Every February, rebelling against the snow, I order way too many garden seeds. There are always a bunch of new seeds I’ve never tried before – like this year’s red bloody butcher corn – and some that I plant every year without luck – fifth year’s a charm for blue breadseed poppies, am I right? And then there are old standards that never fail me, like sweet crunchy dragon carrots and a front porch pot of British wonder peas.
I asked Farmer Tam what she’s growing this year in her CSA gardens – here are her three new favourites: striped Roman tomatoes, all purple royalty beans and red as a ruby chard. Grow them in your own plot or sign up for the 2016 Prairie Gardens CSA and taste them all with 16 weeks of farm fresh food this summer.
Striped Roman tomato
These heirloom tomatoes are long and Roma-shaped with yellow-orange wavy stripes and few seeds. The plants are tall vigorous growers and need to be supported – Tam strings hers from the roof of the greenhouse – and they grow late in the season taking 75 – 90 days to ripen. Eat them fresh from the vine, popped on pizza, tucked into a grilled cheese or melted into a thick sauce.
Royalty purple beans
I ordered these all-purple bush beans on Tam’s recommendation and I can’t wait! The beans themselves blanch to a light green, but the leaves, pods and flowers are all purple – the Self-sufficient HomeAcre calls them the prettiest beans in her garden. Succession plant these heirlooms every 20 days next to their best buddies: peppers, tomatoes and eggplant. They like to be picked often and eaten fresh or steamed – and leave some to dry on the plant for winter cooking and next year’s crop.
Valentine Red Swiss chard
I have tried lots of Tam’s red chard – aka ruby or rhubarb red – through the Prairie Gardens CSA. It tastes earthy, like its cousin the beet, is a prolific grower and packed with nutrition. Pick young baby leaves after 30 days and eat them fresh – or steam and stir-fry large leaves in 50-60 days. Sow your seeds directly outside a week after the last frost and they’ll grow vigorously over a long season. With those glamorous red stems and big glossy leaves, Swiss chard fits right in with the flowers and roses out front – and is a happy companion to tomatoes and onions in the veg garden.
Heather Egger is a mom, writer, add-a-little-more-butter kind of cook and Prairie Gardens CSA member for the fourth year in a row. This time of year, she is lost in twirling daydreams of sunny hugelbeds, keyhole gardens and these nifty herb spirals.