I live in the northeast and am starting a bunch of mine today underneath lights. The following are a few tips gleaned from my own past blunders and successes to help you get started with yours.
Onions & Shallots: Depending on the type, onions are fairly flexible plants that will tolerate a certain amount of rule-breaking on your part. Bunching onions aka scallions tend to be tougher and can be direct sown outdoors in mid-Spring with some frost protection (a cold frame, bottle cloche, or cover).
I elected to overwinter one pepper plant this winter, a mild “hot pepper” variety called ‘Trinidad Perfume’ (I purchased mine from Solana Seeds.) And wouldn’t you know it the darned thing up and made a little fruit. It’s a teeny, weeny jewel of a thing — barely worth a mention, really. But it is orange and it glistens in the sun (when we have sun) and right about now it’s about the most charming thing around.
I went to my local Italian grocer this week and chose seed packs for the contest. I tried to stick with varieties that winners can grow in a variety of conditions whether that’s location/climate, season, small spaces, big spaces, and containers. Some of these can be direct sown and some should be started indoors. Something for everyone!
Italian seed packets tend to be very generous and these are no exception. Each packet contains enough seed to sow a farm or share with several friends.
Below you’ll find write-ups on each variety that I chose. Many of these varieties have become available through companies that sell heirloom seed, but I still find that Spigarello is not commonly available. My local grocer didn’t sell it last year and I was so glad when they listened to my pleas and stocked it again for 2013.
There is still time to enter the contest but you must do so over here. Enjoy!
Meaty, dense, huge, and prolific: I didn’t intend to grow ‘Mennonite Orange’ last summer, but boy am I ever glad I did.
- 80 days
- Open-pollinated heirloom
- Beefsteak, Slicer
- Ripens: Mid-season
- Story: Originally from Pennsylvania but grown in Southern Ontario.
- Container Growing: You’ll need a really big pot, 16″+ deep.
This spring I started seeds of a long, red, Italian radish variety called ‘Candela di Fuoco.’ They did well enough considering the strange weather that season — I ate the crunchy roots and sautéed the greens.
When two stragglers bolted in the heat, I let them go and ate their flowers. The plants continued to grow all through the summer, forming into wild masses of tentacled branches, bitter leaves, pretty flowers, and seedpods. These too were edible, and we ate them fresh and crunchy straight off of the plant and in salads until they became hard, mature, and unpalatable.