It’s the New Year and seed catalogs have been arriving in mailboxes for the past month, tempting gardeners with new and familiar varieties of vegetables and raising the perennial question: what do I order this year?
For all of you resolved to grow vegetables this year and now leafing through catalogs, I asked some Lopez home gardeners to share their favorite vegetables and varieties. For the full list of their suggestions, look in the folder titled Lopez Gardeners’ Favorite Vegetable Varieties in the Reference Section of the Lopez Library. For their top favorites, read on.
Peas, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Squash and Kale: these are on nearly everyone’s list of vegetables they always grow. Here are favorite varieties plus some handy tips.
Peas: petit pois, snow peas and snap peas. In the early spring, Lopez gardeners plant them all. Waverex is a favorite petit pois. Oregon Giant and Oregon Sugar Pod II, “big, sweet, and productive over a long period” are two snow peas. And among snap peas, Sugar Snap, the original snap pea, “needs a super tall trellis—8 feet” and Cascadia, a descendant, “uses a shorter, 5-6 foot trellis.” Sugaree, from Peace Seeds in Corvallis, Oregon, provides “lots of sweet, crunchy peas, the greatest snack right off the vine in the beginning of summer.” If you chose Sugar Snap, find a supplier working to eliminate the 20-30% of off-type Sugar Snaps that showed up in last year’s seed.
Potatoes: yellows, reds and fingerlings. “Caribe, German Butterball, Rose Finn Apple may be my favorites and all are fairly scab resistant. Red gold is really delicious, but doesn’t keep very long.” “Yellow Finn keeps well and I plant what is sprouting in the spring.” “We plant Yellow Finn and Rose Gold about 8 inches deep and mulch them with hay after they grow tall enough.”
Tomatoes: Stupice wins! “Reliably ripens in our cool garden” “We always get some tomatoes off of Stupice.” “The most reliable, easy to grow tomato outside. It is flavorful and early, does not require pruning; halfway between determinate and indeterminate, it produces a very nice crop while minding its manners.” Other varieties that made gardener’s lists: Taxi, “an early, small plant with yellow fruit,” Black Plum for sauce, Orange Banana for paste and drying, and Romas “because the green ones will keep until January or February. For cherries: Sweet Million and Sungold. And for a hoop or green house: Pineapple, Rose de Berne and Brandywine.
Squash: you can have too many zucchini but never too many winter squash or pumpkins. Gardeners plant Delicata, Mesa Queen Acorn, Buttercup and Ambercup. Tetsukabuto from Pine Tree Seeds is “a Japanese pumpkin that keeps a long time; we will still be eating them when we plant the next crop.” And for another pumpkin, there’s Small Sugar, “truly one of our all-time favorite veggies to grow. Obviously good for pies but also for soups, stews, and just plain eating baked with a little butter.”
Kale: another winter favorite nearly everyone plants or lets plant itself. Named varieties gardeners list are: Lacinato, Winterbor, Siberian, Red Russian, Redbor Hybrid, Winter Red, White Russian, Dwarf Curled Scotch. Other gardeners let their kale inter-cross and select for types they like. “I have ‘planted’ almost none of it for years and years! I have lacey, curly kinds, purple-veined kinds, dark, leathery varieties. As the years go by they make more transformations but they are all edible and yummy.” And a final note about kale: in the spring it goes to seed and the broccoli-like stalks steamed or sautéed taste of both winter and spring, a perfect way to leave one season and enter the next.
So as you puzzle through the 2009 seed catalogs, don’t be shy about calling on your gardening friends! Gardeners are happy to share what they know and love.
Thanks to Lopez gardeners: Ona Blue, Jeanna Carter, Mary Hayton and Kevin Murphy, Beckie Heinlein, Christine Langley, Sheila Metcalf, Carol Noyes, Irene Skyriver and Suzanne Strom.