I try to plant at least one new thing every year—both in my flower and my veggie/herb garden. Over the past few years, I’ve come up with a list of my favorite vegetables so far. As I continue to try new things, this list is definitely subject to change. Most of my favorite vegetables are not necessarily the “standard” varieties. Some of them are a little less than traditional and you may well like another variety better. It’s really all about “customizing” your garden to your tastes.
Just in case you’re interested, here are some of my favorites:
Cherokee Purple is my favorite slicing tomato. It has a ¾ pound to 1 pound fruits. They are hugely flavorful and very juicy. It’s a little more disease resistant than some heirloom tomato varieties. The fruits ripen to a sort of burgundy color.
Sun Gold is a cherry tomato that ripens to a golden orange. It’s intense, almost citrusy, in flavor and very prolific. If you can’t find it, there is a sister variety called Sun Sugar—awesome as well.
Other good ones I’ve tried: German Johnson is an heirloom variety with a rich flavor and one pound fruits. Another good Heirloom is Hillbilly—it’s a mild sweet tomato with one to two-pound fruits.
I’ve tried lots of different summer squash and don’t see a lot of difference between them. That said, there is a little round zucchini which I tried because it’s so great for stuffing. I just cut the top off and scoop out the center. I grow those every year, just for the fun factor alone.
This year I’m going to try a summer squash (available in Southern Exposure Seed) called Tromboncino. Because it makes tendrils, it’s recommended to trellis it and it can be harvested as a summer squash when picked young and pale green or as a winter squash when allowed to fully ripen to beige! And, best of all, it’s resistant to squash bugs, squash vine borers, and powdery mildew!
There’s a relatively new one called Sweet Heat. While I don’t like “hot” I do like this one. It’s sweet, which does keep the heat level down a little, and very flavorful. It’s also a very compact plant—maybe 12” or so tall so is great in containers. As an added bonus, while all peppers are high in vitamin C (containing as much as does an orange) Sweet Heat has 65% more than other peppers.
Another favorite is Jimmy Nardello’s Italian Pepper. It’s a sweet pepper that looks like a cayenne—but it’s all sweet and flavorful. Available only from seed, it’s well worth trying.
I don’t have a favorite green bean—they’re all good. I do tend to plant Contender or Blue Lake bush beans because they produce two to three weeks sooner than Kentucky Wonder or Blue Lake pole beans and, I’ll admit, I’m a little impatient. I’ve also planted purple or yellow podded beans because the colored pods are so much easier to find in the garden!
My favorite cucumber is an Oriental variety called Suyo Long. It grows 15 inches or more in length and is thin-skinned (no peeling) and burpless. It’s awesome for fresh eating but also makes great pickles. I grow it trellised because those long fruits lying on the ground would curl up. It’s another one that’s available in Southern Exposure Seed Exchange seeds.
I don’t have room to grow space intensive crops like corn, pumpkins, or melons so I leave those to the experienced farmers at our Farmers Market here at the Great Big Greenhouse (every Thursday from 10 until 2). If I had the room for melons, I’d grow a variety called Ambrosia. It is the epitome of cantaloupes—uniformly nectar sweet and juicy. Seeds are only available online so I just get the melons from Walnut Hill Farms at our Market.
I would never have discovered some of these fun and unusual varieties had I not dared to try something new and different. Do the same and you’ll find your favorites just like I did!