Grow something new and different in your vegetable garden
Broaden your vegetable horizons this year by planting something new and different like different colored carrots, golden beets or smaller watermelon varieties.
One of the delights of growing your own vegetables is to become a vegetable explorer. This means that every year, if there is enough room, you try growing a new and interesting vegetable, one you’ve read about and can imagine eating. It’s your little experiment into the unknown and you get to eat the results. Maybe it’s a vegetable you’ve already grown but the color or shape is different. All it involves is one packet of seeds or a transplant or two to begin an eating adventure. Smart gardeners enjoy new and different vegetables that grace their gardens and then their tables.
Michigan State University Extension horticulture educators and Master Gardener hotlines get calls from people who have unintentionally grown something different and are surprised at what is in their garden. Black cherry is a dark purple cherry tomato and inexperienced gardeners who are not used to the strange color call to see if it is edible. They didn’t read the label or the tag was lost.
The days to harvest is an indication on how long it takes to grow this vegetable. In Michigan, we usually have about 120 days for a growing season. Knowing if the vegetable is a cool season or warm season vegetable is important for the vegetables to grow well. Cool season vegetables do their best growing in the spring and fall. Hot weather causes problems for the plants. Warm season vegetables do best in the hottest part of summer. Cool weather causes problems with growth and production. “Days until harvest” are calculated from the time the seed germinates and comes up with little leaves, not when the seed is planted. So if soils are cold or dry, it delays germination. Days to harvest should be considered a guideline, not an immutable fact.
This is the time when many gardeners are shopping for seeds either through a catalog or online. This is where the greatest variety will be available. A few possibilities to ponder as you shop for seeds are listed below.
Many of us have eaten the dark red beets, but you could notch it up and try golden beets or Chioggia beets. Golden beets are a rich, golden color and have a mild, sweet taste. Chioggia beets have alternate layers inside of red and white for a bulls-eye effect and are also sweet.
When thinning small beets, cook the little leaves as a green. Beet roots don’t have to be boiled. They can be roasted in the oven to caramelize their sugars and make them even sweeter. Beets are a cool season vegetable with 55 days until harvest.
This is a kissin’ cousin to beets. Beets have the fancy bottom and chards have the leafy top. For some gardeners, seeing little blemishes on the yellow, white and pink stems makes them take additional time in the kitchen to trim out the imperfections. A simple nick or bruise can leave a brown blemish. The solution is to buy a chard with red stems that does not show tiny blemishes. Stems are a rich cranberry color and disguise imperfections. Chards are a cool season vegetable with 55-65 days until harvest.
Because of the short number of growing days, it is almost impossible to grow big watermelons. These are watermelons like Charleston Gray that look like a green propane tank. However, it is possible to grow the smaller, roundish watermelons that are under 10 pounds. They have the advantage of being very sweet, easy to handle and fit nicely into the refrigerator. These may have a name like Sugar Baby or Ruby Hybrid Seedless. These kind of watermelon are warm season vegetables with 75-85 days until harvest.
Look to spice up your carrot world with different colored carrots. Seed companies sell packets of various colored carrots mixed together. Grating purple or yellow carrots into coleslaw or salad could add a bit of dinnertime excitement. Carrots are a cool season vegetable with 65-75 days until harvest.
Other new and interesting vegetable choices to consider include small, round zucchini, white eggplant, okra or kohlrabi. Try the purple, mild variety. Have fun and eat well with your garden adventure.