What looks like a prehistoric cucumber or something … has seeds inside that turn a shocking bright red colour … and tastes really, really bitter?
I’m often asked, “What new vegetables are you growing this season?” People know we like trying different things and are always growing something new.
Last year it was bitter melons. Rather uncommon & perhaps even unknown to many Canadians, bitter melons are a popular vegetable in many cultures. At the North York Farmers’ Market where the majority of our customers have an Asian background they sold very well. And our customers willingly taught us when to pick them, how to prepare & eat them, and about the many health benefits of bitter melons. Turns out they are especially good for the heart & regulating blood sugar for diabetics.
We found it difficult to germinate the seeds, but then the plants grew well & produced a lot of fruit for many weeks. This year we’ll be growing them again. We’re trying 10 different varieties (3 last year) to see what grows & produces the best, and what our customers prefer. Look for our bitter melons in August.
What else is new this year?
- Radicchio isn’t something our family usually eats. But it is a beautiful, leafy vegetable resembling lettuce & cabbage in looks & usage, with a slightly bitter flavour. We grew some last year for the 1st time but got them in the ground too late to mature. We’ll start our seeds sooner this season.
Here’s what radicchio should look like (pictures from West Coast Seeds catalogue).
- We haven’t grown parsnips for many years (don’t really remember why) but we’ve been buying & eating them this winter. They are so delicious that we have to grow them again!
- Similarly popcorn returns to the list.
- Fennel – another favourite of mine – has been unsuccessful for us recently. Maybe this is the year?
- We’re trying to grow more Asian vegetables to meet the demand. Edamame, Chinese cabbage, pak choy, & winter radishes have been grown on our farm for a few years but we’re always trialing new varieties – looking for ones that grow reliably in our conditions, produce well, and taste great! We will add some other Asian greens to the list as well – tatsoi, choy sum, komatsuna, yokatta-na …
- And we are continually trying new varieties of crops we already grow. The list for 2018 includes 35 varieties of hot peppers, 38 different winter squash, 39 kinds of eggplant and 60+ varieties of tomatoes. This includes the tried & true, the old favourites and some new ones too.
That should be enough to keep things interesting!
*Here’s the disclaimer … It’s easy to get carried away in the winter and dream & make all these plans. No doubt not everything will get seeded or planted. Not everything that gets planted will grow well & produce a crop. We make no promises! But we will certainly try! And we’ll have fun doing it!
Look for these vegetables and more at our farmers’ markets or in your CSA shares this summer.
While Sage continues her quest to make new friends, Kahleese will have none of it.
Enjoying the last bit of snow.