It’s time for my annual review of what did well in the garden, and what didn’t. In my 2016 review I called it The Year of the Pepper, since I harvested over 75 pounds of them. In 2017 the peppers struggled, after all my seedlings were attacked by aphids and I was late getting the plants out. It was a banner year for cucurbits though as I harvested 26 pounds of cucumbers, 134 pounds of summer squash and 232 pounds of winter squash. And it was a great year for tomatoes as well, with the garden giving us 217 pounds of them. But I believe the best crop of all came from the sweet potatoes, which produced 170 pounds. So I will call 2017 the Year of the Sweet Potato.
Last month, I did a complete review of all the sweet potatoes we grew, so I won’t cover all of that again. We have been enjoying the sweet potatoes every way we know how to prepare them, and we have been sharing with friends. One of my new favorites is one called Korean Purple, which has purple skin and a fairly dry white flesh. It was the second best yielding variety of the ones I grew, behind the orange-fleshed Beauregard which was the most productive.
The summer squash totals were aided by the very productive Tromba d’Albenga which is technically a winter squash, but usually harvested in the immature green stage and used like a summer squash. It accounted for about 70 pounds of the total of the summer squash harvest. In addition to using lots of it fresh I also dried and froze quite a bit of it for later use.
The Sunstripe yellow zucchini was a standout last year, along with the light green Middle Eastern zucchini Clarimore. In the above photo we also have the yellow straightneck Enterprise, White Scallop pattypan, and Striata d’Italia zucchini. All did well here and will likely be back again in 2018.
Several of the winter squashes were standouts, including the Dickinson pumpkin and the Tetsukabuto squash. Dickinson made almost 70 pounds of pumpkins, while Tetsukabuto produced 40 pounds of mature fruit. Both have proven to be quite useful in the kitchen, and I plan on growing both of them again in 2018. The Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato squash wasn’t quite as productive but it was very tasty, and the vines made 5 squash that weighed just under 8 pounds. I plan on growing it again too. The 2017 AAS Winner Sugaretti is a spaghetti squash that did quite well too, as did the Honeybaby butternut which was also a 2017 AAS Winner. And the hybrid neck pumpkin Turkeyneck gave us several fruits with sweet and flavorful flesh. I was disappointed in the Bush Delicata and Honey Boat Delicata squashes, as they were shy producers of bland tasting squashes. Both usually make tasty squashes here, so I’m not sure what the problem was.
The cucumbers also did well last year. I only grew them in the greenhouse, and didn’t plant any outside. In addition to slicers I’ve grown before like Corinto and Tasty Jade, I also grew several pickling types including Excelsior, Vertina and Harmonie. Both types did quite well, keeping us supplied with over 25 pounds of cukes for fresh eating and for pickling.
It was a great year for beans here too. I grew all snap beans, mostly vining types but I also grew a short row of the bush bean Derby. Fortex, Musica, Gold Marie and Rattlesnake all did well, but the standouts in the kitchen were the Appalachian heirloom beans including Bertie Best’s Greasy, Non-Tough Half Runner and Robe Mountain. These three are best when harvested after the beans start filling out. I tried Early Riser and while it made tasty beans, it ripened the same time as Trionfo Violetto so it didn’t add a lot of earliness to the mix. Withner’s White Cornfield bean did reasonably well, but I don’t think it was an improvement over other flat-podded types like Musica and Gold Marie.
I know there are lots of different bush snap beans out there, but I have been growing Derby pretty much ever since it was introduced. It was a 1990 AAS Winner, and it never fails to produce well for me. The round, straight pods are tender and as we found out last year perfect for roasting in the oven, which is our new favorite way to eat them.
We love kohlrabi here at Happy Acres, and I planted quite a bit of it last year. Kolibri, Kossak and Konan all did well, and gave us over 80 pounds of kohlrabies which we enjoyed raw, roasted and fermented.
It was not my best year for peppers, following an aphid attack on my seedlings that set them back for a few weeks. That made me late getting the plants out, and many had to be replanted. Still we got 46 pounds of peppers, more hot ones than sweet. Cornito Rosso and Cornito Giallo are two of my new favorite sweet peppers. They are great for roasting and grilling as well as for fresh use. I didn’t have enough to dry but there’s always next year!
Notable hot peppers included the o/p Guajillos and the hybrid version called Minero. The Anaheim type Biggie Chili always does well for me, giving me lots of fruit for roasting, smoking and drying. And the baccatum types Aji Golden, Aji Angelo, Kaleidoscope and Malawi Piquante also did well. I think Guajillo and Minero make a mildly hot and very flavorful chile powder, so I dried all of them for that use.
Tomatoes are a favorite in most backyard gardens, and it was a great year for them here. The indigo type Midnight Snack cherry tomato (a 2017 AAS Winner) was a standout here for salads and snacking. The plants kept producing until frost got them, and the tomatoes have a unique and savory flavor my wife and I both enjoyed. Snow White and Champagne Cherry are great tasting white tomatoes, and I snacked on many of them while outside working in the garden.
Sunpeach cherry tomato is a sister variety to Sun Gold and did quite well for me last year. This was one recommended to me by a local market grower, who was using it for his veggie CSA program. The fruits form on long trusses and it didn’t seem to have the splitting problems so common with Sun Gold. It was great for eating fresh and for drying, and I plan on growing it again next year.
One of our favorite slicing tomatoes is called Captain Lucky, and this open-pollinated variety was the star of many sandwiches in 2017. The green-when-ripe tomatoes are colored with green, pink and yellow inside and very meaty with few seeds.
For processing I rely on semi-determinate paste tomatoes and this year I planted Viva Italia and Health Kick which both did well. I also grew my all-time favorite tomato Juliet, which always gives us abundant harvests of fruit for drying, roasting, processing and using fresh. Marzano Fire did well too, but Rutgers 250 and Marzinera were not very productive for me. Golden Rave always does well for me, and the yellow paste tomatoes make a nice addition to the mix.
Every spring we eagerly wait for the first asparagus spears to emerge. In 2017 we cut the first spears on Mar 20th, and the total harvest for the year was 24 pounds. One of our favorite ways to eat it is a treatment called Asparagus Mimosa. We make it using a recipe from the cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. This recipe adds capers to the classic but simple dish featuring lightly cooked asparagus topped with chopped hard boiled egg then sprinkled with coarse sea salt and drizzled with some good olive oil. I also did a quick ferment on a few which turned out quite well too, adding another level of flavor to the crunchy spears.
The spring planted brassicas did quite well, though I got the fall planting out later than usual and many of the plants never reached their full potential. The spring broccoli was some of the best I’ve grown, with Gypsy being a standout in terms of size.
Kale always does well for me, and White Russian is one of my favorites for flavor and productivity. It is a selection from the Wild Garden Kale Mix, which also produced Red Ursa. I grew all three of these this fall, and they’re all quite tasty especially after they have been kissed by a couple of frosts or freezes.
Prizm (a 2016 AAS Winner) is a compact hybrid curly kale that also does well here in both spring and fall plantings. The short plants make them a good choice for growing under cover, and I have some overwintering in one of the cold frame beds.
I don’t always mention the herbs we grow and harvest here, but they are important and much used all the same. Parsley is one of my favorite herbs, and I plant mostly flat-leaved Italian types like Splendid (from Wild Garden Seeds). It overwinters quite well in my greenhouse.
And I grow quite a bit of basil here every year. Corsican is a Mediterranean heirloom type that makes plants of varying shades of green and purple. I think it has a better flavor than other purple leaf basils I have grown in the past, less ‘spicy’ than Dark Opal or Amethyst, and the plants are vigorous as well. My other favorites include Profumo di Genova, Italian Pesto and Sweet Thai.
I hope you have enjoyed this review of some of the veggies and herbs we grew here in 2017. And I hope 2018 is a great year for all of you out there! I’ll be back soon with more adventures from HA.