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Each February, as Director of Horticulture Laura Feddersen prepares the seed order for the upcoming growing season, we get to indulge in vegetable fantasy. From peanuts to quinoa, our research and development garden becomes a place where Laura and our farmers test the limits of what’s possible to grow in New England. Though our peanut plant yielded only a few legumes and the quinoa sadly became a treat for the Somerville birds, our fig tree tree and a Meyer lemon tree yielded actual (and delicious) fruit!
The seed order isn’t solely about fantasy, however. As Laura submits the order to Johnny’s Selected Seeds, we are also honing on what varieties grow best in small spaces. And, at the same time, we’re testing out tasty and unique crops that don’t ship well and are a real treat for those who grow their own. Through this research, we’ve started growing many heirloom tomato varieties and some rarities like husk cherries. Here are just some of the new varieties we’re excitedly anticipating this year:
We were inspired to grow these funky, sweet-tasting cucumbers after first trying them at Trotter Elementary, where we teach weekly garden education classes for all second grade students. Armenian cucumbers have an almost honey-like taste to them, and tend to grow into S- or C-shaped bends.
From bell peppers to habaneros, we grow peppers ranging from the sweet and mild to the very spicy. But, while the jalapeño will likely be a mainstay in kitchens for years to come, shishito peppers are one of the fastest growing trends in food service. So we’re hopping on the trend and growing these mild peppers this growing season!
Unlike the baby carrots that you can readily purchase in the store – carrots that are harvested at an immature stage or cut down into their signature oblong shape – the Adelaide carrot seeds we’ve purchased will produce stunted, 3-4” carrots.
Another ‘baby’ variety, these purplette onions are exactly what their name might suggest – small, purple-tinged onions that can be harvested when approximately golf ball sized, or prematurely like pearl onions. We’re tickled by their name, and excited to see how they grow in our raised beds.
Also known as Kailaan, Hon Tsai Tai is a Chinese plant that is harvested when young. The plant produces long, beautiful, purple-stemmed greens with yellow-flower buds. The greens have a delicate mustard taste, and can be eaten raw in salads, or cooked into stir fries or soups.
These funny cucumbers really do resemble their namesake! Sweet and flavorful, lemon cucumbers can be served raw or pickled. Johnny’s notes that they lack a chemical that typically makes cucumbers bitter.
Ready to get started growing these and other crops? Download our crop mapping tool, or register for our two-day, intensive Urban Farming Course, March 19th-20th and learn the fundamentals of growing your own.