Magenta Orach - these incredibly coloured spinach-flavoured greens were once very popular in vegetable gardens from before the Ancient Greeks up until the Middle Ages when they were replaced by spinach, which they are a relative of. They are also very nutritious, being very high in vitamin C, K and potassium. We tend to grow them in spring and fall when it's a bit cooler, they always end up in our salad and stir-fry mixes. We had one plant in the greenhouse grow to over 6 feet tall! Quite the cool plant.
Nova Scotia Wild Blackberries! Anyone who grew up in NS probably will be very familiar with these from the time of being kids and happening upon a patch and proceeding to stuff as many as they can into their mouths! They are smaller than grocery store blackberries and much sweeter and flavour-packed. We've found that they tend to be even more flavourful in drier summers.
They are usually ready mid-to-late August and we harvest them from our large wild patch on the farm that has been there as long as I can remember. We try to get them into the CSA and the farmers market whenever we can, depending on how abundant the crop is and how much time we have to devote to picking them.These are truly wild because we do nothing to help them along, no water, no compost, nothing, they are true survivors and do quite fine on their own. The only thing we do is to cut walking paths through them, but that is more for our benefit than theirs! (I recommend long sleeves and pants when picking them haha)
Some of my earliest memories are picking wild blackberries for breakfast in Cream of Wheat with butter, milk and brown sugar... so good! Such a nostalgic wild treat. The bees love the flowers too, you can hear the buzzing just walking by the blackberry patch. This wild patch also provides habitat and food for many critters and birds, we suspect there is a skunk living somewhere in there but we've had the good fortune of not running into it yet! Cross your fingers...
Crown Pumpkin - a beautiful blue heirloom pumpkin coming from New Zealand. It doubles as a great fall decoration as well as a great eating pumpkin - they are mildly sweet, nutty, moist and smooth, one of our favourites. They can store for over 6 months, getting better tasting as they go. Unfortunately we had a complete crop failure for these in 2018 due to the double whammy of late frost and then dry-hot summer - here's hoping we'll have another nice pile this fall!
Black Radish - an heirloom fall radish with a long history of use in Europe and Asia.
These are an unusual type of radish that was bred for its ability to store well and for its medicinal qualities. It has thick, rough skin that allowed it to last the winter in a root cellar, it will also last that long in the fridge. They are crisp white inside and have a very spicy, bitter flavour - great for adding a punch of flavour to a fresh dish, or if you cook it it becomes more mild. Our absolute favourite way to eat it is fermented, which we learned of through Seven Acres Farm & Ferments such deliciousness!
There's an old traditional Russian remedy that uses black radish for a natural cough syrup. You take a large radish, carve out the inside, fill it with honey and let it sit for 5 hours before using the honey and radish juice mixture. I haven't tried this yet but it certainly sounds interesting!
River John Blue Potatoes
River John Blue Potatoes - a Nova Scotian heirloom potato. At one time this was the main potato grown in Nova Scotia, it's named after River John in Pictou County. People have even speculated that the name "Blue Nose" comes from how much we used to eat this potato.
They are a beautiful purple potato that looks like a chunk of amethyst when cut in half, they have a good flavour and contain antioxidants due to their purple colour so they're healthier than white potatoes. You can use them like a russet potato, they're great for roasting and mashing - purple fries and mashed potatoes!!
They are a bit later to harvest than other potatoes but we find they are more resistant to potato beetle than other varieties, they are always the last ones in the field still standing. We think this is because they have longer stems, so are more lanky compared to other bushier types, more work for the beetles to climb up each stem? maybe. They have a really nice purple flower as well that the bees love, and their stems are purple as well which makes them an overall nice looking plant. They also seem to produce fruit, the "potato berry", more readily than other types which makes them great for saving "true seed".
Costata Romanesco Zucchini
Costata Romanesco Zucchini - one of the most popular zucchinis of Italy, and it's easy to see why - once you try one you're hooked! They are very beautiful to the eye, dark and light green striped with wavy ribbing and dark/light green speckles. They have a nice nutty flavour compared to other zucchinis, and are more firm yet tender so have a better texture after cooking. Even when they get larger, where other zucchinis might get spongy or watery, these stay perfect. They are insanely productive as well, if you want to plant just one crop that gives you a load of food for the summer this would definitely be a good fit!
We grew these for the first time last year after hearing great reviews from other farmers and market goers, and now we're wondering why we didn't grow them sooner. In the hot summer we had they grew absolutely huge and healthy, giving us plenty of food for the CSA, market and ourselves!
An interesting thing about Zucchinis and Summer Squash is that they belong to such a variable species of squash - Cucurbita pepo - which includes jack-o-lanterns, pie pumpkins, many decorative gourds, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, delicata and sweet dumpling. Good to know if you decide to save seeds from something you're growing, if you have zucchinis and pumpkins next to each other you could get some very weird looking results in the second year which may not be useful for your purposes (but then again it could be! It'll be a roll of the genetic dice)
Squash and Zucchinis were domesticated thousands of years ago by Native Americans and were first used purely for their edible seeds, since the flesh was originally bitter and potentially poisonous (an attribute that lives on in decorative gourds - don't eat them!) Later on they selected more for sweet, smoother and thicker flesh which led to the squashes we know today. It's amazing to think about how much we have today that only exist because of the hard work of people that had come long before us. It's quite humbling to take on the work that has sustained humanity for millenia.
Heirloom Multicoloured Carrots
Heirloom Multicoloured Carrots! Everybody's favourite colourful veggie.
We love growing these beauties - every harvest is a surprise, you pull one up and and see what nice colours appear. We grow a bunch of different types of heirloom carrots and throw all the seed into the same seeder and then wait patiently to see what we'll get. The purple coloured ones in particular have an added layer of surprise, since the inner colour can vary, depending on the variety, from purple, purple/white, orange, and orange/yellow.
The different coloured types tend to grow at different speeds as well, with purple being the slowest, then red, orange, white and then yellow are the fastest. This is why (as our CSA members may have noticed) that the mixed bunches tend to have smaller purple carrots and larger yellow ones. The flavour is mostly pretty similar, but we find the orange type we grow (Scarlet Nantes - an heirloom from France) tend to be the carrot-iest of the carrots. All carrots take awhile to germinate in the field (2 weeks) and from then have small tops for awhile while they grow the root underneath, this means they require a lot of attention early on to combat weeds from shading them out (as any farmer will tell you). However, they are definitely worth the attention because everybody loves them and they are so nice looking!
Ashe County Pimento Pepper
Ashe County Pimento Sweet Pepper - a nice little heirloom pepper with great flavour hailing from the mountains of North Carolina.
We have been looking for a bell pepper that does well in our garden for many years now, and it wasn't easy because peppers tend to like hotter and drier weather and that's not something we have an abundance of in Nova Scotia! Anyways, we tried out this little pepper and it did really well for us last year! It's like an average bell pepper but with a shorter stature a bit thicker flesh - very juicy, crunchy and sweet. They start out green and mature to a beautiful bright red. We saved loads of seeds from them last year so we're hoping they'll become a regular in future summers.
Squash Breeding Project
Here's another one of our squash breeding project, this one lasted 6 months in room-temperature storage and was eaten just as the first spring flowers were popping up! Still as tasty as ever, nice orange flesh perfect for soup. This type belongs to the species Cucurbita moschata which is the same as butternut squash.