We've been starting seedlings in trays and, as always, we are starting extra plants that will be available for purchase at the Waverly Farmers' Market or during one of our sales down at Hansen's Outlet this Spring. If you can make none of those, we have been known to take orders and make arrangements to get plants to interested persons.
That said, we recognize that many people have already done their seed orders for their gardens for the season and plans are already made. But, early Spring is also a great time to talk about favorite varieties and why we like them in anticipation of the day they begin producing. We actually did this once in January 2011 and it might be interesting to see if there are any duplicates here!
We hope you enjoy reading about varieties we love to grow!
So, the rules of this list are as follows:
1. It must be a variety we have three or more years of history growing.
2. Crop failures due to weather that resulted in crop failures of all of that vegetable do not count against a variety.
3. To make the list, the variety must be the ONE variety we would grow at GFF if we were FORCED to grow only one.
4. We must balance productivity,
taste, reliability, etc to make our choices. Choices are not
necessarily the one variety we might recommend to a new gardener, nor
are they necessarily our absolute favorites for taste. Selection does
not mean we wouldn't miss other varieties. But, it does mean that, when
push came to shove, we would pick this one over others.
Of course, we have to start with tomatoes. Everyone wants to talk about tomatoes. The difficulty here is that there is so much variety and different purposes that we're going to cheat a little bit (what? ALREADY!?!).
If you can only plant ONE variety. Italian Heirloom
Smaller than average plants are a bit wispy, but the production levels are excellent and the tomatoes are a nice .9 pound on average. They are meaty, not too juicy and have a wonderful taste. They start production early and can run into October before the frost gets them. The only issue is that you can see sunscald on the tomatoes due to less leaf cover - so plant some nice tall zinnias nearby.
If you want a gourmet tomato. Black Krim
They are also a smaller plant and they like warmer and drier weather. A cool wet season is NOT their friend. They are also difficult to figure out when to pick them, so go by feel rather than what they look like! For these, it's all about the taste.
If you want a paste tomato. Speckled Roman
Speckled Romans are the biggest LIARS in the garden. Oh... poor me... it is sooooo hot and I feel that I might SWOON! Then, evening comes and they stand up beautifully. Harvest comes, and they have a very nice flush of red and yellow striped paste tomatoes. We prefer the taste of these as a base for our sauces (a bit sweeter than many paste tomatoes). But, of course, when we make a sauce, it usually has a whole host of different varieties in it.
Would you like a snack or salad sized tomato? Black Cherry
This one was pretty tough, but we had to go with Black Cherry based on the looks people get on their faces when they taste one of these cherry tomatoes. We are considering putting a plant in various locations throughout the farm as 'snack plants' for our workers. They're that good. Production is consistent and plants don't get too big, compared to some other cherry tomatoes.
What did we say in 2011? Italian Heirloom
We're going to cheat again... Ok, it's not really cheating because you can't compare a bell pepper with a sweet pepper with a hot pepper. So there!
Best bell pepper at the farm. Napolean Sweet
Now, before you all go assuming that the other bell peppers we grow are pitiful excuses for fine fruit, you should consider the rules above. We've got a great selection at the farm. But, the Napoleans produce these nice, big, elongated bell peppers that have more taste than most bell peppers. The plants are a bit taller than many, so staking might be a good idea, but we've had very good and very consistent production.
When they are ripe, they are about 8 inches long and carrot shaped. Their color is a nice yellow orange. You can pick them once they show a little yellow and they'll turn the rest of the way in about 3 days on your kitchen counter. Tammy loves to munch these and Rob will even take some nibbles in the field - which says something.
Best hot pepper. Wenk's Yellow Hot
They produce like a jalapeno and look a bit like them - except they are cream color to start and turn to orange and red over time. They're about a 2 to 3 out of five on the hot scale and have a bit of a papricka taste to them. Unlike jalapeno, they don't have the bitter aftertaste. Reliable plants that are easy to pick because it's easy to see the fruit.
2011? Golden Treasure and Wenk's Yellow Hot
Ok, no more cheating. The whole process of picking one is actually very difficult for us because each variety on our grow list is there for a reason. But, if I'm going to play the game, we'd better follow the rules... most of the time.
Our recommended lettuce variety is Bronze Arrowhead. This variety shows up several times on our top 10 variety list and grows in all sorts of weather. Bronze Arrowhead falls in the 'oakleaf' class of lettuces and can be treated as a cut and come again or as a half to full head harvest. We've planted them early, we've planted them late and we've planted them mid-season. Taste may get stronger in the Summer, but not in a horribly unpleasant way. Our 2011 lettuce pick was Pablo, which we both love, but it isn't as reliable as Bronze Arrowhead, takes longer to mature and wouldn't work as a cut and come again.
No contest. We've loved Jade for a long time. Don't even bother to go look at 2011's list, it'll be the same. At one point, we were very big on Benchmark, but that variety disappeared several years ago.
Jade is good warm season green bean, so don't try to push planting too early because the seeds won't germinate well in the cooler soil. But, once they get going, they will produce and produce and produce. The beans are tender and have a fantastic taste. They grow well in the field or the high tunnel, though they might triple production in the high tunnel.
We'll do more posts over the next two weeks to continue this topic, so stay tuned!