Tag Archive for eggplant

Seedy ideas for Connecticut edible gardens

Choosing which variety of tomato or other edible to grow from seed can be overwhelming, particularly for gardeners new to seed starting. If, after following my earlier recommendations, your head is  still spinning here’s some of my favorite edible varieties.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Tomatoes: I grow standard, paste and cherry varieties. My absolute favorite for flavor and color is one I tried for the first time last season, the heirloom Cherokee Purple. The vines were prolific, produced solid, heavy, meaty fruit of a wonderful purplish red color and the sweetest ever flavor. Until Cherokee Purple took the top  spot on my favorite tomato list, Pruden’s Purple, also an heirloom with large fruit and a sweet taste, was number one.  I will continue to grow both of these full-size tomatoes plus the yellow heirloom, Manyel (smaller fruit, later maturity). These varieties are available from many seed suppliers, mine came from Pinetree Garden Seeds.

For paste tomatoes I like Roma (Pinetree Garden Seeds) and Milano Plum (Kitchen Garden Seeds). For cherry tomatoes I choose Sweet Million – it lives up to its name. Last season I grew an additional tomato, Super Bush, from Renee’s Garden bred specifically for container growth. It produced late, two- to three-inch sized fruit, but lacked the intense, sweet flavor I expect from homegrown tomatoes. Try it if you have limited space for a tomato that remains about three feet tall, but don’t expect the flavor of an heirloom.

Note: I grew standard, plum and cherry tomatoes in large pots filled with rich compost-based potting soil. All did remarkably well and produced lots of fruit with monthly fertilizer applications of liquid fish emulsion to the soil and as a foliar spray.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Peppers: Most of my peppers are the hot variety, Early Jalapeno, Hot Hungarian Wax, Italian Pepperoncini (all from Pinetree Garden Seeds). Last year I tried a mild habanero chili pepper from Renee’s Garden called Orange & Red Suave. It did not germinate as well as some of my other hot pepper varieties and the cool, wet spring set it back a bit, but the plant was s a lovely addition to a perennial bed and it eventually produced attractive orange fruit. Habanero peppers are normally very hot. I’d rate these as milder than normal but still packing serious heat, not for the faint of tongue.

For sweet peppers I’ve had good luck with Sweet Banana (Pinetree Garden Seeds) and Romeo Bell (Kitchen Garden Seeds).

Eggplant: I often transplant eggplant seedlings directly into perennial beds. The plants alone add structural interest, as to the fruit.  My favorites for full size fruit include Ichiban and Lavender Touch (both from Pinetree Garden Seeds). Last season I tried the container-sized variety, Little Prince (Renee’s Garden). The container-grown plants produced abundant and adorable single-serving, tasty fruit under less than ideal conditions – lots and lots of rain – so Little Prince gets another shot this year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALettuce: I’ve grown multiple varieties over the years – Green Ice, Red Deer’s Tongue, Oakleaf, Red Fire, Buttercrunch, Winter Density, Rouge d’Hiver Romaine, Rouge Grenobloise Batavian, Tom Thumb, and I’m sure there’s more. Of all, my absolute favorite is Merveille de Quatre Saisons, a French heirloom available from many suppliers (mine came from Kitchen Garden Seeds and Renee’s Garden). The other lettuce types are all good and perform well, I’m just enamored by the looks and taste of Merveille. Beyond this beautiful looking and tasty bibb lettuce, I am also quite impressed with the adorable small crispy heads of Tom Thumb.

Beans: My favorite bush beans are Sequoia and Purple Queen – both grow delicious purple pods that turn green when cooked (Kitchen Garden Seeds) – and Pencil Pod, a yellow Heirloom (Pinetree Garden Seeds).

Peas: I’ve struggled to get a good supply of snow peas from each spring sowing. The voles love the tender plants as much as I love the tender pods and, so far, attempts to grow a bumper snow pea crop in pots have not been highly successful. Still, I would not want to go a year without trying. You simply cannot match the sweetness and tenderness of freshly picked snow peas so, even if my yield is small, I’ll always plant edible podded peas. My current favorites are Snowflake Pea Pods, a self supporting upright bush-type growing about two feet tall, and Golden India Edible Pea Pod, with six foot tall vines of flat pods (both from Kitchen Garden Seeds). In a previous garden with more space and fewer voles I had great success with sugar snap peas. These should be on every new gardener’s planting list. They are prolific producers that bring early success.

This is not a comprehensive list of the edibles I grow. It’s just a good place to start. Here are links to the seed suppliers mentioned above: Pinetree Garden Seeds, Renee’s Garden, Kitchen Garden Seeds.

Garden thoughtfully … and please share the vegetable varieties growing well in your Connecticut garden.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Joene Hendry

A Veggie-wrap, please.

volunteer cherry tomatoes November 20, 2009.  I would love to be growing salad greens and cilantro in outside beds as I have in the past,  but it’s just not going to happen this year. The vegetable garden needs a major re-work that I hope to have at least partially done by spring, so outside of whatever I plant inside, growing edibles in Joene’s garden is done.  So, with 2009 veggies tastes, smells, successes, and disappointments still fresh in my mind, here’s my 2009 veggie-wrap.

In spite of a very wet and very cold, slug-infested, and generally disease-prone growing season in my Connecticut zone 6 garden, I managed to grow enough greens to keep us from buying lettuce for a good 3 months, enough eggplant to keep our urges for eggplant parmesan fulfilled, plenty of hot peppers to can a few jars and ample sweet peppers for summer use, a bounty of beans for late summer meals, and cucumbers enough to eat fresh and pickle.

Here’s a list of varieties I planted – new to me in bold.  Those with a Y will find a spot in next year’s garden, the few N’s will not, and those marked with ? may get another chance next year.  And, while I planned to have photos of most of my veggies, my old computer had other ideas.  Hence, few photos but lots of info.

Radish: both continue to be good performers.

  • Cherry Belle – Y.
  • French Breakfast – Y.

Snow Peas: tough year due to wet conditions.

  • Carouby de Maussane has beautiful purple flowers and lovely, tender, flat, sweet pods. It’s as ornamental as it is good to eat – Y.
  • Snowflake Pea Pods produced a few sweet pods in spite of a vole attack – Y.

Lettuce & Salad Greens:

  • Buttercrunch has great flavor and grows reliably –Y.
  • Winter Density has not grown well for me, but it may be just me – N.
  • New Red Fire has fantastic color – lives up to its name – and great taste – Y.
  • Blushed Butter Oak has sweet red-tinged leaves and grew well –Y.
  • Oakleaf is a standard –Y.
  • Tom Thumb grows tiny, tight, crispy heads. I may use it as a border in a perennial bed next season – love it –Y.
  • Tatsoi; great flavor in salads and when sliced into thin strips and added at the last few minutes to cooked dishes – a good spinach (which grows very poorly for me) substitute – Y.
  • Salad Burnet; will have to think about this – was not too thrilled with the flavor -?

Eggplant:

  • Ichiban produces multiple long, slender fruit on a 2.5 ft plant with purple stems and purple-edged leaves that match the skin of the fruit – very ornamental and good grilled –Y. Ichiban eggplant-1
  • Lavender Touch – lavender-tinged fruit with a mild flavor –Y. Lavender Touch Eggplant

Peppers:

  • Red Beauty; a sweet pepper that produced numerous fruit – though most remained green – in spite of the cold, wet conditions. –Y.
  • Cubanelle; a frying pepper with sweet flavor and many fruit –Y.
  • Early Jalapeño is one of my standard hot peppers –Y.
  • Hungarian Yellow Wax is another standard hot pepper –Y.
  • Dancing Spirit; a hot pepper I will try again before making a final judgment -?

Tomatoes:

  • Sweet Million Cherry; all starts succumbed to the wet, cold weather but I had a couple of volunteer plants sprout up from wayward seed that produced well late in the season –Y.
  • Pruden’s Purple; the flavor overrides the fruit’s tendency to crack and its tall, gangly growth –Y.
  • Manyel; produces small yellow fruit with wonderful flavor – my husband’s favorite –Y.
  • Oregon Spring; supposedly grows well in cool spring conditions but it must do better in Oregon soils than my New England soils – N.
  • Martino’s Roma; the best producer this year, great for fresh tomato sauce – Y.

Cucumber: Little Tyke; very prolific, good for pickles and eating –Y.

Little Tyke CucumberPurple Queen Bush Beans

Beans:

  • Purple Queen Bush; though I did not get these or the Sequoias planted till late, both produced beautiful purple beans with great flavor.  Hint: great beans for kids to grow; when cooked they turn green –Y.
  • Sequoia Bush; a flat purple bean with great flavor , see above –Y.
  • Pencil Pod; very prolific yellow bean with great flavor, one of my standards –Y.
  • Henderson; a flavorful bush lima bean that grew well for me in 2008, but not in the cold, wet 2009 season –Y.

Summer Squash: because I planted both late I did not have to fight squash borers – hmmm … sounds like a plan.

  • Ambassador; a zucchini with good flavor –Y.
  • Sundance; yellow fruit, good flavor –Y.

If any of these varieties sound familiar, please share your experience with them … or make some recommendations on what veggies – a favorite bean or summer squash, or tomato – worked in your garden.  And, watch for follow up posts on the herbs and flowers that grew in my 2009 garden.

Pre-frost action

A quick walk through the yard today added urgency to my pre-frost list of to-dos.  Last night’s temperature dropped low enough to slightly burn the top edges of a cherry tomato plant – the temperature at 6:30 am was 39 degrees – so a good hard freeze is not too far off.  So what’s done and what’s left on my to do list? 

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eggplant-lavender touch 9-09Bean-Purple Queen bush_edited

  1. Most of the abundant crop of cucumbers have been used in salads, canned to dill pickles, or canned to relish.  I still hope to try brining a few into pickles – something I’ve not tried before – and if this doesn’t work, I can still make more dills or relish.
  2. Most of my meager crop of hot peppers have also been canned for winter use, though I still hope to can at least a couple more pints.
  3. Just a few eggplant, plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and Pruden’s purple tomatoes, and yellow and purple string beans remain on their plants.  I’ll pick all before frost gets them.
  4. A good amount of sage is cut, tied into bunches, and hanging to dry.  I’ll use this in winter recipes, but hope to cut and dry more, perhaps for the kids to use.
  5. Marjoram is drying in a borrowed dehydrator.
  6. Basil is mostly picked (any remaining outside gets covered to protect from night temperatures below 50 degrees), and either dried,made into pesto, or frozen into a blended mash for use in soups.  Some plant will live on for a while in a small hot house, other plants have already been moved to an inside sunny window.
  7. My rosemary plant is also inside after rejuvenating outdoors in the warm summer sun.  I’ll use fresh cut rosemary in winter recipes.
  8. Thyme has yet to be cut and dried.
  9. Fall raspberries continue to produce.  Those not eaten get frozen on a cookie sheet then stored in an airtight baggie.
  10. The 80 pounds of peaches we picked at a local orchard were peeled, sliced, covered with a mild sugar/water solution, and frozen in airtight bags.  Eating these in the dead of winter is like eating summer.
  11. A similar amount of blueberries from a local farm have also been frozen for winter use.
  12. I still need to pick apples from a local orchard.  They will become applesauce or apple butter.
  13. Pumpkins, from a local farm, now sit outside as seasonal decoration, but will be cooked down, mashed, and frozen for later soups and pies.
  14. There’s still some hosta to move and new purchases to plant.
  15. The Siberian iris are in desperate need of thinning.
  16. Spring blooming bulbs need to be dug up, thinned out, and replanted.
  17. Volunteer lamb’s ear, foxglove, and sedum need to find better homes.
  18. Finished compost must be screened and spread on lawn and planting areas.
  19. Every last garlic chive blossom must be cut off and burned, otherwise I’ll be overrun with unwanted volunteers in the spring.
  20. And, finally, if I get the chance, I’d like to set up a small cold frame in an inconspicuous sunny spot so I can encourage some late planted lettuce and overwinter some cilantro seedlings.

So forgive me if blog posts come just every few days … at this time of year, end of season garden chores beckon … and I know I’ve forgotten something!

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