26 Great Vegetables To Grow in 2006

This is the time of the year when seed catalogs pile into your mailbox and, if you're like me, make it into a stack next to a cozy reading chair. One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is order seeds for my organic garden. I read through the descriptions of every plant, look at every picture and fantasize about how glorious my garden will be when I plant some of each plant that appeals to me.

Then, reality hits me: I can't plant 327 different vegetables in my garden! I have to winnow down my list so that I have a manageable number of different plants to seed and tend to. I have to think about what will be a reasonable amount of vegetables to harvest for eating, selling or preserving.

Over the years, I have ordered hundreds of different varieties of vegetable seeds. The ones that have really worked for me, I order yearly now. I can't imagine doing without them. I also try new seed varieties every year. They add some interest to the garden for me and I almost always find a "keeper" that I will grow time after time.

I am going to share my 26 top "picks" for 2006. These are all vegetables that I plan to grow in my organic garden this year. I have selected these based on past success with them or on a hunch that they will do well for me. All of these varieties can be grown with organic growing methods. Most of them will do well in any part of the country. I tend to grow early varieties (those that have relatively few days from seeding/transplanting to harvesting), so even though I live in NC, which is a place with a long growing season, these varieties should do well in more Northerly locations.

Here are my 26 picks for 2006.

  1. Bright Lights Swiss Chard -a beautiful addition to your garden. If you harvest it carefully, your plants can last all season long.

  2. Provider Bush Beans -a dependable classic with early yields.

  3. Beer Friend Edamame - edamame are soybeans that are harvested green and eaten salted and boiled in their pods. They are apparently a classic bar food in Japan, where a dish of edamame is set on the bar for snacking. All I know is that they are delicious and make an addictive snack food.

  4. Fleet Sweet Corn - an early bicolor (yellow and white kernels on the same cob) corn. This is the first year that I'm trying this one, but it sounds dependable and tasty.

  5. Sugarsnap Snap Pea - These are a spring treat so sweet that you can eat them raw. They are vigorous growers and will need to be staked.

  6. Yellow Doll Watermelon - A vigorous and productive variety which will make you piles of small, sweet, flavorful, watermelons with yellow flesh.

  7. General Lee Cucumber - Make lots of cukes that make superb pickles and are OK for fresh eating. Despite the name, these do well in the North too.

  8. Holland Cucumber -These cukes are the long, seedless greenhouse type but they can be grown in the garden if you trellis them. Their texture and flavor is unbeatable and they're pretty easy to grow. You could be enjoying sublime cucumber salads every day this summer if you give this guy a try.

  9. Sunburst Patty Pan Squash - I'm not a big summer squash fan, but this variety makes such cheerful-looking squashes (bright yellow with a green blossom end) is so easy to grow and is so cute when picked as "baby squash" that I often grow this one.

  10. Sun Gold Cherry Tomatoes - These orange tomatoes have a very sweet fruity taste, make great (sweet) spaghetti sauce, are delicious in salads, grilled in shish kabobs, etc. They set fruit even in the hottest of weather and have good disease resistance.

  11. Luffa Gourds - This is a plant that requires a long (110 day) growing season. If you have the heat, it will give you dozens of gourds that are simple to make into luffa sponges (all you have to do is peel them and shake out the seeds) just like the high dollar ones you see at the store. I often give luffa sponges as Christmas gifts.

  12. Tonda di Parigi Carrot - I usually grow a little round carrot called Thumbelina but this year's FEDCO catalog touts the "Tonda" as a similar yet superior variety so I'm giving it a try.

  13. Chioggia Beet Chioggia Beet
  14. Chioggia Beet -This is one of the most gorgeous vegetables that I have ever seen. When you cut this beet open, you will be amazed at the surreal pink and white stripes you find inside. It also has a sweet flavor and is good enough to eat raw.
  15. Easter Egg Radishes - These are very easy and quick to grow, are mild-flavored and come in an assortment of pinks, purples, reds and whites.

  16. Round Black Spanish Radish - This is a radish that I like to use in stir fries, eggroll fillings or sliced very thinly on a good piece of rye bread with some spicy mustard. If you have a root cellar, this is a good vegetable for you to store. I usually plant these in late-August and harvest them about 2 months later.

  17. Evergreen Hardy White Scallion -This provides me with "onion tops" to use on baked potatoes, in soups, salads, etc. This nice thing about it is that it is a perennial and is also cold-hardy enough to give me onion-y greens during the winter months.

  18. Tyee Spinach - This spinach grows well for me in fall, winter and spring and has excellent flavor. What more could I ask

  19. Red Sails Lettuce - A beautiful, easy to grow, classic red lettuce. Good for head lettuce or for mesclun mixes if you plant it densely and clip off the young leaves. It is mild-flavored and slow to bolt.

  20. Parris Island Cos Lettuce -This romaine lettuce is big, crisp, vigorous and refreshing. It's easy to grow, cold and heat-tolerant and rewards your effort with pounds of healthy, perfect, head lettuce.

  21. Arugula -This nutty-flavored salad green is a must. It is very fast growing and cold-hardy. Good for winter, spring or fall and a delicious addition to salads.

  22. Gigante D'Italia Parsley -This flat-leafed parsley can get giant! It will provide you with bunches of parsley and still have plenty left for the caterpillars of the swallowtail butterfly to nibble on. They love it too!

  23. Prize Choy Pac Choi - An open-pollinated Pac Choi that is sure to please seed-savers as well as the rest of us with its crispy stems and mild greens. When I cook this up in sesame oil, vinegar and soy sauce, I can't get enough of it!

  24. Packman Broccoli - This is a reliable broccoli that produces mild, uniform broccoli heads.

  25. Winterbor Kale -A beautiful, frilly vigorous kale that thrives all winter long!

  26. Pingtung Long Pingtung Long
  27. Pingtung Long Eggplant - A long, Asian slicing type eggplant. Sets dozens of sweet, thin-skinned fruits per plant, is fast-growing and vigorous.


  29. Fat 'n Sassy Sweet Pepper - This variety makes so many huge, bright red, blocky fruits per plant that you won't believe your eyes! The plants can get huge and are so disease resistant that they will produce for you all season long. What a winner!

So, there you have it: these are a few of my favorite things! If you plant these varieties and give them regular care, I can guarantee that you will have a great garden! If I stuck to my list, I would probably have very few "crop failures". But I just can't help myself: I order seeds that don't make it onto the "practical" list for my garden. After all, who can resist having four different kinds of edamame beans or 17 different kinds of greens? Since gardening is a hobby, and part of the fun is ordering seeds and trying new varieties, I figure that I might as well go for it! I hope that you will too and that you'll grow some new and exciting vegetables in your garden this year.

Where should you buy your seeds?

FEDCO - www.fedcoseeds.com

Johnny's Selected Seeds- www.Johnnyseeds.com

Pinetree Garden Seeds- www.superseeds.com

The Cook's Garden- www.cooksgarden.com

See Also:
There's a Goosefoot in my Garden
It's Easy to Grow Great Garlic
How Does Your Garden Grow Part One: Getting to Know Your Soil
Bountiful Basil

Digg! digg it

Tammy Biondi has been growing organic produce for over 10 years. Besides running Blue Horizon Farm, Tammy teaches about sustainable farming at the Central Carolina Community College. She also is a successful freelance writer, focusing on agricultural topics. Contact her at tammy@bluehorizonfarm.com.