Last week I wrote about easy edibles for beginners, but the post didn’t include much about the importance of the right variety of a plant. Not all tomato or lettuce seeds are equal, and growing varieties that fit our climate, taste good, and look good is key to having fun in the garden. Here’s the scoop on some of the varieties I grew this year:
Sun Gold tomatoes. Seattle gardeners love these orange, early ripening cherry tomatoes, which is especially evident in the P-patch, where every other plot has a Sun Gold plant.
Yellow Perfection tomatoes. Tangy, juicy, firm, prodigious, and pretty. These delicious lemon-yellow 1 1/2 inch tomatoes ripened about two weeks after the Sun Golds.
Thai Dragon peppers. I have maybe a dozen of these tiny hot peppers on one plant. They’re still green, but I have hope that they’ll ripen up to red in the next month. Even if they don’t, the great thing about peppers is that they can be harvested green.
Bibb lettuce. This lettuce makes it to the winners list because it germinated well even in warm weather and because it has a nice taste that’s not too bitter. My plants bolted before I got full size heads, but almost all the lettuce heads I saw at the p-patch were bolting at the same time, so I won’t hold it against this variety. Bibb also didn’t wilt in hot weather, possibly because I watered the plants at least twice a week and they got only morning and mid-day sun, with shade in the afternoon.
“Volunteer” pumpkins. In my pumpkin patch, I don’t weed out seedlings that come from pumpkin seeds in the compost. The named varieties I planted (this year and every year) are mostly disappointments, but several of the volunteer plants have pumpkins that are almost ripe. Pumpkin and squash plants easily cross-pollinate with other varieties, which means that there’s a reasonable chance that these pumpkins won’t make great pies or soups. That’s OK- I’ll use them as decorations or Jack O’ Lanterns. The success of the volunteers helps me believe that the pumpkin patch wasn’t a total waste of space, time, and water.
Beaverlodge tomato. Mushy. Need I say more?
Early butternut squash. These vines were the first to succumb to powdery mildew, and don’t even have any green squash on them. This was strike three for the early butternut variety- the only ripe squash I’ve ever gotten from it was about the size of those apples in school lunches.
Cinderella pumpkin. These vines grew big and luscious, but the female fruits all withered and fell off before ripening, except for one that spontaneously split down the middle. I can’t blame poor pollination, either, because the flowers were covered with bees and I hand pollinated a few of the female flowers. This year is strike two for the cinderella pumpkin.
Sweet Meat Heirloom squash. I have four plants and only one golf ball size squash. If I’m lucky I’ll get one little green decorative squash by harvest time, while I was hoping for four to eight big, meaty squashes for eating. I should have planted tomatoes, peppers, or pretty flowers in that row instead.
Lettuce mixes. Each year I somehow get suckered into buying a packet of lettuce mix, and every time I’m disappointed at what grows. Someday I’ll learn my lesson. Lettuce mixes generally include both bitter and sweet greens, which is too bad because I don’t like the bitter ones. “Lettuce” mixes often include kale or chard that’s meant to be harvested young to use in salads, but in my opinion both kale and chard are too bitter for salads, and are much more suitable as braising greens.
Middle of the road:
Legend tomato. Legend has a bountiful yield for a slicer grown in Seattle, but the texture is just OK and the flavor is milder than I like. I’d rather grow something with half the yield but twice the flavor.
Gypsy pepper and Little Bells pepper. Every year I get about two ripe 2 inch peppers from each of these plants. This is a little pathetic, but it’s better than the zero or one ripe peppers that I usually get off other sweet pepper plants. I’ve accepted that the maritime Northwest isn’t a great place to grow sweet peppers, but at least the plants don’t take up much room and can handle a fair bit of neglect.
Joe’s Best pie pumpkin. I have three of these plants, and have one almost ripe pumpkin. Like the peppers, this yield is pathetic, but even one ripe pumpkin is a success compared to the other named varieties of winter squash and pumpkin I tried.
Blue Lake pole bean. These tender green beans were easy to germinate and are good producers with no disease or pest problems. They’re on the maybe list because they’re so sweet they’re almost fruity tasting, which isn’t the flavor I’m looking for in a green bean.
What varieties were the winners and losers in your garden this year?