January 24, 2014

Seed Purchases for 2014: Scaling Down the Insanity

I recently placed my main seed order for the 2014 garden. I'm really scaling things down this year due to my new job.  I expect to be pretty exhausted after gardening all day at work, so I don't want things to be quite as crazy at my home garden. In addition, I probably won't need to grow many of my own transplants considering we hold an amazing vegetable transplant sale at work each May.

My main order was with Pinetree Garden Seeds. I've been buying seeds from them for as long as I've been growing my own transplants. I like this company because they sell small quantities of seed (appropriate for the home gardener). Most of their seed packets are less than $2 each, which is cheaper than most seed you can find elsewhere. Here's what I ordered with some personal notes below each variety:

  • EARLY PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI (35 days): This purple version of Raab is popular in the North. An alternative way to grow it is to plant in mid-summer, over-winter it and then get two months of delicious cuttings the following spring. High in vitamins with a tangy flavor.
    • I've been wanting to try this for a couple years now. We eat a lot of broccoli, but I've never had much success with regular heading broccoli.
  • PURPLE PEACOCK BROCCOLI (70 days): We are very excited to add this enchanting open pollinated variety to our broccoli selection this year. It is a cross between broccoli and two kales, absolutely beautiful either in the garden or edible landscape. The young leaves are tender, great for salads and the older colorful serrated leaves are used like kale. Loose heads of purple florets are not massive in size, but taste excellent with the plant then producing generous side shoots. This is definitely one vegetable you will want to show off to the visitors of your garden. Bred by Frank Morton. 
    • I tried growing broccoli rabe many years ago. It grew well, but it tasted horrible (I'm not a big fan of bitter greens). I always saw broccoli rabe being used on cooking shows (like Rachel Ray), so I expected it to be a little more universally likeable. This variety is supposed to be similar to rabe, yet different.
  • HONEY ROCK MELON (90 days heirloom): HEIRLOOM 1920 In 1936 Henry A Dreer Seed Co. stated: "This new musk melon is outstanding for the delicious sweetness and rich aroma of its tender, luscious, salmon colored flesh. The fruits are almost round. They are of medium size but have extremely thick flesh surrounding the small seed cavity. The skin of the heavy fruits is a grey-green color showing a rough netting". 
    • I knew the difference between a honey rock and regular cantaloupe at an embarrassingly young age. I finally had some success growing melons last summer (due to using black plastic mulch), so I'm going to give this childhood favorite a try.
  • ZUCCHETTA TROMBONCINO SUMMER SQUASH: HEIRLOOM This tasty zucchini grows like squash and will need a lot of room for its 5 foot runners. The light yellow-green fruit is slender with a bulbous end and should be harvested at about 10 inches.Leaving it on the vine can produce variously twisted squash 3 feet long and 6 inches wide. Firmer than the zucchini we're used to, the flavor is mild and delicious. Can be grown up a very strong trellis.
    • I've heard good things about this variety. I've been growing Costuluto Genovese the last few years as my summer squash, so I'm ready to try something new.
  • RED STREAKED MUSTARD (20-45 days): One of our favorite trials this year! The deeply serrated fringy baby leaves are purple-red and pack a zingy peppery flavor that gets bolder with age. Great to plant along with other baby greens to add some flare to a salad. It is slow to bolt but best planted in spring or fall. 
    • I've been growing this for several years now, so I need to replenish my seed stash. The taste is really great (similar to arugula) and the finely cut red foliage is absolutely gorgeous!
  • KYOTO MIZUNA GREENS (43 days heirloom): HEIRLOOM This popular Japanese green is often used as part of a Mesclun mix, but we feel it merits individual attention. The very attractive, deeply cut and serrated, narrow leaves grow vigorously into large bunched heads which resist bolting and allow for extended picking. With a mild, pleasant cabbagey flavor, Mizuna can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked in stir-fries, soups, etc.
    • Another green I've been growing for a while and need to restock.
  • AMBITION SHALLOT (F1 hybrid 100 days): A fine shallot for growing especially during the summer in the North. This one isn't really designed for "short day" conditions. Provides a nice sized bulb, 2 inches and very high yields. With the reddish brown skin and high-rounded shape it looks like a big nut. Shallots from seed are a bargain and Ambition will address a large cross-section of possible uses.
    • I grew this for the first time last year and was really pleased (and somewhat surprised). I didn't realize you could grow shallots from seed, I thought you had to buy bulbs. These grew nicely sized bulbs by the end of the summer and they've been storing really well. I still have some in my onion bin.
  • COPRA ONION (F1 hybrid 107 days): An excellent storage onion with a distinctive coppery brown skin and medium to large bulbs that are somewhat globular. The onions are as flavorful when you take them out of the root cellar in the Spring as they were the previous Fall. This is a very hard, sweet onion with thin tops that dry quickly.
    • My onion crop was great last year and I still have tons of onions in storage. However, the Ailsa Craig I grew last year is getting pretty mushy in storage. Copra is supposed to store well, so I'll give it a try.
  • BEIT ALPHA CUCUMBER (F1 hybrid 52 days): Also called a Lebanese or Middle Eastern cucumber, much of the breeding work on these varieties has been done in Israel. The large, smooth, somewhat blocky, burpless, and nearly spineless fruit can be either pickled or eaten fresh. The flavor, including that of the skin, is very mild. 
    • I've been eyeing this variety for a few years now, but I usually stay away from hybrid seed, if possible. However, this is the style of cucumber I like these days, so I'll try it.
  • HONEY & CREAM CORN (F1 hybrid 77 days): This long time favorite bicolor corn produces excellent flavor and appearance. Stalks are 7-1/2 feet tall and produce 7 inch ears with 12 to 14 rows per ear. Superior flavor for a normal sugary variety is the main attraction.
    • Another hybrid variety that I'm surprised I'm ordering. Last year's corn was a complete bust. I was dumb and planted popcorn and sweetcorn right next to each other. The result was popcorn that didn't pop and sweetcorn that was hard and starchy. This year I'm only planting a single variety, and this one has been popular for a long time.

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