Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Top Ten Veg of 2010

A newsletter tradition for GFF has been picking the varieties of veg we grow that get our TOP TEN honors for the year.  This season, the top ten goes to the blog. We had some difficulty choosing this year because it illustrated for us how many crops and varieties did poorly this growing season.  On the other hand, it reminds us how much we are still able to grow even in a down season.

10. Practically any cucumber variety - but we'll go with Marketmore 97

Yes, this was the year of the cucumber.  Ask any CSA member and they'll tell you that we were even suggesting grilling cucumbers (it actually works pretty well).  The turkeys also received more than a fair share of cucumbers.  But, since we have to choose one variety for this list, we select Marketmore 97.  We have also grown Marketmore 76 with great success in the past.  The plants are sturdy and very productive.  Plants produce larger slicers that are typically straight and uniform in shape.  If we were forced to grow one cucumber - we would go with a Marketmore.

9. Italian Heirloom Tomato

As we were planting the tomatoes, I was heard telling someone else that the Italian Heirlooms were our most important tomato.  Why? Because they consistently give us more pounds of marketable tomato per plant than most varieties.  And - they give us great tasting and easy to process tomatoes.  Perhaps some of the reason they do so well is the elevated status we give them in comparison to most other tomatoes.  But, I feel they've earned the honor.  The real kicker was the 200-300 tomatoes we pulled off of 6 plants in the high tunnel in October.  Most were still green - but the size and quality of these were amazing.

8.  Costata Romanesco Zucchini

Production levels were consistent, but not on a par with most hybridized zucchini (3.8 per foot with a difficult start).  They are not as uniform, they're skin is softer and they tend to vine more wildly than hybrid zukes.  These are all things that will cause most commercial growers to pull these from production.  On the other hand, these vines survived being surrounded by water for three weeks and some of our hybrids produced less well than these.  The real reason for being here was the *taste* of these zucchini.  In a vegetable stir fry or grilling packet, we found ourselves picking out the Costata's to eat them first.  They are that good.

7. Provider Green Beans

We tend to overlook our green beans when we do our end of year selections.  I suspect part of the problem is that we only grow two varieties of green beans and 30+ varieties of tomatoes.  Provider consistently gives us good yields, seems to handle adverse weather reasonably well and the beans taste great.  They beat out Jade because they produced a much better crop this last summer.  The best news for us is that Provider has a long history and is unlikely to disappear from seed catalogues.

6. Red Russian Kale
 The early season kale started us off right, but quickly died in the wet June weather.  The last to go were the Red Russian plants.  But, the last planting paid us handsomely with excellent harvests that went well into November.  These plants are easy to harvest and provide us with a kale that can be used in a wide range of recipes.  Leaves can get fairly large before they get too tough for eating.  The jury is still out on high tunnel production of this variety, but early signs seem positive.  We'll see how the plants perk back up when the hours of sun increase.
5. Tiger Eye Shell Bean
We have had difficulty growing standard lima beans on our farm with any consistency, so we thought we'd give Tiger Eye a trial.  These can be used as either a shell bean or a dry bean.  The shell beans are a perfectly fine replacement for limas - not exactly the same - but those who like one will like the other.  These plants handled adverse conditions and did not need the amount of heat that limas typically desire.  They produce in a shorter season and give you an opportunity for either a late planting or doing early harvest for shell beans and late harvest for dry beans.

4. Kolibri Kohlrabi
 I admit that we favor open pollinated varieties to hybrids, and now is not the time to discuss the why's of it.  But, here is a hybrid that we let crack our top ten list for the year.  Kolibri is a purple kohlrabi.  If you peal it, you will find the center to be white like any other kohlrabi.  The fruit tend to be a bit smaller and are usually much more tender.  Given the choice between a green kohlrabi and one of these purples, our resident kohlrabi taste expert (Tammy) will choose kolibri every time.  Is the taste dramatically different?  No.  It seems to be more of a texture difference.  Kolibri tends to get ripe earlier than our other kohlrabi and they tend to be consistent in their production.

3. Black Summer Pok Choi
Pok choi is not one of the crops we have great familiarity with.  Last year was our first foray into growing pok choi as a fall crop. The success of that crop into November encouraged us to do more this season.  Black Summer maintains a beautiful vase-like shape throughout its development, allowing us to pick them small or large.  They hold in the field well and can handle very cold temperatures.  Don't try this variety in the spring as it tends to bolt.  The pok choi was a wonderful bright spot for us this fall.  Enough so, that we will look for a variety that might work in the spring as well.  High tunnel production of pok choi was a good thing.  If we can manage to get into the tunnel this week, we expect to find a few more for us to pick.

2. Music Garlic
We had a very good stand of garlic this year, but had some difficulty getting them pulled out before they rotted in the wet June weather.   Of the group, we were probably most pleased with one of our standbys.  Music is an excellent all-purpose garlic that tends to give larger sized cloves.  Plants are hardy, handling all kinds of weather.  For our area, we would tend to recommend Music to a person who is looking to grow garlic for the first time.

1. Bronze Arrowhead Lettuce
Lettuce that can handle cold weather.  Lettuce that can handle warm weather.  Lettuce that holds in the field well.  Lettuce that can be used as cut and come again plants.  Lettuce with good taste, getting a bit stronger in the summer.  Lettuce with excellent colors.  Lettuce that is easy to start, transplant and harvest.  Lettuce that still sits in our high tunnel waiting for us to pick it...in January.  What's not to like?

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