Our display gardens here in Burlington, Vermont, are asleep beneath a thick blanket of snow. Though it will be several months yet before I can start planting, I’ll soon be making my seed list for the coming year. As always, last year’s vegetable garden had some winners and some losers. Though it was a tough growing season (we had an entire month of rain in July), some things did remarkably well. For me, one of the best parts of gardening is trying new varieties of vegetables. Of those we trialed last season, here are some new favorites:
Husk Cherries: Otherwise known as ground cherries or cape gooseberries. These little beauties are native to Brazil, though they long ago naturalized in Peru and Chile. They are in the same genus as tomatillos and resemble miniature ones. They ripen to a golden yellow and have a flavor somewhat like a pineapple. It’s fun being able to snack on these bite-size, fruity treats, which cleverly disguise themselves as a vegetable. Source: Thompson & Morgan
Rat’s Tail Radish: Unlike other radishes, these are actually edible seed pods that are produced on a bushy plant. They have a pleasantly spicy bite. The plant is native to Java, which makes them all the more interesting and exotic. I enjoyed eating them as a passing-by treat picked right off the plant and found they’re also great in stir fries. Source: Kitchen Garden Seeds
Purple de Milpa Tomatillo: This variety is very ornamental, with beautiful dark purple fruits sometimes touched with green. I found them to be slightly sweeter than their green counterparts. Plus, why grow green tomatillos when you can grow purple ones instead? Source: Seeds of Change
Golden Sweet Pea: This is the most attractive pea I have ever seen. The tall green vines have pretty purple flowers and yellow pods. These peas hail from India and they tolerate heat and drought better than most pea varieties. They also produced a higher than average yield. Source: Kitchen Garden Seeds
Musica Pole Beans: This variety produces sweet, flavorful beans in great abundance. If I could only grow one type of bean, this is the one (so far!) The pods grow to 7 or 9 inches and stay juicy, never tough. You can make an entire meal out of just a half dozen of them. Keep the plants well picked and they just keep on producing. Source: Renee’s Garden Seeds
Malabar Spinach: This delicious and highly nutritious green is actually completely unrelated to spinach. Native to India and Indonesia, malabar spinach thrives in the heat of the summer. The red-stemmed vine is very ornamental and is should be trained up a trellis for easy access and highest productivity. Its succulent leaves look like spinach but taste quite different. They’re a nice addition to salads and a great midsummer or hot-climate green. Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
The 2009 seed catalogs have been piling up since before Christmas. I’m sure I’ll find lots of new plants that I can try growing (and eating!) in the coming year.
For more information, check out the slide show of our 2008 vegetable garden.