Northwest Vegetable Picks
‘Windsor’ fava bean germinates in cool soils
Days to maturity: 80 (spring sown); 240 (fall sown)
Winter gardening is one of the pluses of living in our cool maritime climate, and fava beans are my favorite overwintering crop. Because fava beans can germinate in cool soil, around here you can plant seeds all the way through October. With fall-sown beans, you can expect a harvest by June, but you can also plant seeds in spring and get a harvest by the end of summer. The variety ‘Windsor’ is known for its large, broad beans that, when mature, are the size of your thumb. Mature beans are best shucked from their pods and then shelled out of their thick skins, but tender young pods can be cooked and eaten just like regular green beans. Don’t forget to save a few seeds to plant next year.
Days to maturity: 100
This unusual potato has the distinction of being the only variety that came to us directly from South America rather than being brought from Europe like other potatoes. It was introduced by Spanish explorers to Neah Bay on the Olympic Peninsula in the 1700s and has been grown as a staple food crop by the people of the Makah nation for over 200 years.
‘Ozette’ is an attractive fingerling with flesh that is firm, creamy, and considered tops in flavor. Because of its history, it is well suited for our climate and very easy to grow even in the cool, rainy Pacific Northwest. Once hard to find and even placed in the Slow Food Ark of Taste, ‘Ozette’ is now easier to get your hands on and well worth planting in your garden.
Days to maturity: 65
‘Stupice’ was bred in the former Czechoslovakia, a place with cooler, shorter summers. This indeterminate, potato-leaf variety ripens tasty tomatoes early and continues to fruit throughout summer. A smaller, salad-type tomato, the 2- to 3-inch fruits are prolific, and the plants do well even in container gardens. Many gardeners choose ‘Stupice’ as their go-to because it consistently produces no matter the circumstances. Start the seeds indoors in March, then harden off and transplant outside when nighttime temperatures stay above 50°F.
‘Fordhook Giant’ Swiss chard
Days to maturity: 60
Though the brightly colored Swiss chards tend to be more popular due to their looks, this unassuming white-stemmed variety will soon become your favorite. A sure thing even in cool summers, marginal soil, and limited sun, ‘Fordhook Giant’ Swiss chard comes on strong and shoots up like gangbusters.
Growing up to 2 feet high with juicy stems and large, succulent leaves, each plant yields more food than you’d expect, and the harvest keeps coming. Its flavor is similar to spinach (but it won’t bolt in summer), so I use it as a substitute for all my dishes featuring spinach—from saag paneer to spanakopita.
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