Our family eats a lot of vegetables. Vegetables are a big part of our diet, they even make up a good portion of our breakfast each morning. For one example, by the time we add multiple vegetables in a stir fry and then add some ferments on the side, it’s not unheard of for us to eat four… five… six different types of vegetables in a single meal (when we have an abundance of fresh vegetables available, that is.) After the garden winds down for the season, our meals might not have quite as many vegetables, but we still eat a lot of vegetables every day.
If you want to eat fresh organic vegetables every day, it can get expensive, which is one of the many reasons we are so grateful for the garden every year. Not only do we save so much money, but we’re blessed with the freshest, most delicious vegetables for our meals. Jeff is the one who does most of the gardening around here, B and I help him and learn from him, and his passion for gardening is contagious. As the weather gets colder and many of the vegetables in our garden are done for the season, we’re already planning our garden for next year. Jeff and I have been talking about what we’d like to do differently, and which varieties we loved and definitely want to plant again. I wanted to share some of our favorite varieties with you from this year, and I hope you’ll share your favorites with us.
For vegetables this year we grew cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, and carrots. We grew green and red cabbage. (The red cabbage we cooked in soups and stir fries, and the green cabbage we made into sauerkraut. The green cabbage is our favorite for sauerkraut. Jeff grew them in pots, and while they might have been a little smaller, they were dense and such beautiful cabbages.) Jeff planted lettuce all summer so we could enjoy a continuous supply, and in the late summer garden planted endive. For lettuce, he planted a lot of lettuce blends. I preferred the lettuces with the straighter leaves, rather than the “frilly” edged ones because they were faster and easier to wash. We haven’t settled on a particular variety we prefer yet.
When we were ordering seeds, many places were sold out in the spring, so we didn’t get the zucchini variety we wanted at first. Instead, Jeff ordered some yellow summer squash, even though it wasn’t our favorite before. (It was tasty and I loved the beautiful yellow color, but I noticed the flowering ends were really susceptible to rot.) Not long after, we were able to get the zucchini we wanted, so we ended up planted both. The zucchini varieties we grew were Black Beauty and Emerald Delight, the second being my favorite this summer. Buying organic seeds has always been important to us, for many reasons, including avoiding GMO seeds. I just learned that there is such thing as GMO summer squash, which I didn’t know existed, and is a good reminder of the importance of planting organic seeds in the garden.
For greens, we grew two kinds of arugula. I love arugula. I seriously can’t get enough of it. We’ve been growing Sylvetta Wild Arugula from High Mowing Organic Seeds for years, and we love it- it’s easy to grow and it usually grows year round for us where we live. Jeff also wanted to try another kind and grew Astro Arugula for the first time this year. It has big leaves (which he liked for harvesting and washing) and it grew fast, but it also bolted more easily so was a little bit harder to grow. Something else we grew for the first time this year was Wasabina Mustard Greens. I wasn’t a fan of eating them raw, the texture felt a like “poky” is the best way I can describe it, but when Jeff put a handful of the greens in our bowls and then put a warm stir fry on top so the greens were wilted….. oh my goodness! The flavor was so incredibly good. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water right now. Definitely growing those again next year, and wanted to be sure to mention that variety here.
We also grew collards for greens this year (Champion), but tend to eat kale more often so Jeff focused more of his efforts on kale instead. We’ve grown different varieties of kale over the years, and this year Jeff wanted to try a new one- Beira. He is such a fan of it, he wanted me to be sure to include it here! I took a picture of B’s hand next to one of the leaves so you can see how large they are. Jeff loved how big and fast they grew, how quickly they cooked up, and that the ribs weren’t stringy.
For cucumbers this year we loved the two varieties we planted and plan to grow them both again next year. The first was Double Yield from Territorial Seeds. Like the name says, they were great producers. When we picked the cucumbers small, they made great pickles, but when they hid they grew quickly and then were best for fresh eating. The second variety we grew was Marketmore from High Mowing Organic Seeds. This variety was more forgiving if we missed days harvesting, the cucumbers remained more of a compact size, and though they are not sold specifically as “pickling” cucumbers, they were my favorite cucumbers for making pickles. If I had to choose one favorite cucumber variety, Marketmore would be it.
That picture above shows one of the bamboo trellises Jeff built in the spring, it was covered in beans over the summer. We grew a lot of green beans this year! A friend asked what our “staple” vegetable crops would be in the garden, the ones that feed us the most and are the most dependable, and green beans would definitely be on that list. There were days that it probably took us over 30 minutes just to harvest the green beans! They were so prolific, we could hardly keep up. We grew bush beans and pole beans, but pole beans are by far our favorite. Bush beans we grow to fill in gaps when we have extra seeds, but the pole beans are what we really count on to feed us (and since they grow vertically, they are a much better use of our space.) We grew two kinds this year, but the Blue Lake Pole Beans from Territorial Seeds are the family favorite we all love best. They didn’t get stringy when they started to get too big, and they are the variety we want to grow next year.
Most of the vegetables we grew we enjoyed fresh, but the ones we preserved we mostly froze and dehydrated. Dehydrating everything has been our favorite preserving method this year. I love seeing the beautiful jars on the pantry shelf, and the feeling of not needing to worry if the electricity goes out. We made mixes of dried kale, green beans, and summer squash to add to soups this winter. For the green beans, we blanched them first, but used a dehydrator to dry them, rather than air-dry them like this article mentions. When the vegetables are dried, they don’t take up as much space either, which is another plus.
I focused on summer vegetables here, but we harvested our winter squash this month and I plan to share about that in another post. We’d love to hear if you have any favorite varieties to share!