peas.

Happy Gardening!

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