Tomorrow morning we’re heading upstate! The weather is supposed to be nice the next couple of days and my heart and hands are aflutter with gartenlust. But before 2012 peas and radishes are sown, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge last year’s garden MVPs.
It was really hard to limit this list to only 10 finalists. Tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, and peas — the Meryl Streeps of vegetable gardening — were respectfully excluded from the competition. They will be inducted into the Feral Hall of Fame instead.
And now, without further ado, I give you top 10 vegetables of 2011.
1. Shishito peppers. Sizzled shishitos are an instant addiction. Minutes to prepare and seconds to be devoured. The plants grew beautifully and were unbelievably prolific, bearing fruit well into October. A winner and a must! (Once again, I can’t thank Ms. Poodle-Parrot enough for telling me to take a chance on these delightful capsicums)
2. Bush beans & yellow wax beans. Here’s a vegetable that keeps on going, and going, and going… We ate a lot of string beans last summer… And with so many ways to pickle them, I’m definitely not kicking them out of (garden) bed this year either.
3. Kohlrabi. My new favorite garden pet. I spent very little effort on them: sowed directly into the ground and watched little green sputniks fatten up over the weeks. Kohlrabi is excellent raw in salads (especially with kale) but can also be cooked in many different ways. Check out this Kohlrabi Growing Guide.
4. Kale, kale, kale! Especially the Lacinato kale. Once I learned to use it raw in a salad, I even became less obsessed with the amazing kale chips… Apparently, you can even make a margarita with kale juice! (Check out my Garden Cocktails page for a recipe I recently found — I’m a bit skeptical but will try it nonetheless, obviously….)
5. Cabbage. To be honest, I had no idea that organic, homegrown cabbage tastes so radically different from the “conventional” stuff. I use a lot of cabbage in my Russian-rooted cookery and am particularly fond of different kinds of slaw. Cabbage doesn’t grow so well in my garden, for some reason — but that is a deterrent but rather a worthy challenge for this year!
6. Rhubarb. James’ pet project — and he has every right to boast about it. The 4 tiny plants we bought 2 years ago have developed into beautiful strong rhizomes, and this year we can start harvesting almost full-force. And the blueberry-rhubarb pie you see below is a force to reckon with!
7. Sorrel. Rhubarbs cousin, sorrel is far more popular in Europe than in North America. Its lemony acidity makes it an excellent addition to summer soups. And the French sorrel sauce for fish dishes? — To die for. Sorrel needs to be planted only once. It is very happy in the shade and its ridiculously long central root burrows so deep into the ground (I discovered this when transplanting it last spring) that you will probably never have to worry about watering it.
8. Mizuna. Who?? Meet my new favorite salad green to grow. It comes from the mustard family like arugula but has a milder taste, beautifully serrated leaves, grows very very fast without attempting to bolt every time the weather offends it. It is a cut-and-come-again type of green, which means many nice salads over the course of a season.
9. Atomic Red carrot. When I pulled the first of these out of the ground, I burst out laughing. Of course, to grow as long and as perfectly shaped it needs a reasonably deep bed with some soft and fluffy soil. The nice thing about the Atomic Red is that it grows much faster than my other carrots (although tastes about the same). Definitely a conversation piece (and a great conversationalist, as you can see).
10. Parsnips. Well, this is a terrifying photo of a particularly messy specimen. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of its better looking brethren — but, trust me, they looked and tasted so good roasted and in soups! With an earthy yet delicate flavor and the texture of a new potato (minus the starch) they certainly earned themselves the status of an indispensable tuber and a bigger lot for this season.
Do you have any suggestions or requests for 2012? Now is the time to express them!