Grow: Kip's Maintenance Blog
July: Blue Ribbon Veggies
This month, Kip divulges the best of the best in vegetable seeds
After 20 years of sampling the seemingly limitless inventory of vegetable seeds available in the market — of sowing, and watching our foster children grow and perform on the garden stage — it should be reasonable to suppose that we have settled on some favorites. That supposition is correct. Not for us, any policy such as you might hear expressed in regard to human children: "We love them all equally." Oh no, we are stern critics, and not afraid to let the plants know what we think, or to banish them if they disappoint us.
The vegetables described below are the stars of the show and will remain on the bill until brighter ones arise and force the old into retirement. Seeds for all of these varieties (except the potato) are available from the sources mentioned in our January and February reports.
The humble bean, you say? Small indeed, a haricot vert, the bush bean 'Nickel' produces abundant yields of exquisite stringless pods, a gourmet's delight. Nothing humble about 'Fortex' however — the larger these pole beans get (up to a foot long and as thick as my little finger), the better they taste.
Three rising stars in our garden are 'Alcosa' (savoy), 'Gonzales' (green) and 'Red Express' (red). These are small meal-size cabbages, succulent and flavorful, and bred for close (one foot apart) spacing and earliness. I've eaten 'Alcosa' already this season.
Not for me the great white curd — I'll take 'Violet Queen,' a purple type that's grown for fall harvest and is arguably better-tasting than any other cauli, or any broccoli for that matter.
Except for pickling, 'Diva' is the only cuke I need to grow. It's the one that will change the mind of people who think cucumbers don't agree with them. I once belonged in that camp.
The blue, forearm-thick, winter-hardy kind are what I like. Right now 'Arkansas' is master of the class.
This may surprise you, but there are so many fabulous varieties that it's scarcely possible to choose just a few. The key to eating the best lettuce you've ever known is growing your own — you simply cannot buy great lettuce in the supermarket. If nothing else, you must try homegrown 'Buttercrunch.'
Why grow your own onions? 'Ailsa Craig Exhibition' is why. But you'll have to start them indoors from seed in mid-February. Take it from someone who takes great pains to avoid trouble: they're worth the trouble.
Again the question: Why grow your own? This question is asked only by gardeners who have never mined 'Red Gold.'
They're fun to grow for many reasons, but for the best of all possible worlds, 'Kakai' is highly ornamental in still-life arrangements and additionally is filled with delicious hull-less seeds.
Almost all summer squash is great when picked small, but 'Costata Romanesco' (a zucchini type) is in a class of its own.
Yeah, I know — you grow it by the bale. Still, for compact growth habit and succulence, 'Silverado' is nonpareil.
Shall I list my 50 favorite varieties? I think not, lest you send me a list of your favorite 50. 'Brandywine' has been all the rage for the past decade, and if you like that one, then you will surely love 'Rose'.
I hope this helps.
Kip Anderson has been the Victory Garden's head gardener for over 20 years.