Friday, February 3, 2017

The Grow List For 2017

I've pretty well settled on what I'm going to be growing in 2017. A lot of tried and true veggies will be returning, a few varieties and vegetables have been dropped from the list, some for good and some for just this year, and of course there's new varieties I'm going to try.

The reasons I choose to devote my limited garden space to any particular vegetable is based on a few criteria and those criteria have changed as I have evolved as a gardener. Once upon a time I was not really all that selective. The joy and satisfaction of growing anything edible was enough to make me take on the challenge of trying to get something to produce in my garden. Often times I chose to grow something because it was novel - like my purple veggie phase. And a number of times I've explored a particular type of vegetable - for a couple of years I tried every mild Habanero cousin that I could find. And I still do that kind of exploration - witness my obsession with onions this year. But in general I'm more selective these days and the following are the primary things I consider when choosing things to grow or not grow. I've included a few examples for each criteria.

A. Unique vegetables or varieties that can't be purchased.
  • Unique varieties of dried corn for cornmeal and polenta.
  • Dried beans that aren't readily available.
  • Peppers, both sweet and spicy.
  • Pink celery.
B. Homegrown tastes much superior to anything that can be purchased.
  • Tomatoes! (And a lot of tomatoes fall under category A also).
  • Most greens, especially the leafy parts of things like beets, turnips, and radishes.
  • Broccoli.
  • Carrots.
C. Bang for the buck.
  • A $5 container of arugula takes about 5¢ of seed to grow.
  • Fava beans.
D. I won't grow space hogs and things that we consume in limited quantities.
  • Sweet corn.
  • Potatoes.
  • Asparagus, which we eat a lot of in season but I don't have the space to grow it myself.
  • Artichokes, there's scads of good artichokes available locally.
And plenty of the vegetables that I grow fall under more than one of those criteria.

A couple of things that I dropped from the grow list this year are cauliflower and romanesco broccoli. They take up a lot of space in the garden and take a long time to produce a single head and all at once and quite frankly, I can buy really good local cauliflower and romanesco at the farmer's market. So this year I deemed them to be not worth the space they have been occupying. 

So I'm only going to cover the veggies that are new for 2017. If you want to see my entire intended grow list for the year you can find that here. You will also find links to the seed sources on that page. I've copied the descriptions and some photos from the seed sources to have as an easy reference for myself, especially if I want to refer to them in the future - it can be handy to have a copy on my blog if the seed source drops the item from their catalog at a future date. 

So here's what's new...

Dried beans. There are hundreds of varieties of dried beans, most of which we can't enjoy unless we grow our own. All my choices this year fall under that criteria.

O’odham Pink. "S-wegi mu:n." A pink bean from desert borderlands of Sonora and Arizona once widely grown by Tohono O'odham peoples. Fast growing, the plants will sprawl and produce in early spring or late fall in the low desert. Does not tolerate the dry heat of summer in southern Arizona so it is an excellent choice for monsoon planting. Produces white flowers. Delicious bean with a creamy-textured when cooked. A traditional harvest includes uprooting the entire plant, leaving it out to dry and then threshing the plant with sticks to remove the pods before they are winnowed in the wind. Once harvested, the protein-rich beans are boiled or baked with meat or other animal fats.

Taos Red. Very large, red with darker maroon mottling/striping. Grown under irrigation in Taos Pueblo at 7,500' elevation. Rare in the Pueblos, although very similar to Hopi Red. Low pole, almost bushy, with outstanding dark red mature pods. High-yielding.

Tarahumara Sitakame. Small, rounded, deep purple bean from the Sierra Madre in southern Chihuahua. Late-maturing pole bean when grown at the Conservation Farm. Beans look like purple pearls. 

Dutch White Runner. The seeds for these runner beans, Phaseolus coccineus sp. were give to me by a member of the Santa Clara County Master Gardeners. She has been growing them for years and originally got her seeds from Vermont Bean Seed Company, but the seeds seem to have pretty much disappeared from the commercial seed trade.

Snap beans. The term "Green Beans" doesn't nearly cover the field when it comes to these veggies. It's always a delight to harvest a basketful of colorful beans. So I couldn't pass up the chance to try these beauties. And I also like the fact that these plants won't take up a lot of space.

Amethyst Purple Filet Beans, Photo from Kitchen Garden Seeds
Amethyst Purple Filet. (Bush) 70 days. Pretty purple flowers metamorphose into incredible violet-colored, long, slender, stringless pods. Crunchy and ever-so pretty served raw with dips and other crudites, gourmet Amethyst Purple is tender and richly flavored when lightly steamed or sauteed in butter. Its compact plants are perfect for containers and raised beds.

Baciccia Bush Snap beans. I forgot about these! They are a green bean that is popular is the central valley of California, a local heirloom, almost impossible to find seeds for. My friend who gave me the seeds for Joe's Giant Aji gave me some seeds to try.

Fava Beans. I've been relying on mostly one variety of fava for the past few years. Last year I added one new variety and this year I'm adding a third.

Aquadulce. 85 days. This 19th-century Spanish heirloom produces large, white beans, extra early in the season; a great protein source for cool climate areas.

Dried corn. I've really been enjoying exploring different varieties of flint and flour corns over the past few years. Some of the best polenta that we've enjoyed has been prepared with homegrown and home milled corn. It's also nearly impossible to enjoy these unique varieties of corn unless you grow them yourself. Not all corn is the same, not by a long shot!

Hopi Greasy Head. "Wiekte". Often planted early by Hopi farmers so the harvest can be used for the Home Dance ceremony in July. Plum-colored kernels on 10-12" ears. Plants are short (3'). 56 days to pollination, 103 days to dried ears from planting in Patagonia, Arizona (4,000'). Kernels have an oily, or greasy, appearance.

Santo Domingo Rainbow. A beautiful mix of red, yellow, orange, purple, pink, pearl, and chinmark flour kernels on ears up to 10" long. A great variety for parching.

K'uyu Chuspi
K'uyu Chuspi Corn. When the Botanical Explorers found this beautiful, speckled, bright purple, violet and white corn, they knew it was special. They kept hearing the locals repeat a name in the Quechua language for this corn that they later figured out was purple, speckled “chuspi.” We have identified this variety as K'uyu Chuspi, being lighter, and brighter than the similar K'uyu Chuspi Dark.

In the Southern Peruvians highlands there are several different types of “chuspi corn.”  They are always speckled, flecked or streaked in tones of purple, red, cream, grey, light-violet, bluish, yellow or even pink! The kernels are big and long and have a very tender-textured endosperm that is sweet with premium flavor. It is most commonly toasted here in Peru and eaten as a snack but also ground up for flour. Because of its color, both outside and inside being purple, it is often ground up and used to make desserts like mazamorra morada--purple corn pudding--or Chicha morada, a popular, sweet, natural-colored black or purple corn drink. It forms very decorative corncobs that are shorter, bigger, fatter and rounder than normal. Patrick says “this one is a real winner!”

These Peruvian corns are daylight sensitive, being from the Andean region of Southern Peru (the length of the days are shorter) and are grown at high altitudes (2,300 to 3,300 meters above see level) and this variety needs from 180 to 210 days to reach maturity. When growing this variety, please remember that these Peruvian “Kings of the Corn World” are adapted to cool subtropical conditions year round and won’t take well to extreme heat or freezing cold spells.

Because this corn is day-length sensitive, the long day length in much of the USA could pose the biggest challenge for growers. The Peruvian types usually won’t tassel until the sunlight is down to 12 hours per day, which normally occurs in the northern hemisphere around the 21st of September. If you are successful at getting it to tassel, be ready to assist with pollination. Artificial shading might be a temporary solution until we are able to acclimatize them to northern latitudes. However, there has been some success with Peruvian corn in the Pacific Northwest, as well as other coastal, cooler or higher altitude areas. Hawaii could also prove to be a suitable climate for this variety. Growing the corn in large climate-controlled greenhouses may also prove successful. Please SAVE and SHARE your seeds as well as you gardening techniques if you are successful at getting a crop!

Broccoli. Sprouting broccoli in particular. This one caught my eye because it appears to be the original "Broccolini", an expensive choice at the grocery store that I really adore. I've grown a few varieties of sprouting broccoli that are supposed to be good stand-ins for Broccolini, but none of them quite come up to snuff. So I'm going to try this to see if it's the real deal.

Aspabroc, Photo from Kitchen Garden Seeds
Aspabroc Baby Broccoli. 50-60 days. The alias of this Broccoli raab cousin is Broccolini®. A fine gourmet treat with stems as tender as Asparagus, it has loose little heads that are milder and sweeter than Broccoli raab. The compact plants produce a small central head followed by a never-ending flurry of delectable side shoots. Plant this baby in early spring, and again in late summer for prolonged fall harvest. It makes one awesome crusty sandwich. Add two fingers of water to a heavy skillet and simmer sweet Italian sausages until the water evaporates. Add sliced Onions, Aspabroc Baby Broccoli stems and finely minced Garlic, sauteing until just tender. Salt and pepper to taste, adding crushed red pepper flakes judiciously. Pile the zesty melange on warm Italian bread topped with Fontina cheese (the flavorful luscious melter). For pasta sauce, add a swish of white table wine and ladels of hot pasta liquid until the consistency seems right. Top with freshly grated parmesan. (F1.)

Cabbage. This was actually a freebie that I got when I renewed my Seed Savers Exchange membership. I've seen it grown by a few other garden bloggers and have always admired it so I'll give it a try.

Michihli. This historic commercial variety was originally developed and released by the Ferry-Morse Seed Company of Detroit in 1949 and it's been popular in the seed trade ever since. When grown at Heritage Farm in 2014, the Preservation department's Evaluation team praised its fine flavor and sweet crunch, and described it as a heading type of Chinese cabbage with large glossy green leaves that forms a 12" head. 

Carrots. One thing I love about growing my own carrots is the chance to explore the various colors, shapes, and sizes that are available. When you buy them at the store or farmer's market you pretty much find just generic orange carrots. If you do find more colorful carrots you have to pay a premium, which is outrageous considering that they are just as easy to grow as the orange ones. So for 2017 I've added a few new varieties to further explore the world of colorful carrots.

Atomic Red Carrots, Photo from Baker Creek Seeds
Atomic Red. 75 days. Brilliant red carrots are so healthful and unique-looking, sure to add color to your garden. The 8” roots are high in lycopene, which has been shown in studies to help prevent several types of cancer. Crisp roots are at their best when cooked, and this helps to make the lycopene more usable. Very flavorful. This one was actually a freebie but it's worth trying!

Black Nebula Carrots, Photo from Kitchen Garden Seeds
Black Nebula. 75-80 days. Black Carrots may seem like a new-fangled curiosity, but in all truth, they have deeper roots (pun intended) than their orange cousins, having originated in the Middle and Far East long before orange and yellow Carrots were cultivated. Their purple color comes from a high concentration of anthocyanins, that are powerful antioxidants. Many so-called black Carrots are dark purple on the outside with an orange core, but our Nantes-style Black Nebula is deep purple through and through. (OP.)

Gniff Carrot, Photo from Baker Creek Seeds
Gniff. A very rare landrace from the Tessin region of Switzerland, these amethyst colored carrots were re-discovered in the 1950's in the picturesque Alps village of Bre being grown by local women who sold them at farmers markets, "gniff" is translated to purple in the local dialect. Being a landrace, there is a range of expression of colors in this carrot, always a purple exterior with a creamy yellow to white heart. This is a slow growing storage carrot that is traditionally pickled; locals will steam and slice and preserve in olive oil, parsley and garlic.

Cauliflower. I know I said I've eliminated cauliflower from the lineup, but I made an exception for this one because it's not your standard cauliflower and it seems like it could be less fussy and more productive than the usual type. I'm hoping it may produce over an extended time rather than just 1 harvest.
Fioretto Stick Cauliflower, Photo from Kitchen Garden Seeds
Fioretto Stick. 60 days. Stick Cauliflower is like nothing you've ever seen in the veggie world. Instead of a dense head of fused Cauliflower buds, this wonderful oddity produces bright green, loose stems topped with white flower buds. Sweeter, softer and more flavorful than traditional Cauliflower, enjoy whole Stick Cauliflower stems either raw or steamed or sauteed with just a hint of butter and sea salt. (F1.)

Potatoes. Here's another exception to my do-not-grow rule. I fondly remember the Yellow Finn potatoes that I was able to buy at the market in years past. But Yellow Finn seems to have disappeared from the markets and been replaced by Yukon Gold which I find to be far inferior. So when I spotted these mini-tubers I thought I would give them a try and see if they are as good as I remember.

Yellow Finn Potatoes, Photo from Kitchen Garden Seeds
Yellow Finn. 90 days. The golden flesh and buttery flavor of Yellow Finn is not to be missed. This unique pear-shaped Potato has a distinctive shape and requires a longer season to perform, producing lots of high quality spuds. Yellow Finn is a mealier textured Potato and is therefore excellent for baking, boiling or mashing and keeps well. You don't even need butter on this one, it tastes rich enough on its own. Yellow Finn elevates mashed Potatoes to a new level. One package of about 10 mini-tubers.

Radishes. Oh I have come to love fresh from the garden radishes. This is another veggie that is seriously under appreciated for it's diversity of colors, shapes, and sizes. So here's one more variety to expand my repertoire.

Mini Purple Daikon, Photo from Kitchen Garden Seeds
Mini Purple Daikon. 50 days. This small Daikon Radish grows to about 5 inches long and 2-3” wide when sown in spring. In fall it produces a rounder root. The Radishes are a beautiful bluish purple with mild white flesh ringed and streaked in purple. The edible leaves are spicier than the radish, which is mild-tasting and perfect for fresh salads and pickling. (F1.)

Peppers. There's always a few new peppers that I have to try every year. This year I've added fewer to the lineup than I typically do, mostly because most of the new peppers that I tried in 2016 didn't get a fair chance because of the powdery mildew and rat problems that ruined much of the harvest, so I'll be trying most of them again this year.

Aji Golden. Dave of Our Happy Acres shared some seeds with me. These are similar to Aji Amarillo peppers but for Dave they have almost no heat. I suspect that in my garden that will be true also and perhaps they will have absolutely no heat since most hot peppers grown in my garden don’t seem to achieve the heat levels that they do in warmer summer gardens. I’m looking forward to tasting these and seeing how they compare to the Baby Aji Amarillo and Aji Amarillo Grande peppers that I grew in 2016.

Joe’s Giant Aji Amarillo. These seeds were shared with me by another gardening friend who got the seeds from another friend. He described them as a natural cross that Joe found in his garden. I was given a whole ripe pepper to try and to extract the seeds from. The pepper seemed to be quite similar to the Aji Amarillo Grande that I grew in 2016 (actually still harvesting now!), so it will be interesting to see what the result is when grown in my garden - will it be as spicy?

Ajvarski Peppers, Photo from Baker Creek Seeds
Ajvarski. 80 days--Here's a really outstanding roasting pepper from eastern Macedonia. Two-foot, stocky plants are covered in 6- to 7-inch, broadly wedge-shaped pods that ripen green to deep, rich red. These peppers are incredible. When you grow them in certain soils, on a hot day, you can smell them on the plant from 10 feet away. They make all other sweet peppers seem bland. And when you throw half a dozen on your grill, everybody in your neighborhood will smell them! These thick-fleshed traditional peppers are roasted on flat metal stoves, peeled, then ground into a traditional relish called ajvar, which is eaten spread on bread, often with sirenje, a local cheese similar to feta. Nearly every rural household puts up a supply of ajvar for winter eating. In autumn, Macedonians flock to the markets in fertile valleys in the East to buy bushels of the best aromatic roasting peppers from the local villages there, which is where the original seed came from, a gift from the students in the villages of Kalugeritsa and Zleovo.

Ethiopian Brown peppers, Photo from Baker Creek Seeds
Ethiopian Brown. 90 days- Sturdy plants reach three feet or more. Yields lots of peppers late in the season. The 3- to 5-inch fruits are hot! Gradually ripen from green to a deep chocolate brown, with lots of intermediate shades in the process-very pretty in the late-season garden! A great seasoning- or drying type.

These seem similar to the Mareko Fana peppers that I've grown the last couple of years, except that the peppers that the Mareko Fanas aren't as wrinkled. I just wanted to grow them and compare.

Habanada Peppers, Photo from Baker Creek Seeds
Habanada. The world’s first truly heatless habanero! Bred by renown organic plant breeder Michael Mazourek, habanera is the product of natural breeding techniques. This exceptional snacking pepper has all of the fruity and floral notes of the habanero without any spice (even the seeds are sweet and add to the flavor). These 2-3 inch tangerine fruits stole the show at the 2014 culinary breeding network variety showcase, where the fruits were made into a stunning sherbet. This exotic new pepper is sure to be the darling of the culinary scene, making it an excellent choice for market farmers, chefs and foodies.

Topepo Giallo pepper, Photo from Baker Creek Seeds
Topepo Giallo. Gorgeous, nearly-round fruits are incredibly sweet, juicy and thick-walled, especially when allowed to mature from pale ivory to their final, deep golden color. The size is perfect for stuffed pepper appetizer plates; also great as pickles. Similar size and habit to our Topepo Rosso, but much rarer. A wholly superior Italian variety that we are excited to offer.

Onions. I've already posted about the new onion varieties that I'm trying this year, see my lineup of them here.

The only thing that I have not decided yet is if I'm going to try any new tomatoes this year. I still have plenty of time to decide upon that since I don't sow tomato seeds until about April 1. 


  1. I'll start with tomatoes. I've lately been disappointed with the flavor of homegrown tomatoes. Why is that?
    I can't find my favorite, Nu-Mex 6-4. Why is that? Both now have so many varieties, I think some of the older ones are being dropped in favor of newer hybrids. Your thoughts?

    Do you know Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans? I'm trying all the different kinds. Marcella is excellent, thin-skinned. Christmas Lima is good in soup, doesn't fall apart.

    Home-milled corn? What kind of a mill do you use? We tried a quern once. It takes forever that way.

    Scads of artichokes? I envy you. Here they are very costly, $3.50 each for a great meaty one. Too hot to grow them at home. But you live in the artichoke capital of the world!

    1. Your tomato flavor problem is a mystery to me. Perhaps it's the varieties that you are growing. I know that the vaunted Brandywine tomato is insipid when I grow it, I think it needs a warmer climate to develop the flavor. A lot of the big beefsteak tomatoes don't develop their full flavor in my cooler climate.

      The seed companies definitely drop varieties in favor of "new and improved" versions. If it wasn't an F1 hybrid perhaps there's a chance of finding seeds if you are inclined to start your own.

      Oh, yes to Rancho Gordo, I've been a fan for years. I really try to not grow beans that I can buy from them, although I have grown beans that I've saved from a package of their beans.

      I actually have 2 grain mills, one is the Komo Fidibus Classic, a beautiful mill from Germany. It can handle most any grain except for flint corn (including popcorn) and is super fast because it is electric. I also have a Wondermill Junior for grinding flint corn. But it is super slow because it is hand cranked so I only use it for jobs the Komo can't handle. The Wondermill can also be used to grind oily things like nuts and seeds. There is an adaptor you can purchase to run it with a drill, but I won't spring for it, enough already!

      Yes, scads of artichokes. I stop at Pezzini's on Highway 1 when I'm in the mood for chokes. They aren't always cheap, it depends on the season, but I can buy any size from so called baby chokes all the way up to ones that you can make a meal off of. There's really no reason to grow my own.

  2. You have a lot of interesting varieties there for sure! I didn't realize there was a yellow version of Topepo Rosso. I keep growing the red one, even though it isn't always a great producer. The peppers I do get are worth it though. I use much the same rationale you do in deciding what to grow. Dry beans are out this year though, since our humid summers just make them so hard to mature. I will be looking to see how Aspabroc does for you. It seems similar to the Apollo and Artwork I am growing.

    1. I didn't know there was a yellow Topepo Rosso either so when I saw it I just had to have it. I dropped the red one in favor of Gogosari which is more prolific and is more flavorful. I have grown Apollo, which is very good, but somehow it's just not the same as the true Broccolini. I had thought to try Artwork this year, but got waylaid by Aspabroc. Some battles, like your's to grow dry beans, are just not worth fighting. Every time I've tried to grow edamame soy beans I've regretted it, it is the biggest bunny magnet! They just love the stuff. And I've given up on garlic and leeks too, there is just no organic treatment for the rust that viciously attacks and destroys it.

  3. That Black Nebula carrot is interesting. I wonder if it keeps the colour when cooked?

    1. The so called black, actually dark purple carrots are one of the few purple veggies that keeps it color when cooked.

  4. OO Amazing grow list Michelle! Thanks for the link♥ Have a nice season,

  5. Some of your seed list are really interesting me.


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