Welcome again to our Saturday Variety Show post where we feature a veggie variety we have grown at the Genuine Faux Farm.
We continue with an offering that was written prior to my April 28th surgery - and this is the last Variety Show post I have in the queue until I can write more. Assuming all is going well at this point with my recovery, I expect to return to my regular writing efforts and I hope to not miss a Saturday.
Either way, be well and I hope you enjoy what I offer here.
Today we're going to take a look at an open-pollinated zucchini variety called Black Beauty. I think Black Beauty likely qualifies as a heritage variety since it was developed at the Storrs Agricultural Experimental Station in Connecticut and introduced in 1957. You can find seed at Seed Savers and a few other seed catalogs today.
Black Beauty has a bush habit that can get fairly large in size if the fertility is good and they are typically quite sturdy. After the plants get to a certain size, they tend to "roll" over a bit, but they do stay in their rows pretty well. Unlike some of the newer hybrids, these plants have plenty of leaf coverage and would not necessarily be called an "open habit" that some commercial growers prize for ease of harvest.
Like most older zucchini and summer squash varieties, the stems are serrated (as are the leaves) enough that you will exhibit their "love" for you on your forearms after a harvest.
The fruit are typically blockier than many of the newer varieties, often flaring out to be slightly wider at the blossom end as it progresses from the stem end. The picture above shows a fruit from a "Cashflow" variety so it can be compared with the other fruit - all Black Beauty. There is a light ridge that often follows the length of the fruit. If you notice any patterning of the skin color it is usually quite faint.
Like many zucchini, Black Beauty fruit can grow rapidly when moisture and temperatures are right. We've had a few Louisville Sluggers get past us - and it is more likely you will miss a fruit if you have the leaf cover these larger plants often have.
On the other hand, we have noticed that Black Beauty plants tend to live and produce quality fruit longer than most hybrid varieties. That doesn't mean they produce more fruit than the hybrids, though each plant probably produces about the same amount as most hybrids, in fact. But, the production is spaced out over time. This makes Black Beauty a better choice for gardeners or for growers who don't want to mess with multiple successions of the crop.
On the other hand, the larger plant size tends to result in fewer fruit per row foot. For example, Raven landed somewhere around 6 per row foot in 2008-2010 while Black Beauty tended to be between 3 and 4 fruit per row foot. We've had similar comparisons in more recent years with Dunja, for example.
We have also noticed that Black Beauty seems to survive vine borers better than many other zucchinis.
The farm has featured a succession of Black Beauty every season since we started in 2004. I will admit that we often did not rely on this variety as our 'bulk producer.' We actually thought it as more of a safety net if our bulk producing varieties (Dunja, Raven, Cha-Ching, etc) failed us for any particular reason. Never flashy, always reliable - just plodding along getting us some zucchini every season.
If you want the best success with Black Beauty, give it a little more space to get big and they do like a bit more fertility. They like a nice deep watering when they get watered and they seem to really hit their stride when temps are regularly in the 80s. But, we've seen them extend deep into September if you can avoid a killing frost.
We hope you've enjoyed this week's Variety Show edition. Have a great weekend everyone!