Monday, October 28, 2013

2013 Veg Variety Winners at GFF

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:

Honorable Mention

The following are shown in no particular order.  Each did well for us this season and we were pleased with the quality, production levels and taste.  Apparently, we had a pretty good year with diverse success since it was harder than it has been some years trying to pare down the list!  In addition to these, French Breakfast Radish gets an honorable mention.

Red Xpress Cabbage

Black Krim Tomato (#4 2012)

Grandpa Admires Lettuce

German Pink Tomato (#10 2012)

Green Finger Cucumber

Beaver Dam Pepper

Feher Ozon Paprika Pepper

Sweet Genovese Basil (#4 2007)
Koboko & Minuet Chinese Cabbage

10 (tie). Dwarf Blue Scotch Kale

Dwarf Blue Scotch Kale (#3 2008, HM 2012)
This result may seem a bit odd to everyone since there wasn't as much of the 'curly' kale in shares as the Red Russian (#6 2010, HM 2012) kale.  But, as of this writing, we had pulled in more than 240 bunches/112 pounds of Blue Scotch in much fewer row feet.  We had planned to do much more, but the first succession did not make it through the heavy rains.  What made this stand out was the flavor that had people requesting more of it, an accomplishment since many are still skeptical of kale.  We like the taste much better than Ripbor, which is the hybrid industry standard.  As an open-pollinated, there are some inconsistencies in growth habit from plant to plant, but not enough to bother us. And, of course, they are a dwarf variety, so don't go comparing height of the plant to Ripbor, that's just not in their genes.

10 (tie). Oregon Sugar Pod II Snow Peas

We had some trouble trying to figure out which varieties fit in slots 7-10.  Arguments could have been made for most of our honorable mentions to go in here versus those that were eventually selected.  As a result, we caved a little bit and awarded a tie.  We must admit that part of the criteria involved our working to not include too many of one kind of vegetable in the list.  And, an early crop, such as snow peas, has a disadvantage since it has been a while since we have had them on our dinner plate.  But, the reality is that we had good production from our peas this season and Oregon Sugar Pod II stood above the others.  According to Johnny's, 25 pounds of production for a 100 foot row should be expected.  We pulled in 57 pounds in 200 feet.  So, they performed on the upper end of expectations.

The key for peas on our farm is getting them fenced in time.  We managed it this season and were rewarded with vines that we could pick.  We've long appreciated the Oregon Sugar Pod types for their taste and we were pleased to be able to share more of them with our shareholders this year.
Oregon Sugar Pod II

9. Jade Green Beans

Jade (#2 2012 and HM 2009)
Here is another that might seem a bit odd to see here because we didn't set the world on fire with our green bean production like we did last season.  However, it was the circumstances that lead us to choose this one.  Our field green beans were covered in water early on, which put the whole production load on 120 feet of Jade green beans in the high tunnel.  Over 375 pounds of beans later, we can honestly say we are deeply impressed.  And, with the freeze in mid-late October, we had to finally say good-bye to these plants  They had more blooms on them.  Absolutely amazing.  We'll stack the taste of Jade up against all comers for green beans. This is not intended to slight Provider (#7 2010) or Black Valentine (#1 2011).  Both have excellent taste as well.  But, we think Jade just might beat both of them out head to head.

8. Jimmy Nardello's Frying Pepper

They may look like a hot pepper, but they are a wonderful sweet pepper that can be used in many diverse ways.  We love the taste of this pepper fresh or cooked.  They are easy to dry or freeze and it only takes a few plants to get a decent crop of them.  Sure, they don't have the bulk other sweet peppers and bells do, but bulk doesn't always provide taste.

Jimmy Nardello's Frying Pepper (HM 2009, #1 2007)
This selection is also a situational selection.  Most of you will know by now that we lost our field peppers and had to rely on those in our high tunnel.  We had twenty of these plants in the building initially and added ten more.  Most of the production came from the first 20 with an assist from the additional plants.  We were able to pull in over 700 fruit from these plants and they wanted to do more.  It was primarily due to these plants that we were able to have peppers in the CSA shares for the last 7 weeks.  We've known what Jimmy Nardello's can do for us for some time, so it is good to be rewarded again for putting confidence in them.

7. Joi Choi

Joi Choi
In most of our lists, we try to stick to open pollinated varieties.  But, in the case of some veg, we have yet to find an open pollinated variety that does what we want or need for our farm's production needs.  We first tried Joi Choi last season in an attempt to find a Spring pok choi variety that would not bolt immediately upon hitting warmer weather.  Joi Choi showed good ability to handle the early planting last year, so we gave it more space this year.  And, to be perfectly frank, we gave it too much space (460 heads, 630 pounds).  We tend to plant crops with a certain percent excess to handle loss of all sorts.  But, we had only one thing that limited this crop - if the person transplanting did not ruthlessly remove a duplicate plant in a cell, then one or both pok choi were substandard at picking time.  We still like Black Summer (#3 2010) for Fall planting, but if we could only have one, this is our choice.

6. Bronze Arrowhead Lettuce

This one seems to appear every year in our top ten (#4 2011, #1 2010), though I was a bit surprised to see it missing from the 2012 list.  We've discussed the possibility of giving it an honorary top ten mention but disqualifying it from the 'competition' and may have actually done that last year.  But, that doesn't seem right either.  Essentially, what we've done is increased our expectations for this lettuce.  If it doesn't meet them some season, it will fall off the list (probably to honorable mention).

Bronze Arrowhead
This lettuce is good for all season growing, it tends to maintain good taste without getting too bitter.  It takes alot to get it to bolt and we've pulled in about 250 pounds of this lettuce alone so far in 2013 (average half pound per head).  I think we'd have to go through a serious grieving process if this lettuce were no longer available for us to grow.

5. Italian Heirloom Tomato

Italian Heirloom
Here is another of our long-time favorites making the list (#9 2010, #3 2007).  Because we grow so many tomato varieties, it is inevitable for one or two to make our list.  This year, competition was fierce, with German Pink pushing hard to take this spot.  But, in the end, it was the sheer volume of larger than usual, tasty as always, fruit with minimal blemishes that swayed us to select Italian Heirloom.  We usually rate these as 3/4 pound fruit on average.  This year, the average was closer to a pound.  We had an average of nearly 20 marketable fruit per plant this season.  In other words, there was an average of 20 fruit harvested that had no blemishes at the point we picked them. 

4. German White/Northern White Garlic

2013 Garlic Harvest
Here is the deal - last year was miserable for garlic.  None of the seed from our farm did anything for us this year.  On the other hand, the wonderful seed garlic from Blue Gate Farm did them proud.  Size and quality was excellent.  Germination was excellent, scape production was good and taste has been receiving compliments.  We're sad that most of the line we have maintained since we started gardening is nearly extinct - but we'll try to nurse them back with our 3 or four heads we've salvaged.  But, we will gladly maintain this strain for years to come.  And, have no fear, Music also did well for us this year.  Music has a history of landing in our top 10 (#2 2010, #8. 2011) and it wouldn't be a surprise if it returned.

3. St Valery's Carrot

Carrots have not been a consistent crop on our farm.  This is why Jeff Sage is our carrot guru.  But, we insist on planting carrots every year.  Of all things, we had a great year with carrots this season.  And, just like the last time we had a great carrot year, St Valery's was a part of it (#2 2008).  We like their size, their texture and their holding capacity in the ground.  Often, a variety that is part of a crop that excels beyond prior year expectations gets royal treatment in our variety top ten.  This is not an exception.  But, we're not surprised by these results - it's just a matter of getting the timing right at GFF for carrots.  When we do, St Valery's will perform admirably.

The farmer holding carrots
2. Boothby's Blonde Cucumber

Boothby's Blonde (#1 2012)
They fell just short of an unthinkable repeat at the top of our list.  And, they would have gotten it if the veg variety that gets number one this year hadn't anchored our season so well.  Our expectations for this variety have grown and our ability to recognize when to pick them has improved.  As a result, we saw production go up from 1500 to 2200 with the same number of row feet planted.  Ok, the fact that we didn't have the same issues with drought and heat this summer probably also helped. 

These have a mild taste that gets people who might not otherwise enjoy a cucumber to eat them.  They are a nice snack size with a tender skin that makes it easy to consume them whenever and wherever a person might like to have one.  We love seeing the kids gnawing on these after their family picks them up at a farm share distribution.

1. Wapsipinicon Peach Tomatoes (and friends)

Juicy.  Sweet.  Slightly Fuzzy.  150 fruit per plant in the high tunnel in a short season.

Wapsipinicon Peach Tomato
It doesn't hurt that the Wapsipinicon River is just a mile away from our farm.  In fact, that is the main reason we decided to try this tomato several years ago.  If you are by the river, you have to try the tomato, right?  We've always known about the exceptional taste and the tendency of these tomatoes to decorate the shirts of unsuspecting tomato snackers.  But, we've never seen them reach their potential until we had a season with them in the high tunnel. 

Wapsi Peach with Red Zebra and Green Zebra
Along with Red Zebra and Green Zebra, production of these salad/snack sized tomatoes was exceptional.  With the end results firmly in hand, it is hard to believe we were bemoaning the lack of tomatoes in August!  We were actually wondering if any of our plants, high tunnel or field, would do anything much.  Well, they came through - and get to the top spot in the variety list for 2013.

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