Every year we attempt to identify the top 10 varieties that were grown on the farm during the year. Criteria include production, quality of fruit, taste and plant health. Additional factors that may increase the rating for a variety might be performance as compared other varieties of the same type or one that surprised us by doing far better than anticipated. You might also note that we will give a tie break to a variety that has not been awarded a top 10 slot over one that has.
For those who want to see what has gone before:
One more note before we begin. The spraying incident of late July removed a number of varieties from contention that most certainly would have been featured here this year. But, alas, you will see no eggplant, no okra and no peppers. Certain bean varieties were instantly removed from contention after being sprayed with Lorsban, Stratego and Sniper. Otherwise, this would have been far harder than it already is to select only 10 varieties.
The 2012 WINNERS!
Snow Crown Cauliflower, True Lemon Cucumber, Rio Grande Potato, Hearts of Gold Melon, Provider Bean, Redfield Beauty Tomato, Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage, Orangeglo Watermelon
10. German Pink tomato
German Pink tomatoes are the heirloom tomato that taught Rob to eat uncooked tomatoes. Fruit are meaty and average a pound in size. Plants are vigorous with good leaf cover. This year's plants were quite happy with the warm weather. The only thing that would have been better would have been a later freeze so we could have enjoyed nearly twice the production of these beauties. Taste is always good for these, but were more so this year. Given a full year of excellent production, this might have climbed into the top three for the season.
9. Long Island Cheese pumpkin
If we went with production, plant health and fruit quality, you would think this would be our best pumpkin for the year - but you'll just have to read on to find out more. Taste is excellent, and the flesh has good consistency for use in baking or cooking. We've always appreciated Long Island Cheese because it actually makes a valiant attempt to succeed every season, despite the weather and what we might have done (or failed to do). It was extremely satisfying to finally hit a year where we did what we needed to do to give these winter squash the chance to show us what they can do.
8. Success summer squash
For some reason, we don't have a picture of this one. Summer squash is one of those crops that you see a lot of for several weeks and you figure you'll get numerous chances to take pictures. Then, suddenly, the season is ending and the fruit at the end of the season always seem to pale in comparison to the peak!
We were in a bit of a quandary at seed order time. The hybrids we've grown each of the last several years were all discontinued. We had been unable to find any reasonable open pollinated options, with the only ones we've found being susceptible to disease and unable to produce at levels we needed. Then, we looked more closely at High Mowings' catalog and took note of Success. The plants fought valiantly through the hot weather and drought, giving us enough fruit during that period to keep our farm share happy. Then, after a little rain and some cooler weather, they really showed us what they could do. These exhibited hardiness, an extended production period, quality fruit and a good taste. Since it is open pollinated, we feel that we've found something we can grow for some time to come without falling victim to the whims of seed companies.
7. Silver Queen sweet corn
This one is another surprise for us. We usually only grow sweet corn because we like it and we want to freeze some for the winter. The problem is, we usually put this lowest on our priority list because we don't grow it for the farm share. This year, for various reasons, was different and we got the seed in the ground at the right time. We even managed to irrigate it once - just when it was needed. The result was an opportunity to freeze our own corn AND have enough to give some to our farm share and sell more at the farmers' market. Wow. Silver Queen has an excellent sweet corn taste that leans towards the more traditional taste as opposed to the super sweet varieties everyone thinks they have to grow right now. After this season, we may not consider this a low priority in future years. But, space and time restrictions are still a reality, so don't count on seeing sweet corn very often in the CSA.
6. Musquee de Provence pumpkin
Here's the reason Long Island Cheese was only number 2 for pumpkins! This is *the* best tasting pumpkin in the world. Ok. It is, in our opinion, the best pumpkin we have tasted. Long Island Cheese is excellent for taste - and this one exceeds that! Fruit tend to be larger, with the smallest landing at about 10-12 pounds. The largest fruit this year was approximately 34 pounds. Pumpkins tend to be green with some brown-orange at picking, but they will turn more orange/brown if they are in a warmer environment after picking. The pumpkin show above has been a centerpiece in our kitchen since early October. It is now completely orange/brown. Seed cavities are small, given the size of the pumpkin. The only down side to these for us is the relatively low number of fruit. They may produce as many pounds of fruit as Long Island Cheese. But, if we need certain numbers for the farm share, it is difficult to rely on this. And, the size is large enough that it is difficult to transport enough for the CSA program.
5. Purple Majesty potato
4. Black Krim tomato
Frankly, we are surprised this one is making its first appearance in the top 10. We sing the praises of this tomato to our customers every year. They echo that tune when it gets raves during tomato tastings. The issue has been trying to get enough of the fruit! Well, the jury is in, and the drier/warmer seasons are favored by Black Krim. It is possible Black Krim might have won this year if the high tunnel production hadn't been sprayed. We are convinced that these will do well there. Just looking at this tomato makes me want just one more BLT for the year!
3. Gypsy broccoli
Gypsy is an exception for our lists that happens only occasionally. We favor open pollinated seed, but Gypsy is a F1 hybrid. However, since the discontinuation of Early Dividend several years ago, we've been casting about for a broccoli that provides moderate sized primary heads and excellent sized side shoots. We are also picky about taste and a reduced tendency for the broccoli to 'talk back' after it is eaten. Gypsy hit all of the requirements right on. To say we are pleased is not entirely accurate. We are pleased, relieved and happy to be eating more broccoli. Farm share members were very pleased with the taste of the broccoli this year. Much of it was Gypsy, but we have to be honest and state that there were a couple of other varieties that were good this year as well. But, Gypsy won the prize.
2. Jade green beans
If you didn't think there would be a green bean at the top of the list after this season, you were not paying attention. We managed to pick a half ton of green beans on the farm this year. We did this even after losing the beans in the high tunnel and the southwest field to the spraying. Over half of these beans were Jade. Jade are better when they are slightly bigger (as opposed to Provider, where you want them slightly smaller). These are top quality for taste and fruit quality. They make us happy because they keep producing consistently once they start. They also favor warmer weather, which would explain their happiness this year.
1. Boothby's Blonde cucumber
It took a little bit of talking to convince our Farm Share CSA members that these small, white/yellow cucumbers were ripe and tasty. But, once we got people to taste them, we heard superlatives we haven't heard before with respect to cucumbers. We realize many were also raving about True Lemon cucumbers as well, but both received high marks for taste and sweetness. No bitterness to be had here! Boothby's wins partly on the strength of the accolades from our customers. But, they also win because they produced consistently in both cucumber plantings for a long period during a tough year. We've known for a few years that these were a good cucumber, but we have had a difficult time keeping them picked. This year, we stayed on top of it and were richly rewarded.