The Local Food Report: seed ordering 2011

With Spring just around the corner (!), it's finally time to start thinking about gardens. Our seed ordering guide was a hit last year, and we've decided to do a second installment for the upcoming season. This year, I talked with Anna Henning over at The Full Circle Food Project. When choosing seeds for the upcoming season, she lays out a few criteria to keep her on track. Here are her guidelines for this year:
  1. Keep a balance between more practical vegetables that are easy to grow and prepare and exciting ones that boast bold flavors and colors.
  2. Choose the "good sports," the vegetables that can thrive in varied weather and don't need to be picked or watered too often.
  3. Go for heirlooms. Save and share the seeds they produce. As Anna says, that is the epitome of knowing where your food comes from.

With these criteria in mind, here are Anna's seed picks for the upcoming summer:

Cylindra Beet: A cylindrical variety that can be planted close together. The result? Less space and more crop. These are also better for slicing.
Golden Beet: A big hit last year. They are sweeter and milder then purple varieties, and don't stain your hands and other food!

Cherry Tomatoes
Beam's Yellow Pear: Incredibly prolific.
Cherry Roma: Exactly as it sounds. These paste-type cherry tomatoes are handy for cooking.
Tommy Toe: A prolific, heavy bearing variety. Delicious.

Beefsteak-type or Slicing Tomatoes
Crnkovic Yugoslavian: A beefsteak variety. Juicy, huge, and resistant to cracking.
Dr. Wyche's Yellow: Golden, meaty, and gorgeous.
Italian Heirloom: Excellent full tomato flavor. These are ideal for slicing and canning—very little waste and easy to peel.

Hakucho: An early yielding variety—just 65 days between planting and harvesting. This is a dwarf (1ft) and doesn’t take up tons of space like the others. The pods grow in a very concentrated fashion, and because they all mature at the same time, you can harvest whole plant at once.

St. Valery: A long, tapered variety (not stumpy!). Gourmet quality.

Witloof: A compact variety that is sweet and crunchy and can be grown in a tight space. Eat it raw leafed into a salad or grill it and serve it with heirloom tomatoes. If you have a basement, the roots can be saved for next year.

Empress: These have an amazing bean flavor and heavy yields.
Tendergreen: Very productive over a long season. These produce even in hot weather.
Royalty Purple Pod: When raw, a gorgeous purple. Green when cooked. These add a nice contrast and are stringless, which means less work to eat! They also germinate in cool wet soil and can be planted in the beginning or at the end of the season.

Winter Squash
Burgess Buttercup Winter Squash or Waltham Butternut: Two varieties that are more resistant to squash vine borers than others.

Looking for seeds? Anna's recommendations for heirloom seed sources are: Sage Thymes, Seed Savers Exchange, High Mowing Seeds, Fedco, Annie’s Seeds, Victory Seeds

P.S. If you want to learn more about the Full Circle Food Project or get involved with Anna's work, visit the project website here. For a quick pick-me-up, make sure you take note of the countdown to Spring at the top of the page. We're almost there!


Emmett said...

Good tips, thanks!
A couple of these that I have experience with are the Cylindra beets and the Waltham Butternut squash.

Cylindra (or Forono, which is another similar cylindrical variety) beets make solid, tubular roots, which can grow up to 8 inches long and 3 inches thick...meaning you get a lot of beet for your effort!

Waltham is our standard butternut that we've grown for 3 years straight now, and have always been very pleased with fruit quality, plant vigor, and yields.

Am interested to try some of the other recommendations. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Emmett! I had good luck this year with the Dr. Wyche's yellow beefsteak listed above. They were one of the only tomatoes that didn't split or crack this summer and grew to about 3/4 lb. avg. They were also lower in acidity and very mild and sweet, but quite meaty. I will grow them again. Also, the Roma Cherries were a superb hit. They keep well and unlike some of the smaller sweet cherries, their skin is decently thick for chopping or drying. Very tasty.

Here's to Spring!


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