Wednesday, May 04, 2005

From the Garden

The closest I get to fresh produce is the farmers market or my organic produce delivery box. But I have some great sources who, in addition to bringing me treats from the garden, keep me up to date on what's going on in the world of produce. This report comes to you thanks to one of those sources who scoured the seed catalogs to give a glimpse of what we may be seeing in the way of produce this year.

New hybrids that are in shades of pastels (lemon, cream, light tangerine, etc.) Both the skin and cores display the diversity. There's even a new carrot called "Purple Dragon" by Thomson & Morgan, that is a deep purple and claims high antioxidant and vitamin content.

While emphasis has been on the hot peppers over the last several years, I'm seeing an increase in sweet pepper development and heirloom revival. Many have the appearance of something that might sear your tongue and cross your eyes, but it's all show. Some are derivatives of the classic Italian green sweet peppers, although a few mimic the shape of their hot Capsicum cousins. There's a heirloom pepper from Poland, called "Buran" that claims to be one of the sweetest, but it has the look of a fat Ancho pepper.

They're not the old, nasty turnip Grandma used to serve on Sunday anymore. They're getting sweeter. They're so sweet that many are supposed to be eaten raw like an apple or grated in a salad. There's one called "Oasis" that apparently has the taste of a melon.

Heading, baby varieties are hot. Also, Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia) is becoming a mainstay item in the "more salad greens" sections of many catalogues.

More curled, wrinkled and multi-colored hybrids are in vogue. Heirloom, European varieties are also becoming more available.

With names like, Mothe, Mung and Urd, sprouting beans are another hot item. Tepary beans like "Blue Speckled," "Milta Black" and "Sonoran Gold" will be adding more color to our dishes next winter.

As you know, heirloom tomatoes have been the rage for many years, but keep an eye out for a burst of heirloom watermelons, cantaloupes, honeydews and muskmelons to hit the market.

Many alpine varieties with smaller, sweeter fruit are being promoted. The berries grow in clumping masses, rather than a fat red berry or two.

International and domestic oddities
"Turkish Orange" eggplants and "Cotton Candy" pumpkins (a John Scheepers introduction) are just a few of the double-takes to be prepared for this fall. Other unusual vegetables(?) like Bolivian Sunroot (also known as Yacon) and Afghani Sesame will add new flavors to meals and they just might get your travel bug jumping too!