Reviewing the Summer's Plant Choices

As I put the very last batch of tomatoes into the oven for roasting today (they'll go in the freezer rather than be canned), I thought about the varieties that I grew this summer. Afterward, I made some notes about it, so that I can make different choices next year.  As I've written before, it's hard to know how much the drought and sandy soil affected our garden; however there are intrinsic things about each vegetable that I think came through, regardless of our issues.


Paste: I chose 'Amish' and 'Baylor.'. The 'Amish' variety did a better job, but neither of these was stellar. I'll look for other choices next year, though I might give 'Amish' another try. They were large and meaty. I did manage to make 8 half-pints of tomato paste from these tomatoes and had plenty more for fresh eating, just not as many as I wanted. And they looked diseased from the start, which isn't necessarily the fault of the variety, but rather either the fault of the seedling, or perhaps my soil.

Cherry: We chose 'Black Cherry,' 'Yellow Pear,' 'Dr. Carolyn,' and 'Isis Candy.' The 'Yellow Pear' definitely wins the prize for best producer, and the tomatoes were sweet and delicious. I liked the 'Black Cherry' for it's dark color (better nutrition), but it was a feeble producer in my garden. 'Dr. Carolyn' was a light yellow tomato that I didn't like as much as the 'Yellow Pear,' and 'Isis Candy' was a dark orange variety that was fine, but I would have preferred a dark red variety. I'll do the 'Yellow Pear' again for sure.

Slicing: I chose four, but only remember the names of three of them: 'Bloody Butcher,' 'Cherokee Purple,' and 'Italian Heirloom.' 'Bloody Butcher' was the earliest producer, but the tomatoes were quite small - again, maybe the fault of the drought and our poor water conditions. 'Cherokee Purple' was a gorgeous tomato, thick and indeed a reddish purple, with many ovaries, a classic heirloom. I'll grow this one again for sure. The other two I bought were completely nondescript, barely producing and unmemorable.


We grew one variety, 'Luscious Bicolor.' It was simply ok. The ears were quite small, and while they tasted good, there just wasn't enough of it. I'll try a different kind next year, probably a yellow variety, for better nutrition.

Pole Beans:

We grew 'Blue Lake' and 'Rich Purple Pod.' Neither were our favorite. Both were better when picked quite small, as they got very stringy and leathery when even medium sized. The purple ones were beautiful, though. I'll choose different varieties next year.

Winter Squash:

I grew 'Delicata' and 'Climbing Honey Nut (butternut).' Both were wonderful - good growers and producers. The 'Delicata' is delicious for fresh eating as it ripens, and this variety of butternut was small, which makes it easy to peel and roast, and store in the warm garage fridge. I'll grow both of these again. A note, however - the butternut didn't really climb - it sprawled, as all squashes seem to do.

Sweet Peppers:

All four of these varieties were prolific producers, however many of them did not change into the rich colors that were promised, even over a very long season. We had millions of 'Jimmy Nardello,' which are a small, thin, red variety. They were delicious but hard to seed due to their thinness. 'Marconi Red' were wonderful long red peppers but many of them never turned red, so we ate them green. 'Sweet Sunrise' was the only pepper I grew that had a 'bulb' shape, which I liked a lot, but only two of the many we harvested were orange. 'Olympus' was nondescript and I won't grow it again. I'd like to grow more 'bulb' shaped peppers that have an early harvest date; we might get some better coloring that way. Plus the bulb shape seem easier to cut and seed.

Hot Peppers:

These were the undisputed star of our garden this year, producing like crazy, so much so that we couldn't keep up. Right now there are at least 20 jars of canned hot sauce on the canning shelf, as well as 10 jars of pickled jalepenos. We also have jars upon jars of roasted peppers in the freezer for wintertime salsa. Next year I think we'll stick to 'Jalafuego Jalepeno' - delicious - and 'Serrano Hot Rod.' The 'Ancho Poblano' didn't produce nearly as much as the others, and they were quite a bit smaller than we would have liked. 'Padron' was fun, but not as well-liked as the others.

Sweet Potatoes:

I made my own slips from the Japanese sweet potatoes sold at Whole Foods. The vines were glorious, but the harvest meager. I'd like to try a different variety next year, something with more of a deep orange color, plus something that might be able to be started earlier, as this is a very long-season crop.


We chose 'Moon and Stars,' and it was a beautiful variety with speckled leaves and fruit. Unfortunately it was also incredibly speckled inside - very very seedy - though delicious. We'll try a less-seedy kind next summer.


We grew 'Melone Regato Degli' and it was a beautiful, small, not-too-sweet fruit. I might try this again, or try a larger variety.


I grew 'Starica' and 'Jeannette' - both were wonderful and tasty. Succession planting and plenty of space is the key to a long season of delicious large carrots.


'Genovese' was a star producer for us and kept us (and the neighbors) in bushes of basil all summer long. I'll definitely grow this again.


I've always grown 'Green Flash' in the summer, and they do well here. This year we had a lot of aphids and cabbage white butterflies, which did a lot of damage. I like having some sort of green in the hot months, and collards are the only ones that don't bolt in the heat of summer. I'll try again.


I grew 'Yukon Gold' and we had a very nice crop, though not as big as I had hoped. This winter I will grow them in rows rather than in towers, and we'll see how they do. (I'm also growing two different varieties.)


I grew pelleted 'Green Towers' this summer, and it was a stellar producer up until mid-July. I'll definitely grow this again. Nice large, crisp heads - perfect for Caesar salad.


While we were able to make many, many jars of pickles, our cucumbers weren't the best for fresh eating. I grew 'Endeavor' pickling and 'Straight Eight' slicing. I'll try different varieties next year.  I do think the drought made them taste a bit more bitter than usual.


I used Seed Savers organic seed this year, and it was wonderful. However I always forget to sow it later in the season rather than at the beginning.


I grow peas in both the winter and summer here, and they do ok until about late July. I used 'Sabre' this time around, they were ok, but not fabulous.

Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries:

I have many different varieties, all from Stark Bros. They all have performed marvelously. The trick is to order a type that will do well in your climate. There are limited berries that I can grow in our Zone 9. Even so, it's a little hot for these guys, and I get a smaller yield then someone in cooler temps.

And, we had two artichokes from our one plant (with many more blooming), lots and lots of late season spears in the asparagus patch (next year we can actually eat them!), and countless springs of herbs from the perennial herb garden. Our peach and apple bore well this year, though the peach needs more chill hours (hoping for that this winter), and we'll see how the new plum and cherry trees do. The quince, which I tried to murder, has returned. So I'll have to figure out what to do with those guys next spring.

We'll likely start planting winter crops in two weeks.

Tomatoes ready to go in to the oven for roasting