Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Veg Variety Winners 2014

2014 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
There were a few others we considered for the top ten and they didn't quite make it.  In particular, Bronze Arrowhead did what it usually does -well.  But, we have to admit that we didn't put as many in this year and that's the only reason it didn't make the top ten.  Ok, that, and we've semi-officially removed it from the competition.

French Breakfast

Dwarf Blue Scotch
Bronze Arrowhead

Nebraska Wedding
10. Sweet Siberian watermelon
It was nice to have a decent batch of watermelon this season, even if they were pretty late (September) due to the colder Summer we had this year.  Sweet Siberian is the shortest season watermelon we grow and it sets fruit that land in the 5-10 pound range.  This makes it perfect for the CSA since we can load in 50 or so fruit and not take the whole truck to do it.
Seeds are part of the fun!
The texture has a bit of a grainy feel to it and the taste has overtones of honey, which actually matches up nicely with the texture.  The color can take you aback when you first see it and you'll be tempted to say it isn't ripe.  But, after you taste it, you'll stop worrying about the color.

9. Bloomsdale spinach
Bloomsdale has made our list in the past.  This year, it was not likely to make it.  The extreme cold prevented our over-Wintered spinach from doing much and we had some issues with all of our spring seeded crops.  Until the Fall/early Winter batch started getting harvested, we were feeling a bit low on spinach.  The quality and taste were top notch this Fall and they handled the extremely cold November weather pretty well.  A more normal Fall would have increased the harvest, but we cannot complain about the taste.
Late Fall or early Spring, this spinach is the best tasting you'll ever get!
Bloomsdale has savoyed (bumpy/wavy) leaves that have a bit more substance to them.  We tend to eat them raw with some of our favorite salad dressing.  But, we were treated to some lightly sauteed spinach in butter, sea salt and GFF garlic at the Savory Spoon.  Wow.

8. Eden's Gem melon

Individual sized servings and great flavor.
An amazing thing happened this year.  We have melons and watermelons on our veg variety winner list this season.  In our minds, that is an accomplishment since we have not had terribly successful years with these in the past.  Eden's Gem provides us with 1-2 pound melons that have green flesh and a wonderful scent and taste.  Production is very good on relatively compact vines.  We expect even greater things from them next year.  Our harvert numbers landed at .91 per row foot.  We figure that one marketable fruit for every row foot is reasonable, though we might like more.  This season had a perfectly good reason for the reduction, and it had nothing to do with the variety and everything to do with the mulch that lifted up and beat many of the plants to death.  So, given that - Eden's Gem had a very nice year.

7. Northern White garlic

The garlic did just fine this season.  In fact, it was one of the crops that did as well as we expected it to do.
Where's the photo bomber?
Essentially, 2014 was a year where very few of our crops exceeded expectations and many of them limped in with a low level 'acceptable.'  We aren't complaining about that because we met our obligations to our customers and provided very good produce to them.  But, when you're trying to highlight things that were exceptional, you don't want a crop that just met the anticipated levels to be at number 7.  But, let's be fair here.  Our expectations for some of our crops that have done well in the past are often higher.  Our expectations for garlic are certainly not low, so we should just get over it and admit they earned the spot.

Once again, taste from these has been excellent.  Remember that sauteed spinach?  Northern White garlic with it. mmmmm.

6. Jupiter bell pepper
We are not entirely sure how we made it through the season without taking a picture of these lovely bell peppers.  Jupiter tends to be a bigger and rounder green bell pepper with a mild taste and fairly thick walls.  Production numbers were very good, but it was the average fruit size that made us take notice.  Just under a half pound per fruit, these were surprisingly large and extremely good looking.  We don't expect this much size from Jupiter every year, but our previous history has been good.  This just happened to be a year where many of our peppers did well and Jupiter actually did better than most.  The strain from High Mowing has been nice since it allowed us to return to producing this open pollinated pepper after it became difficult to locate a new seed source a few years ago.

5. Scarlet Ohno Revival turnip
The farmer is falling down on the job - he failed to get pictures of this too!  This is one of those cases where we were pretty excited about the IDEA of this variety to begin with.  Purple Top White Globe turnips are fine and we've had some good luck with White Egg as well.  But, we've been looking for a turnip with even better taste and quality.  Catalog descriptions are one thing, historical claims for Scarlet Ohno are another thing.  But, the reality was well worth the effort to try it.  We wonder exactly how good this one will get once we figure out optimal timing for our plantings.

We roasted Scarlet Ohno with some Purple Majesty and Carola potatoes.  A little of bit of spicing - including some garlic from the farm - and we had an excellent roast vegetable dish.  Surprisingly, those who tasted Scarlet Ohno raw liked it quite a bit.  So, some thin slices in a salad are definitely not out of the question.

4. White Wing onion

A pleasure to pick in 2014
You've read about onions a few times already this season because we were very pleased with our results in 2014 so I'll refrain from writing too much here.  Much of the excellent results came in the form of White Wing onions.  For the most part, we simply harvest these and give them as fresh bulb onions rather than curing them.  They are a good short season onion, with good quality and taste.  We are considering splitting production into two successions and don't really consider White Wing for storage purposes. 

3. Broccoli - Belstar and Gypsy
Yes, we know.  It isn't fair if you select two varieties in one slot.  But...  It's our list and we can do it if we really want to.  So there!
Main heads + side shoots = happy CSA members
The cooler Summer supported an excellent broccoli year.  The taste was excellent, the insect pressure was minimal and the main shoots were supplemented by excellent side shoot production.  These are both hybrid varieties.  But, we have had a terrible time finding a good open pollinated that produces at levels we need for our farm.  That doesn't mean we won't keep trying.  Nonetheless, we are very happy these two varieties give us a solid anchor of production with quality that we can build from.

Side by side production of Belstar and Gypsy for our main season succession had Belstar at 1.27 pounds per row foot and Gypsy at 1.31 pounds per row foot.  Gypsy splits the production 40% main heads and 60% side shoots.  Belstar is 67% main heads and the rest are side shoots.

2. Purple Beauty bell pepper

When a year works, a year works.
We try not to overload the list with similar vegetables.  But, when a variety distinguishes itself, you've got to give its due.  And, our peppers in the SouthWest field were surprisingly good.  We figured we would have problems given the cooler weather. And, in fact, there were some issues.  But, we had these in our best drained field, which helped us to overcome weather issues.

Peppers averaged .38 lbs each with excellent quality.  While I have yet to run the per plant production numbers, they are quite good.   It was a nice treat to easily be able to pick enough Purple Beauties to give all of our CSA members a chance to try them.  As far as taste goes, Purple Beauty rates simply as a green bell for taste.  This is certainly not bad.  But, this is a case where the year's production characteristics pushed it to the top of the list.

1. Listada de Gandia eggplant
Prettiest eggplant on the block.
And, here it is!  The number one vegetable variety of 2014 at the Genuine Faux Farm!

Listada de Gandia is produces beautiful striped Italian eggplant that regularly get people at the market to stop and ask about them.  Their taste matches most deep purple eggplant as long as you don't let them age too long on the vine.  But, that is true for all eggplant of this type.  We prefer to pick them at an average 3/4 pound size.  This allows the consumer to eat them without pealing. 

Production-wise, Listada has had up and down years.  In some of the down years, we have to admit that we didn't give them the best shot.  Remember, there are multiple variables when it comes to the success of a variety on our farm.  One of those variables is the effort the farmers put into the crop.  We freely admit that eggplant don't always get a high priority ranking since it is not a favorite vegetable for many of our CSA members.  So, if adversity strikes the crop, we may cut our losses sooner in order to succeed on other fronts. 

This year, Listada and Black King carried the load for eggplant.  Black King is an Italian type purple eggplant and is a hybrid.  Listadia is an open pollinated heirloom.  Usually, odds are given for the hybrid to win.  This year, with side by side production with all treatments given at the same time (planting, watering, weeding, picking) Listada de Gandia made the hybrid look weak.

Marketable Fruit:  Listada 360  Black King 272
                   Weight: Listada 284.8 lbs  Black King 217.9 lbs

Listada does have a shorter production window, though it ran from August 4 to September 30 this year.

We hope you enjoyed our Veg Variety Winners for 2014.

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