What are your favourite garden vegetables to grow and to eat? Master Gardener Susie Everding shares her “go-to” choices, hoping to provide inspiration for a new direction in your veggie garden this summer.
For best results most vegetables do best in full sun and fertile soil, enriched with compost, regularly watered, and mulched to reduce moisture loss.
This is not your average supermarket cabbage! The savoy has an attractive head of dark green leaves that are looser and more wrinkled than conventional green or red varieties, making for an aesthetically pleasing crop. Requiring full sun and fertile soil, along with row covers to control cabbage moth larvae, it makes great coleslaw. Susie also recommends grilling slabs with a vinaigrette of olive oil, minced shallots, lime juice, honey and thyme.
Have you tried Asian eggplant as an alternative to the more common globe variety? This member of the Solanum family (along with tomatoes, potatoes and peppers) is long and slender with fewer seeds and a thinner skin. It is sun and heat loving, afflicted by few pests. Perhaps your garden has the perfect spot to give it a try?
Regular visitors to our website may be familiar with Susie’s post about growing artichokes. A member of the sunflower family, this plant has cottony grey-green leaves and an unusual structure. Grown in this area as an annual, the artichoke we eat is the bud of a flower, covered by bracts (leaves) surrounding a centre “choke” which is too fibrous to be edible. At the core of the bud is the artichoke heart.
When the head reaches the size of an orange, with tight, firm bracts, remove it. To prepare, simply steam it for 20 minutes or until the bracts pull out easily. The edible parts include the heart, and the bracts, although (like lobster) it is a bit of work to get at the edible flesh.
Radishes are a fast growing root veg with a long shelf life. They can be planted in succession beginning in April for a continuous harvest of slightly spicy goodness. Radishes can be harvested in as few as three weeks from planting and thrive in sun or part shade. Flea beetles may dine on the leaves, but do not affect the root.
Lots of interesting sizes, shapes and colours are available. Grow the large Daikon variety for kimchi, Chinese Shawo fruit radish or try the beautifully coloured watermelon radish for a splash of interest in your summer salad.
This popular fruit comes in a multitude of sizes, colours and flavours. Most seed catalogues have a bewildering number of choices, so to narrow down your search, here are some of Susie’s favourites:
Cherry: Sun Sugar – a sweet tasting hybrid (not open pollinated) variety popular with many gardeners
Paste: San Marzano – the pinnacle of paste tomatoes
Beefsteak: Persimmon – large and meaty with few seeds, low acidity
Currant: White Currant – tiny cherry tomatoes prolific until frost. A perfect snack while working in the garden
Drying: Principe Borghese – meaty cherry sized fruits best for sun dried tomatoes
Bonus pick: Pruden’s Purple: A beefsteak that deserves special mention for great flavour
Susie gave shishito peppers a try last year and was thrilled with this compact, fast growing variety. Interestingly, while they are sweet peppers, about 10% of her crop yielded peppers with a little bit of heat, for a pleasant surprise. There were no pests to contend with, and although the stems could be fragile, staking the main stem with a bamboo stake reduced breakage. Freshly picked, tossed in olive oil, and sautéed with a bit of salt to bring out the flavour – delicious!
An upcoming Ask a Master Gardener Zoom call will cover the how-to of growing onions, leeks and shallots. A garden staple for Susie, she harvests these into December and freezes them for later use in warming winter soups. In readiness, purchase and plant your seeds now and join us March 2, 2023 for her detailed growing tips.
Of course, these are just a few of the nearly limitless choices for the home garden. Perhaps this is the year to expand your gardening repertoire!
Most seeds were purchased online from one of the following Canadian seed companies: