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Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Suggested Varieties for the Fall/Winter Garden

Artichokes (a perennial)

Green Globe – one of the more productive varieties, Green Globe is usually one of the varieties available in the farmers' markets and groceries.
Violetto – is not so often seen in the market. Not quite as productive but still quite acceptable. Like the name implies, it has a good splash of purple in it. Each leaf tip possesses its very own, very sharp spine which makes eating them an exercise in alertness. They are worth it.


Burpee’s Golden – there was a time when 'Burpee' was synonymous with seeds for the home gardener. While this is no longer true, way back there in that faraway time, Burpee bred a lot of wonderful crops that we still find useful today. This beet has lower germination rates than other beets, but boy oh boy: They are worth it! From the mere fact that they don't bleed red beet juice all over your fingers (and clothes!), Golden beets are very sweet. Sauté in orange juice. Pickle.
Chiogga – another heirloom. Very productive and sweet, not as sweet as the Golden, but running a close second. One of these beets, cut in half before being cooked, reveals alternating rings of a light red and white. They keep those alternating rings when roasted. A lovely side dish!


Nutribud (58 days) DeCicco (48 to 85 days?) and Waltham (85 days) are the heirloom varieties available today. Of these two, Nutribud is the best for container gardening but performs well in the garden too. The days listed behind each variety are the 'days to harvest' from the catalogs. This refers to an approximate day by which you may expect to harvest the broccoli heads from the day you set them into the ground (transplanted out). It is an estimate only – weather conditions and other factors speed it up or slow it down, but in these four varieties above you have the idea that DeCicco might come in first and Waltham last, all other things being equal. Broccoli is a wonderful home garden crop that keeps on giving over a long time with side shoots. For that alone, I prefer broccoli to the other cole crops and I give it more space accordingly.

Brussels Sprouts

Long Island Improved – 80 - 115 days. Brussels Sprouts are a largish plant but have the added advantage of providing a rather continuous harvest over many weeks. They also can be a pain if they get aphids or whitefly because they are very difficult to police and really tough to clean up to eat. But like broccoli, it does produce over a long season. If you are willing to fight off the aphids, it does make for some good eating! Roast 'em on the grill...


Danish Ballhead – A late season cabbage – not so good for containers, but a reliable producer for those who wish to preserve some of their cabbage. Note that all these cabbages are not savoyed cabbages. Those crinkled leaves of the savoyed variety hold dirt and also make very opportune homes for slugs – and one gets a lot of slugs in long season cabbage anyway.
Early Jersey Wakefield gets you a cabbage in about 70 days and performs acceptably in containers.
Mammoth Red– You'll get a 7 pound head in about 90 days, so it's not fast, but a few plants ought to keep you happy in red cabbage for a long time.


There are many different colors of carrots to think about growing – Pinetree Garden Seeds sells a carrot mix that includes a number of different varieties and colors! Most of these colors are old varieties that were shelved when popular opinion decided all carrots should be orange.
St. Valery – old time variety that is delicious main crop carrot. The only reason to grow this and not Scarlet Nantes is a personal choice – they are both good and produce well.
Danvers – sometimes called 'Danvers Half Long' is the selection for those who plan on juicing most of their carrots.
Paris Market – is the one to grow in pots. It's a little half-dollar sized ball of a carrot. You'll also see it called Parris Round.


Early Snowball – is an open-pollinated and is the earliest and tastiest of all the cauliflowers available. Other varieties are out there that are tasty but I think this one takes less work and compares well with the others. I am not a huge cauliflower eater – Mark Twain said, “Cauliflower is cabbage that's gone to college,” and for my money, I get more from cabbage or from broccoli.


Large Prague Celeriac – I'm not even going to list celery. In our climate, I don't think it's possible to get a sweet celery that isn't as tough as a sisal rope! Celeriac, on the other hand, has that delicious celery taste, is easy to grow and works as well as or better than celery in soups and other dishes. You can't fill it with peanut butter or cream cheese like you can celery, but how healthy is that anyway? And if that's the only advantage, stick with celeriac!


Five Color Silverbeet – All the chards taste about the same to me, so I like to plant this chard to get all the different colors – some of them are quite wild. (Australians call chard “silverbeet” which is a nod to the fact that chard and beets are the same exact species of plant.) Dependable and beautiful, you can't beat this one in the garden or the kitchen. But all the chards are good producers and keep giving into the summer in our climate. Start finding recipes for it, you'll need them!


Slo-Bolt – Holds slightly better than older varieties in heat (cilantro does not like to grow in heat) and the plants are a little larger for a better and longer harvest. Try growing it in some afternoon shade with extra water. Successive sowings help somewhat, but it's near impossible to have cilantro when you have tomatoes. I know, it's sad.

Fava Beans

Windsor – Though not the only fava out there, this one is probably the premier fava bean for a home garden. Not for those of us with very little garden space, a typical fava plant can get to be four and half feet tall or more. One plant, happily tended, will provide enough fava beans for two folks unless they really intend to chow down on favas! (Fresh grated parmesan cheese on fresh raw fava bean seeds marks you as a dedicated fava eater and you will need more than one plant!)

Florence Fennel (bulbing)

Fino – Usually used raw or cooked in Italian cuisine for its sweet, anise-like flavor, don't let it go to seed or you'll have this all over your garden as well.


This is a long season crop, plant in Fall for next Summer's harvest.
Chesnok Red – The three varieties listed here are all heirloom varieties. This variety doesn't store so well, but the taste it holds even after cooking is worth the trade off!
Music – A slightly spicy, incredibly flavorful garlic, this is one of the most popular types around.
Spanish Roja – I have grown this hard neck garlic for years – one of the finest flavored garlics I know. Not just hotter, the subtle tones that weave through the taste allows this garlic to compare to the common garlic in the supermarket equal in flavor as a fine Cabernet compared to a 'box of wine.'


Dinosaur Also called Tuscan Black Palm or Lacinato. A unique kale with very large, rounded, well filled, meaty leaves. Plants are large, hardy, and vigorous, and the flavor, if you like it is 'bold' and if you don't like it, it's 'overwhelming.'
Nero di Toscano – A three feet tall plant with dark, meaty, puckered leaves, the color of a blue spruce. The striking ornamental leaves have a fine flavor harvested young and cooked simply in olive oil.


King Richard – This leek grows nicely in our winter and quickly makes a decently edible leek in something like three months. To get a longer white part of the root, bring up the soil around the base of the plant – if you do, you will be rewarded with more usable root.


Many more varieties than you can shake a stick at – or grow a mix! There are many different colors and types, get as many as you have room for! I usually can't keep myself to less than 10 varieties at a time! Almost all of them are open-pollinated varieties and all are a gift from God!


Like garlic, these are long season plants. Look for “short-day” varieties, though most catalogs don't specify long or short day varieties so much these days.
Italian Red Torpedo – Peaceful Valley Farm Supply has these as 'sets;' young plants to set out. This is my very favorite onion. Onions are slow by seed but I've had wonderful success and may offer my own seedlings for sale this year. This is simply the best tasting onion you can get – on the grill, to die for! You might grow others that keep better in storage as well, but don't pass on these!


Italian Flat Leaf – A brighter, more intense flavor, though you will find the curly leaved varieties just as easy to grow in Los Angeles. The flat leaf is easier to dry for summer use.


Super Sugar Snap – I admit that I've mostly given up on peas. They take lot of space and don't exactly over-produce, they get mildew and croak early and I'd rather grow another row of fava beans which are much more productive. Eat the whole pea with these and skip the shelling.


Yukon Gold – A ton of varieties are available, Peaceful Valley Farm Supply will have seed potatoes available in mid-October; try purple and red potatoes – they are less than super performers this close to the ocean, but oh how yummy!


French Breakfast – The standard radish for dependable crops. All radishes are easy to grow and are very quick to harvest – usually around 20-25 days.


Bonilla – Onions are a hassle (and don't really cost that much in the market), shallots are easy to grow and replace the expensive shallots one would need to buy at the store. This hybrid shallot is quick and easy from seed. I got a remarkably good crop with little effort in my first year to grow them -even though I got them in rather late! Dried, they make a good long term storage item.


America – A semi-savoyed spinach. Most of the spinach we remember from way back were all savoyed spinaches, but savoyed (wrinkled), holds dirt better than smooth; I'm all for leaving the savoyed spinaches behind.
Bloomsdale Long-Standing – this was such a great improvement in old spinach varieties for the precise reason that 'long-standing' was not a quality of spinach – and this variety will still bolt at the drop of a hat and carries a hat in case one needs to be dropped. One hot day and you can loose the whole crop. Spinach is one crop I can take or leave.


Purple Top White Globe – Will get to be the size of a small foreign country if you let them, but they are better when small. This is THE turnip we think of when we picture a turnip in our minds.

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