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
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
Bright Lights Swiss Chard
-a beautiful addition to
your garden. If you harvest it carefully, your plants can last all season
Provider Bush Beans
-a dependable classic with early
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.
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.
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
Yellow Doll Watermelon
- A vigorous and productive
variety which will make you piles of small, sweet, flavorful, watermelons
with yellow flesh.
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.
-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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
-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.
Easter Egg Radishes
- These are very easy and quick to
grow, are mild-flavored and come in an assortment of pinks, purples, reds
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.
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.
- This spinach grows well for me in fall,
winter and spring and has excellent flavor. What more could I ask
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.
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
-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.
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!
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!
- This is a reliable broccoli that
produces mild, uniform broccoli heads.
-A beautiful, frilly vigorous kale that
thrives all winter long!
Pingtung Long Eggplant
- A long, Asian slicing type
eggplant. Sets dozens of sweet, thin-skinned fruits per plant, is
fast-growing and vigorous.
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.