Can you believe it's that time already? Contrary to what the DPW director of Eastport, Maine predicts for his town (no sidewalks until July), the mountains of snow WILL melt here. Whether it's next week or next month, we'll be ready! So ready. And in that spirit, I offer you our annual 2015 Seed Ordering Guide.
This year's advice comes from Helene Simon of Orleans. She grew up in Bolsta, Sweden, just outside of Stockholm, and she comes from a long line of women gardeners. She grows all kinds of Swedish plants—currants, Swedish strawberries, gooseberries—but her favorites are the cold weather tubers. So this year, we're focusing on root vegetables. Here are Helene's picks, starting with potatoes.
E.H. Note: On sourcing potatoes: you can plant them here as early as mid-late March (depending on the season; we'll see about this year), but most companies don't ship until mid-April. I've gotten around this in the past by buying seed potatoes from local farmers or simply using my own leftover storage potatoes, though this is not officially recommended because of the potential for disease.
The Kennebec is exactly what you picture when you think potato. It's white inside, brown on the outside, high yielding, and an excellent all-purpose eating potato. It hails from Presque Isle, Maine, where it was developed in 1941.
Désirée comes from the Netherlands. Red-blushed skin and creamy yellow flesh make it pretty, and it's good in the kitchen for everything from roasting to mashing to salads. Helene particularly likes it because the potatoes tend to be big and store well.
The yellow Finn is a European variety with yellow flesh and skin. It's a solid mid season potato, and it's got very moist flesh, which makes it a top notch pick for baking and topping with butter or sour cream.
You've heard of this one. Big, with thin skin and yellow, waxy flesh, the Yukon Gold is a favorite with chefs because it does well with both dry and wet heat. It was developed in the 1950s by Dutch and Belgian immigrants in Ontario looking for a taste of home.
These are an old favorite. Perfectly round, incredibly sweet, reliable germinators. Helene says to mound soil around the bulb as they grow to get a bigger root.
Very sweet, long, slender, smooth roots. Pale ivory color. Helene says sometimes she has great luck with these, sometimes they get woody, but in general she likes them. Parsnips grow like carrots, so they like a light soil and you can succession plant them from spring through mid summer.
Helene's trying the Javelin for the first time this year because she's looking for a crop to keep in the ground all winter. Parsnips get sweeter after a frost, and this variety can be planted in late summer and left until spring. They're faster growing and bigger than Lancer, so they can get by on a little less sunlight and be harvested once the ground's workable again in March or April.
E.H. Note: I always have trouble with carrots. When I told Helene this, she gave me some tips. She says it's important to have a nice loose soil—she recommends mixing in some peat if yours is heavy—and she also says it's important to go slowly and space the seeds evenly when you're planting. They can only grow big if they have enough room, and thinning can disrupt the roots. To avoid this, she recommends thinning using a pair of scissors—instead of pulling the unwanted carrots out, snip off their greens and they'll die without making their neighbors get uprooted or crooked.
Last year, I planted mine too close, so they're small, but they're still sweet! In fact, I still have a row out there, waiting to be harvested once the snow melts.
Napoli overwinters in the ground well, just like Javelin. It also stores well, so you can pull it in late fall after a frost and keep it in a root cellar all winter long. It's a standard orange carrot: straight, smooth, and cylindrical, with blunt roots and lots of greens on top.
Helene likes these as a fresh-eating, summer carrot. As the name implies, they're incredibly sweet, and they grow fairly long and straight.
E.H. Note: Kohlrabi isn't technically a root vegetable; it's in the cabbage family. But while it tastes like cabbage, it looks more like an incredibly weird turnip, and it grows more like one too. You can plant kohlrabi in March for an early summer harvest. If you don't know what to do with them, check out this recipe for Coconut Curried Kohlrabi with Swiss Chard from the archives. So good!
This green Kohlrabi gets an early start in the spring—Helene says she often plants hers in March. The pale green balls are ready when they're about 2-3 inches in diameter, and they taste similar to cabbage, only moister and with more crunch.
Happy planting everyone! And if you're interested, past shows on seed ordering and garden prep: