TASTY VEGETABLES TO TRY IN YOUR 2012 FLORIDA HOME VEGETABLE GARDEN
The stack of 2012 seed catalogs on my
desk is growing faster than the weeds in last year’s sweet potato
bed. There’s never a dull month for home vegetable growers in
Florida. When we’re not in the garden, we’re planning our next one.
January is the perfect time to order
your seeds, plants and seed potatoes. If you don’t act fast, it’s
easy to fall behind. Planting windows open as early as this month in
chilly north Florida for several traditional spring-harvested
vegetables, such as potatoes, English peas, celery, cauliflower,
broccoli and turnips. Many more vegetables can be planted in
February. See my
vegetable gardening guide for complete planting dates.
It’s always fun to try something new
in the garden. I have found many of my favorite veggie varieties by
trying new offerings. Here are my new favorites from the seed
catalogs and local retailers, and several other proven performers
that are on my favorites list:
Rattlesnake pole beans
Rattlesnake Pole Beans
Several years ago a gentleman asked if I knew where to find
Rattlesnake pole beans. He remembered his grandfather growing them
and said they were extra delicious. I could not find them at the
time but when they showed up in the Gurney’s seed catalog last year
I was quick to give them a try. This heirloom variety is productive,
stringless, and quite tender and delicious when harvested young.
They can even be used as a snap bean if harvested early enough. The
eye-catching pods are green with purple streaks which are said to
resemble the markings found on a rattlesnake (I’ll have to trust
them on that). The dried beans are buff colored with deep brown
speckled markings. This variety is especially suited for hot and
humid environments. Until now, I’ve always been a bush beans grower.
Rattlesnake pole beans have won me over to the other side.
Honey Bear Acorn Squash
I don’t usually buy squash starter plants but when I saw the name,
Honey Bear Acorn Squash, I could not pass it up. I’m glad I didn’t.
This isn’t your traditional acorn squash. The texture of the flesh
is finer and starchier than ordinary acorn squash. And as sweet as a
girlfriend right before Christmas. According to Bonnie Plants, this
2009 All America Selections Winner hybrid squash is perfect for pots
and small gardens. Each plant bears 3 to 5 squash. The fruit are
such a dark green that they look almost black. Each small fruit can
weigh about a pound and is ideal for baking and serving "in the half
shell." What’s more, these plants are tolerant to powdery mildew.
Seeds are readily available on the Web.
My favorite find for your 2012 garden! This high-yielding 2002
All-America Selections Winner produces sweet, tender, crisp,
bitter-free cucumbers that are nearly seedless. Get this: Plants are
gynoecious (all-female) and parthenocarpic (grow fruits without
pollination). Sweet! These cukes have glossy bright green skins
which are spineless and tender, especially when harvested at 4 to 6
inches. The 5 to 6 foot vines bear at nearly every node and the
non-bitter foliage makes the plants unattractive to cucumber
beetles. Resists scab and has tolerance to powdery and downy
mildews. Now if I could just get my cucumbers and lettuce to mature
the same time!
Cloud Nine White Eggplant
Another starter plant I found locally from Bonnie Plants that I had
not tried in my garden so I gave it a go. It produced lovely,
eggshell white, oblong fruit with a sweet flavor and no bitterness.
Eggplant is easy to grow and makes a great container plant.
Trofeo filet-type bush beans
Trofeo Snap Beans
This filet-type snap bean has terrific buttery flavor and crisp,
tender texture. The upright bush plants produce huge yields of thin,
long, straight green beans. They have some disease resistance but do
best when harvested before it gets too hot and humid. I enjoy Trofeo
every bit as much as Flavor Sweet beans, which made my favorites
list several years back but are now difficult to find.
Here are more of my favorites with proven performance in my home
Acorn Table Queen Squash
Acorn Table Queen is an heirloom variety of acorn squash that goes
back 150 years or more. It is a vining squash, so it can take up
some space in the garden. So far, the best flavor and biggest
traditional acorn squash (medium-sized) I have raised.
No matter what other varieties of tomatoes you may put out in your
garden this spring, it’s a good idea to have at least one variety
which is resistant to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV), just in case
the others fall prey to this devastating disease. Of the several
TSWV varieties I have tried, my preference is Amelia. Beautiful,
large fruits with pretty good flavor. Amelia’s should be widely
available at gardening centers and seeds can be found at several
seed companies on the Web.
Burpee’s Butterbush Squash
Butternut squash is a real favorite in our household but there are
only two of us here and the big fruit is often more than we need.
Also, the fruit takes about four months to ripen and the vines take
up a great deal of garden space. Burpee’s Butterbush to the rescue!
Burpee’s Butterbush is bush-type plants with single serving-size
fruit that ripens in three months instead of four. I find them to be
even tastier than Waltham Butternut squash.
Early White Bush Scallop
Early White Bush Scallop is a summer squash by Ferry-Morse.
Ferry-Morse seeds are usually available at Lowes and Home Depot,
among other places. Early White Bush Scallop squash ranks high on my
favorites list. The squash is mild and delicious and the plants
stand up well to powdery mildew. What’s more, they perform quite
nicely through a good part the summer.
Fairy Tale eggplant
Fairy Tale Eggplant
If you like eggplant, you just have to try Fairy Tale. This short,
slender, purple and white eggplant is as delicious as it is
beautiful. Great on the grill! Perfect for containers. Fairy Tale
produces lots of fruit right through the summer and into the fall in
north Florida. You can find this All-American Winner through a
variety of suppliers.
First White Hybrid Cauliflower
First White Hybrid Cauliflower is a prize winner that also is a
winner in my north Florida garden. Big heads with small, tight
curds. Mild flavor. Available at Burpee Seeds. I planted First White
Hybrid in garden space receiving only a half day of sun and the
heads still averaged 8 inches across and weighed just under two
pounds each. They did much better than Snow Crown growing adjacent
Flavor Sweet Bush Beans
Flavor Sweet bush beans from Gurney’s are one of my favorite snap
beans. The long, slender, dark green pods are deliciously sweet.
They freeze well and I have had wonderful yields. I plant them mid
March through mid April
Gotta Have It sweet corn
Gotta Have It Sweet Corn
Gurney’s calls Gotta Have It sweet corn a sweet corn without equal –
and I think they are right! The short, stocky (60”) plants stand up
to the elements and produce the best tasting sweet corn I have ever
had. It’s slow to become starchy, holds its flavor for a long period
of time and freezes very well. The ears are big, with bicolor
kernels. I have had great success growing this sweet corn in
containers, too. It needs warm soil to germinate. I don’t plant this
variety until mid April here in Niceville. Henry Fields offers this
corn as That’s Delicious.
I was delighted with the Gretel eggplant I found locally from Bonnie
Plants. This small, slender, white eggplant is a 2009 All American
Selection. Tastes great and the tender skin does not need peeling.
This variety performed all summer long in my front-yard garden. It
is especially well-suited for container growing.
O'Henry sweet potato
O’Henry Sweet Potatoes
I was hesitant to try the white skinned, white fleshed O’Henry sweet
potato. I have always been so pleased with my red Beauregard’s.
Besides, who ever heard of a white sweet potato? But I gave them a
try so I could share my findings. Boy, am I glad I did. The best
sweet potatoes I have ever grown. Big, smooth, stringless and very
sweet. Drier than some sweet potatoes. The skin is so thin and
tender – no need to remove.
Sweet Treat Hybrid Carrot
Sweet Treat Hybrid carrots from Burpee are sweet and extra crunchy.
The five inch, slightly tapered carrots are especially good for
fresh eating. I prefer Nantes Half Longs for freezing.
Yukon Gold potatoes
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Yukon Gold potatoes are a yellow skinned, yellow flesh potato with a
delicious, buttery flavor. In my home and garden, these early
maturing potatoes rank well above red potatoes and fingerling
potatoes. They store well, too.
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