Thursday, September 22, 2011

The CdA Coop's Top Garden Picks of 2011

It's hard to believe that today is the last day of summer; after all, it didn't really arrive in north Idaho until early August!  In spite of the cold, wet spring which extended in to cool, wet summer, we did manage to have a couple of standouts in the garden this year.

Here's the lineup, starting with the cool weather lovers, since this was their year again. 

Lettuce and Greens:
We had (and continue to have) a fabulous crop of lettuces and greens this year. 
The Lolla Rossa lettuce was beautiful, never bolted or became bitter.  It is a lovely red leaf lettuce and will be back in the garden in 2012.  And then there was the arugula -- we enjoyed this spicy green all summer.  I planted this is succession (and now into the fall). If you haven't planted this before, I highly recommend it.  It germinates quickly and is ready for harvest in 25-30 days.  It's great in salads and lovely braised with a little garlic and bacon (like spinach but with a zing!). 

I heard from several gardeners that this was indeed the year of the bean. I went a little crazy this year and planted all my beans at once instead of staggering the plantings.  That led to beans at just about every meal for several weeks. We put in four types of bush beans; green, yellow wax, royalty purple and Dragon's Tongue.  All were productive, but my favorite and the standout was the Dragon's Tongue. This is a flat type bean that starts out green with purple stripes and matures yellow with stunning deep purple stripes and spots. Oh, and did I mention how good they taste?  We blanched, steamed, sauteed and roasted. Gotta love summer's bounty.

This was another difficult year for Idaho tomatoes...but we did manage to pull out a few winners.  This year I started more than 50 tomato plants and much to my surprise, they all grew to transplantable size.  Many were given to friends and, I'm happy to say, those plants have been very productive. 

The all around winner for yet another year is the Sun Gold Cherry.  Nothing beats this little, round orb of sunshine.  The sweet flavor explodes "summer" in your mouth and it just keeps on producing.  Plant this one.

Another huge producer this year was the Black Plum.  It's a prolific cherry-type Roma with a deep reddish-brown skin and meaty flavor.  While these are small, they are great to roast and tasty right off the vine.

The Cherokee Purples, a large fruited heirloom, also did well producing lots of meaty, dusky pinkish-red fruits.  These were great sliced on BLT's!

One Morning's Harvest!
And then there was the Green Grape.  I'll be keeping this one around too. It's also a cherry type, very prolific with oval shaped, yellowish-green fruit.  Since this was the first year for this type, I wasn't really certain when the fruits were ripe! It's when they turn a bit yellow!  They are sweet and tangy all at once and look gorgeous mixed in with the Sun Golds and Juliet's.  

It's bittersweet to see the Summer of 2011 come to an end -- all in all it was a pretty good harvest.  Now I'm busy saving seeds (more on that soon) and planting the fall to get that garlic in next week!

How was your garden this year?  I love to know what your standout were and what you recommend!

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Thanks for reading and sharing your comments! Candace

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