In a past post I related how my mother had witnessed a woman staring hands-on-hips at the produce selection in a grocery store and exclaiming, “I wish they’d come up with some new vegetables!” How true is that? How many ways can you cook the limited offerings in your average supermarket produce section without going out of your mind? That’s where a trip to an ethnic grocery store can be a life-saver. Or, plant some fun new varieties in your garden.
Thanks to Baker Creek Heirloom (Organic) Seeds and their fantastic catalog, I was spoiled for choice. I also buy a lot from Botanical Interests , an organic seed company which has packets for sale in stores such as my neighborhood Joe’s Hardware. Their wildflower seed mixtures are highlights of my garden and attract birds, butterflies and other insects. Here are some newbies I tried this year, and the keepers:
Zucchino Rampicante : an heirloom zucchini that grows on a vine. This squash grows curled or straight on long vines that need support. The fresh squash can be used like zucchini, but are firmer and have a mild butternut flavor that goes well with everything. I am completely in love with the taste of these.
PLUS: if you leave the squash on the vine, it grows huge and unlike those monsterous zucchini clubs that are practically inedible and unwanted, zucchino then hardens and you can store it and use it as a winter squash! How marvelous and unwasteful is that! Zucchini without the pressure. No more alienating your neighbors and friends with excess squash.
Green Zebra Tomato :a large, lime-green striped tomato that develops a slight yellowish tinge between the stripes when ripe. These gorgeous tomatoes are rich and slightly tart, but without heavy acid. Marvelous on a open-faced sandwich or in a caprese salad to show off the color inside.
Thai #2 Red Seeded Long Bean: The seeds were given to me by the woman who introduced me to Baker Creek Seeds, and who built my chicken and quail coops. I planted the seeds by stakes that turned out to be too short for the vines.
However, these beautiful flowers eventually came, followed by spectacularly long thin green beans two feet long! One bean per person! (Just about, anyway). They are good stir-fried. I haven’t tried to tempura one yet, but its tempting.
Mortgage Lifter Tomato : Now THESE are the ultimate sandwich tomato. These heavy pink-red fruits have mostly meaty insides and have an incredible savory flavor. I have found my favorite red tomato. Beefstake has nothing on this baby. It also has a cool name.
Rice Blue Bonnet: the jury is still out on this one. This is a dry-land rice. I didn’t thin it when I should have, so it is growing in clumps and hasn’t progressed beyond the thin leaves. My fault. It is growing and would probably be successful if I handle it right.
Basil Custom Blend HEIRLOOM Seeds : I planted a row and have regular and purple basil, lime basil, and cinnamon basil (one of my favorite scents). Today I used the regular and purple chopped over an open-faced tomato sandwich, and my daughter added leaves from the other two to a fruit salad.
Sesame, Light Seeded : Beautifully flowered plants with seed pods full of sesame seeds! How great is that?
Broad Windsor Fava Bean : I planted a lot of legumes to help build the soil (they set nitrogen), and tried fava beans this year. They grow like crazy, take a lot of neglect, and produce a fantastic protein source in the form of a tasty bean. They are a little trouble to shell, but well worth it. I wrote about favas here.
Blue Potatoes: These I started several years ago from an organic blue potato I bought at a grocery store. Since there are usually some small tubers left in the soil, I have volunteers sprouting every year. These blue potatoes – whatever their true variety is – are a lovely purplish blue outside, with a lovely purple center as well. They aren’t starchy, but are best used like red potatoes. Very fun.