If you choose varieties well-suited to our climate, you'll be rewarded by fresh taste and the peace of mind that comes with growing your own.
WITH BACKYARD farming going strong, new varieties of fruits and vegetables are as eagerly awaited as the latest heuchera or hellebore. Especially if they’re a nutrient-dense tomato, smaller-scale kale, bigger-than-life raspberry — or corn petite enough to grow in a container.
If you choose varieties well-suited to our climate, you’ll be rewarded by fresh taste and the peace of mind that comes with growing your own.
‘Indigo Rose’ is more than a pretty cherry tomato. It’s the darkest tomato ever, as deeply hued as an eggplant. Along with a flavor described as “plummy,” it delivers a dose of healthful anthocyanins, the same antioxidants found in blueberries. Bred by horticulture professor Jim Myers of Oregon State University in Corvallis, ‘Indigo Rose’ starts out green, turns purple in the sun and ripens to burgundy. The compact plant is moderately vigorous and prolific.
Next to this antioxidant-laden nugget, kale must be the most nutritious thing you can grow. And unlike tomatoes, kale behaves like a native Northwesterner, adapting to the climate most months of the year. In fact, the leaves of ‘Black Magic’ are more flavorful after a frost. It’s more decorative than most types of dinosaur or Tuscan kale because it’s both darker and smaller. The leaves are oddly described as an “attractively blister textured,” but I’d call them deeply crinkled. ‘Black Magic’ develops into a rosette rather than individual stems as the plant matures. You can cut and eat the leaves at the baby or mature stage; they make great kale chips.
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Swiss chard is no laggard on the nutrient front, and it produces over the same gratifyingly long season as kale. The new ‘Peppermint’ chard is showy enough to grow as an ornamental you just happen to cut up and serve for dinner. The stems are glowing white with bright pink stripes; the leaves are dark green and glossy. ‘Peppermint’ will be a talking point in the garden, showy in bouquets, and delicious sautéed, braised or popped into soups.
If your backyard isn’t a big, sunny field, you may not have had a chance to taste corn freshly picked off the stalk. Now you hardly need move from your lawn chair to savor that joy. New ‘On Deck’ hybrid sweet corn is bred for containers, so you can grow corn in any sunny spot, including patio and deck. The corn is bicolor, and the ears grows 7 to 8 inches long. Each stalk holds two to three ears, and the stalk itself tops out around 4 to 5 feet tall. After the harvest, you’ll have cornstalks for Halloween.
We were just getting used to purple potatoes, and now there’s a striped variety. Can you imagine reaching into the earth to pull out ‘Masquerade,’ which is brightly banded in contrasting purple and white? The flesh isn’t bicolor, but is delicious mashed, baked or roasted.
Does the world need a bigger raspberry? The answer is yes, according to Burpee, which is introducing ‘Crimson Giant,’ bred by berry experts at Cornell University. The berries are about 45 percent bigger than other varieties, and described as firm, bright red and sugar-sweet. The self-pollinating plants produce late into the season, ripening up through October.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.