Garden Wrap-Up 2011

We recently got a new 2012 seed catalog in the mail, so I’ll take that as my cue to talk about our 2011 garden. Every year in November or December I like to look over all the garden pictures I have taken and my notes and determine my Top 5 favorite crops for that year…sometimes there is more or less, depending on the size and success of the garden and this year’s garden was a moderate success. As best as I could hope for considering I was in late pregnancy and then recovering from birth and caring for a newborn for the majority of the growing season. However, there have been some standout performers that deserve a mention 🙂

Little Marvel Garden Pea...truly marvelous!

5. Little Marvel Garden Pea – I had never grown peas before this year. Growing up, I did not like peas, I HATED them…they were the only vegetable I have ever hated. But I had never tried a fresh pea straight from the garden and the difference is like night and day! Peas, fresh from the garden, are freakin’ AWESOME and my garden will never ever be without them again. This type is an heirloom from the Depression Era, I planted many of these seeds in March and reaped many meals worth in early June. The vines don’t get very long (about 24″) so I grew them on used tomato cages that are scattered all about our property leftover from the previous owner. I gave them one mulching of partially decomposed goat hay and they did great, giving me a nice bumper crop in very early July before the heat finally did them in. I also planted another heirloom type pea called “Tall Telephone” and they didn’t do very well AT ALL…I don’t recommend them.

100% Homegrown Garden Salsa...Pineapple Tomatillos are the secret ingredient!

4. Pineapple Tomatillo – I bought these seeds as a novelty, hoping to get a few and hoping that they would actually taste at least a little bit like pineapple…but I was BLOWN AWAY! These little buggers are prolific, so sweet tasting, and they REALLY DO taste just like pineapple…they are AMAZING! My one issue though is that the seeds are extremely hard to start, requiring at least 10 days to germinate, and the little seedlings are fragile and sensitive until they grow to be about 4-6 inches tall, but after that they take right off and do just fine producing hundreds upon hundreds of little grape sized yellow tomatillos. My only regret is that somehow I did not get a picture of them, except for in this big bowl of homemade salsa..they are the little yellow fruits swimming all about. They also make a great snack when you are just puttering about the garden, I don’t think I ever left the garden this summer without at least a few of them in my mouth 😉

Litchi Tomato...the flowers might look "tropical" but the plant is amazingly frost hardy.

3. Litchi Tomato – Also known as “Morelle De Balbis”. Another novelty that surprised me. These plants are INSANE, they get about 5 feet tall and are covered from stem to leaf with thorns ranging in size from 1/4″ long to nearly 1″ long on some parts of the plant. The flowers though are absolutely GORGEOUS, I could not stop photographing them all summer…the above picture is my favorite. The fruits are about the size and color of a large cherry tomato and that’s just how they taste…like a cross between a cherry and a tomato, but with the consistency and mouth feel of a cherry more than a tomato. They are a firm berry. But what most impressed me about them is that it’s November and they are STILL ALIVE. We’ve had a few frosts and one hard freeze and yet they STILL LIVE and they are stilling producing too…not as prolifically as in the summer mind you, but a little is better than none at all when little else is growing. I even ate a couple of them just yesterday 🙂

An heirloom Orange Watermelon called "OrangeGlo"

2. OrangeGlo Watermelon – Year after year after year we’ve tried growing melons and with no success. Not this year though! My husband, Nathan, managed to grow a watermelon…a large, beautiful, orange and SUPER SWEET watermelon. And we discovered that our 16 month old daughter, Charity, LOVES watermelon 🙂 Some of you who visited us during the summer may remember seeing this watermelon in the front yard garden right next to the walkway, growing up a trellis and sitting on a table…we’re usually not the type of people to “baby” our plants but this watermelon got treated like garden royalty! LOL! I’m hoping to have similiar success with melons next year…I still have my heart set on growing a French Charentais Melon and it will be my third year in a row trying to grow it, hopefully third time will be the charm.

German Red Strawberry Tomato...delicious and unique among tomatoes in that it occasionally has a gender 😉

1. German Red Strawberry Tomato – I have a confession to make, I am a tomato-aholic. WHEW! There I said it! So glad to get that off my chest 😉 No. Not Really…but seriously though I do LOVE tomatoes. I am a tomato purist too, I only eat the ones that I grow and I NEVER eat store bought and I NEVER eat them out of season…cause that’s just downright sacrilegious! I grow only heirlooms and I currently own 10 or 15 (I lost count) different types of tomato seeds and this one is one of the sweetest, best tasting tomatoes I have EVER grown. The fruits get to a good size with a small seed cavity and lots of juicy tomato meat, there is nothing all that spectacular about how it looks (with exceptions…see above) but the flavor is OUTSTANDING, rich and deep with that good “old world” style tomato flavor usually found only in heirlooms from Italy. Another great thing about this tomato is it’s frost hardiness, it was the last of our tomato plants to succumb to frost and it didn’t get affected by Late Blight which did kill a couple of my other tomato plants at the end of the season. All summer long my lunch was made of this tomato as a topper on whole wheat bread toasted and spread with homemade herbed goat cheese using our goat’s milk…I have one tomato left now, sitting on my counter…it was green when I picked but has now fully ripened…I will savor every sweet morsel and another shall not cross my lips till next summer 🙂

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Red Russian Kale...our earliest green this year, we were eating it in February from plants that we overwintered from the year before.!

Bright Lights Swiss Chard (aka Silverbeet) as tasty as it is beautiful, and very easy to grow...it's a joy to see this all happy and colorful growing the garden 🙂

Yukon Gold Potatoes, my favorite type...very fast producing and delicious..I grew about 25 pounds of these this year!

Connecticut Field Pumpkin and Turk's Cap squash...they did beautifully well, grew up and did their thing without hardly any "help" at all...I love it when a garden plant is easy like that...

THE SUNFLOWER...a mystery, no one planted the seed and yet it sprouted and grew and grew and grew to be 14 FEET tall! Here it is pictured with little Matthew 🙂

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