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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

My Five Garden Favorites

I was going to post about what an awesomely busy day I had yesterday, but Kate over at Living the Frugal Life posted about her five favorite plants to grow.  So I'll list mine as well, although my list might look a lot like hers:

Tomatoes- tomatoes are number one because we use them the most.  I still have yet to plant enough to yield an entire year's worth of tomato sauce, but for Friday night pizzas, I prefer home canned sauce to anything I can buy.  I also make a batch of catsup every year, using the Joy of Cooking (1977) recipe, which is so good I'll never go back to store bought again.  Then there are tomatoes in the salad, on charcoal-grill hamburgers, and barring anything else, the ubiquitous tomato sandwich on homemade bread with mayonnaise.  Tomatoes are tops for me.

Kale- kale is probably more important to us than tomatoes are, but that's a hard one to call.  Kale starts being wonderful by being easy to germinate, then continues by growing in all weather, including through the winter.  It actually does improve in flavor by a touch of frost.  The first year I grew it, it was the only thing growing in the garden through the winter months, and it was reliably ready every time I needed it.  Plus, I make just about only one dish with it, although I could branch out with more, but we love the pasta dish I make with it.  I plant kale at least twice a year to make sure I have it at all times.  Kale is king.

Asparagus- it seems like a huge sacrifice to devote so much space (an entire bed) to a crop that comes up only once a year, but we love asparagus and the homegrown stuff soundly pales the expensive commercial stuff, which all seems to come from Mexico anymore. The flavor of fresh asparagus that's been cut moments before being prepared for dinner is truly something else, and I found that the blanched asparagus, where I grow it under a dark bucket so that it's completely white, is nutty and asparagus-y at the same time, and I understand why Europeans are all gaga over it.  Plus, you plant asparagus once and it gives for years and years, and I discovered this year that the asparagus season lasts a while.  So asparagus is a good choice for us.

Alliums-  alliums are so important to my cooking that I can't differentiate among them, which is a bit of a cop out, but there it is. Garlic grows pretty darn reliably; this year is the first year that I'm trying it directly in the ground, so we'll see how it fares in clay. I'm growing more Oregon Blue, and trying Music for the first time. Trouble is, I forget which one I planted where.  For onions, this year I'm trying Stuttgarter, which is an open-pollinated variety and is supposed to be a great keeper, but I grew Copra last year.  I still have onions that are good, and I use onions a lot. I also grow leeks, because they are pretty easy, and they're expensive in the store, so they're well-worth the minimal space they take.  And then last but not least, I'm trying shallots for the first time this year.  They are growing incredibly well, and I'm finding that they make good dividers in the beds, so I'll continue to grow them.

Peppers- specifically bell and Italian peppers.  I grow bells because they are super easy to freeze and they freeze well, and I use a lot of them.  Gotta have them for potatoes O'Brien, and Sloppy Joes. They're just good to have on hand for adding a dimension of flavor most people don't think about.  I like to grow Italian peppers because grilled along with eggplant, they make a stupendous sandwich with goat cheese.  I also stuff them for dinner, and they are pretty wonderful that way as well.  I never see them on offer, so growing them seems to be the only way to get them.  I could probably freeze them, but I don't. Italian peppers are one crop that I'm happy to eat only in season.

I'm also partial to zucchini, because they are great stir-fried at a fairly high heat so that they get brown and crunchy on the outside, but barely warmed, much less turned to mush on the inside and then sprinkled with garlic salt.  I'm also partial to homegrown cucumbers, because they're prolific and easy to grow, and you can do a bunch of cool (literally) things with them in the summer.  Homegrown green beans are another favorite- I'm trying French filet beans for the first time this summer, because I had them for the first time in my CSA box years ago and they were really delicious. I also really like homegrown carrots, because they are sooooo much nicer than the dry woody ones from the store. Growing carrots at home ensures juicy, sweet carrots, and they were a revelation for me.

So yeah, I cheated a little.  I could name a bunch of other things I like to grow.  If I had much less space, I'd probably have to trade some of the favorites around with some other things; asparagus would probably have to go, for instance, so that I could grow more food.  So I'm glad that I don't have to make that choice.

What are your five favorites?


Haddock said...

must try out that asperagus...... love them (my mom used to make pickles with them)

Rae said...

Tomatoes are at the top of the list for me, especially cherry tomatoes. Other favs are peas, pole beans, zucchini, onions (yellow sets I get from Wilco... delish and store forever). I must also have rosemary, lavender, chives, and parsley. Can't wait to see your yard/garden progress!

Anonymous said...

I am with you on tomatoes, garlic and shallots. I always grow a few brussel sprouts too, and I also love growing peas - it always takes me back to being a little girl at my grandparents. They used to send me and my sisters out to pick loads of pods then we would sit on the doorstep podding the peas.

Diane said...

Blogger is back so I'll leave my belated comment. I grow what I can more than my favorites because my yard is so shady but among them my favorites are: snow peas, garlic and ground cherries. The last are like miniature tomatillos but they develop a sweet flavor, kind of like a pineapple berry. A few plants provide lots of nibbles and they are a novelty too. I bring them to my mom's nursing home where the staff and residents enjoy tasting them.

Rachelle said...

I would have to say tomatoes and alliums are at the topof my list as well, but cucmbers (fresh and as gherkins or relish are a must-have for me. Rounding out my list: basil, parsley and the chard Prima Rossa. I am really liking this chard. Good germination, easy to transplant, edible very quickly, doesn't bolt, and good late in the fall, slightly frost resistant.