Regional Picks: Best Edibles – Northwest

Fine Gardening - Issue 131

 1. ‘Montovano’ Fennel

Maturity: 75 to 80 days

Yield: One bulb per foot

Needs: Full sun to partial shade; light, fertile soil

Bulb fennel was once an oddity at local farmers’ markets, but its mild anise flavor and its contribution to roasted-vegetable dishes have made it a staple on my farmers’ market table and a favorite of my CSA (community-supported agriculture) customers. The moderate summer temperatures of the Puget Sound area provide a long window of opportunity to grow this heat-sensitive crop. The variety I prefer is ‘Montovano’. It consistently forms a large, round bulb with a clean, bright white appearance, and it has excellent flavor and crunch. It also seems to resist bolting in the heat of late spring, when most other varieties go to seed.


2. ‘Tadorna’ Leek

Maturity: 120 days

Yield: 1 pound per foot

Needs: Full sun; light, fertile soil

The Northwest’s maritime climate is well suited for winter gardening, thus a winter-hardy leek is a common fixture in most people’s gardens in this region. My favorite variety, ‘Tadorna,’ has a long white shaft and holds better in the field than any other variety I have grown. Sometimes I’ve been able to harvest leeks all the way through winter and into March of the following year.


3. ‘Ventura’ Celery

Maturity: 110 days

Yield: One bunch per 18 inches

Needs: Full sun to partial shade; fertile soil; lots of water

‘Ventura’ celery is deep green and flavorful. If grown well, it also is tender; possesses a large, blanched heart; and will hold well into winter. Celery, in general, is one of the most difficult crops to grow well. I start with the best-quality transplants I can grow and choose the best ground for planting. I fertilize and water frequently. This, along with our long summer days, makes for excellent celery.


4. ‘Shunkyo’ Radish

Maturity: 32 days

Yield: One bunch per foot

Needs: Full sun to partial shade; light, fertile soil

‘Shunkyo’ radish is a stunning, vibrant pink with a strong, healthy top, and its smooth skin cleans up well. Though it fast became my favorite radish, I first grew ‘Shunkyo’ because it looked so good in the catalog. It more than holds its own, however, being more heat tolerant than other varieties and having a complex flavor. It starts sweet and finishes with an intensity that can border on uncomfortable when grown in the heat of summer; it’s much milder in spring and fall.


Mike Peroni owns and operates Boistfort Valley Farm in Curtis, Washington.

Photos: #1, courtesy of Mike Peroni; #2, #3 and #4, courtesy of Heidi Peroni

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