Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Prior Year Veg Variety Winners (Where are they Now?)

We find it very useful to review prior year 'awards' because it shows us whether or not we have 'one season wonders.'  After all, if we're going to recommend a variety to others, it makes sense to review them and make sure we don't have selective amnesia about their production.  Since we are now in planning season, it makes sense for us to take the time to review prior years at this time.

2009:
1. German Butterball potato
2. Pablo lettuce
3. Chioggia beet
4. Jaune Flamme tomato
5. Quadrato asti Giallo pepper
honorable mention: Listada de Gandia eggplant, Waltham Butternut squash, Jade green beans, Crispmint lettuce, Jimmy Nardello's Frying Pepper

2009 was such a different growing season than 2010.  Potatoes and winter squash drowned in the June rains this past season.  Eggplant barely survived to give us some (very late) fruit just before the frosts.  But, of all the potatoes we put in, German Butterball was the only one that gave us anything. 
Of those crops that produced this year, we can make some comparisons.  For example, Pablo and Crispmint, the two lettuces in the 2009 list, did just fine this year.  In fact, Pablo very nearly made the top 10, and Crispmint would surely have been top 20. We've learned a bit about Crispmint's holding ability in very cold weather (not as good as we thought it would be), but it really doesn't make us all that unhappy, it just changes how we will use it in the high tunnel next fall.  Our opinion of Pablo couldn't get much higher, but it's performance in the high tunnel might even increase it a tad.  Only a weaker spring kept it from 2010's top 10.  Jade green beans are still the taste standard, but the plants are less happy with cool, wet weather.  Hence, they didn't do as well as Provider in 2010.  And, Chioggia beets still are our favorite beet - we just couldn't get many of our succession plantings of beets (any kind) to germinate.  When they did germinate, Chioggia and Detroit Dark Red still led the way.

2008:
1. Dr Wyche's Yellow tomato
2. St Valery carrot
3. Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch kale
4. Crispmint lettuce
5. King Richard Leek

Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch kale is a beautiful and tasty variety that will not leave our production lists any time soon.  But, this season illustrated for us why we try to grow more than one variety of each crop.  This variety disliked the wet feet more than Red Russian, and if we had relied on it as our only kale, we would have been disappointed.  Otherwise, this variety is consistent in most seasons.  St Valery is still our favorite carrot and it was valiant in its attempts to do something this year.  Crispmint is still a favorite lettuce and King Richard is the most consistent leek we grow.  In fact, King Richard has a milder taste and very long stems that are prized for leeks.  The disappointment comes from Dr. Wyche's Yellow tomato.  We wonder if it couldn't stand the pressure of being number one?  We will grow it again in 2011, but it will be given a short leash as we consider replacing it with Kellogg's Breakfast.  Our suspicion is that it is a variety that is more susceptible to the blight that ran rampant the last two years.  Since these things cycle, it is possible that this tomato will return to prominence.

2007:
1. Jimmy Nardello's Frying Pepper
2. Mountain Sweet Yellow watermelon
3. Italian Heirloom tomato
4. Sweet Genovese basil
5. Burgess Buttercup winter squash

Jimmy Nardello's Frying pepper is still tops in our book.  Every pepper took a hit in 2010, so you can't blame the variety.  You see Italian Heirloom back on the list this year, so it remains a top variety for us.   Burgess Buttercup made a nice comeback in 2009, but drowned like the rest of the winter squash in 2010.  So, we still like this one and have actually increased the row feet this variety will cover in 2011.  Sweet Genovese remains our primary basil, giving us consistent yields of excellent green basil.  Last year was not a great basil year only because we could not get into the fields to transplant them. 

The watermelon is yet another story.  Our taste buds still remember this watermelon fondly, so we plan on growing it yet again.  But, the reality has been that watermelon is one of our lower priority crops.  If weather puts us behind in our planting or weeding, then watermelons and sweet corn often get the short end of the stick.  Provided the new equipment does what is required of it, we should be able to get these into the ground in 2011.  I have this dream of a watermelon tasting event this summer - let's make that happen!

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