New to the Garden
Every year I try to bring in new varieties of fruits and vegetables inspired by something we enjoyed from our local farmer’s market or from our travels. Many of the new vegetables I have chosen this season are from our vacations. I love how these vegetables where discovered through an experience or memory, and cannot wait to see how they grow in my own garden.
One trip that has inspired new vegetables this season is our time spent in Italy. One of my favorite vegetables we ate in northern Italy was a round zucchini. It was dense, buttery vegetable, with no seeds and a tender skin. I tried to grow a round variety last season, but it did not have the same flavor and really was just a rounded, classic zucchini. So my search continues to match the flavor and texture of this amazing vegetable. I came across this Italian heirloom variety, Costata Romanesco. This plant will produce tender, ribbed fruit with light green stripes. It is said to be the most delicious variety of zucchini, so I had to give it a try! When the fruit is small, they still hold a blossom on the end, which I cannot wait to try stuffed and gently sautéed or roasted.
While in northern Italy, we took a day drip to Venice, taking in this incredible city wandering the streets for a day. While we passed gelato shops and gondolas on either side, through the middle of the street we came across carts overflowing with beautiful produce. The one vegetable that caught my eye was an incredible artichoke bloom. The bloom was a stunning shade of purple, almost neon in color. We had missed the artichoke season, but I left inspired to give growing them a try. I grew up eating artichokes, steaming them whole and dipping their leaves in garlic butter. It is so delicious - I mean, garlic butter, am I right? I love the idea of being able to harvest my very own. I found a colder climate variety, Green Globe. They are able to grow in a shorter growing season, and will produce around four blooms per plant. I look forward to watching it grow and enjoying the blooms with plenty of butter.
Last summer we spent some time in Hood River, Oregon, during peak harvest season. We started our trip by exploring the local produce by eating at Kin - a restaurant featuring ingredients from local farmers. Each dish was exquisite, showcasing vegetables in all their glory. Our favorite dish was an heirloom tomato salad, with bright dill and whole grain mustard vinaigrette. The flavors paired so beautifully with the ripe, tender tomato. This salad inspired me to grow these tender skinned tomatoes, Red Rosso Sicilian. I learned that these tomatoes are not only delicious fresh, but perfect for making sauce as the tomatoes do not require peeling before processing. So excited to recreate this delicious salad with my own tomatoes.
We also spent a morning at the Hood River Farmer’s Market. I loved walking through the rows and stalls looking at produce. The wide range of tomatoes was so inspiring, and in part what inspired the Striped Roman variety I am growing. I wanted to grow a tomato that is perfect for canning, as nothing beats a jar of garden canned tomatoes in the dead of winter. The vibrant colors and variety of tomatoes in Oregon was astonishing, and made me eager to branch out and try something that was not just a classic red variety.
While in Oregon we also experienced the fruit loop, a beautiful drive to a range of different orchards selling their beautiful peaches, plums, cherries, and blueberries. I loved each place we stopped, taking in their walking gardens and stunning orchards. Small aside, I am allergic to tree fruit, so I stuck to a pint of bright blueberries. Blueberries have grown to be one of my favorite fruits as the first time I experienced picking them and enjoying fresh was on our honeymoon. We honeymooned in Ashland, Wisconsin during peak blueberry picking season. One drizzly day we headed out to the blueberry patch to pick just a few to enjoy. We ended up picking nearly ten pounds worth, eating them by the handfuls for the days that followed. They were unlike anything I had ever had. The berries burst in our mouths filled with a sweet and bright flavor. I now have three blueberry bushes in our yard and cannot wait to enjoy our first blueberry harvest.
The last two new additions to the garden are things I really enjoy fresh, and have not had the chance to try and grow. Snap peas are easy to grow here in the spring, and there is always an abundance of them at the Saint Paul Farmers Market. I wanted try varieties that are harder to find, so I am growing Golden Sweet and a Magnolia Blossom - the Golden Sweet is a beautiful shade of yellow and the Magnolia Blossom has stunning purple blossoms and light purple detailing on the plant and pea pod. I am not sure how many peas will make it out of the garden, as I am sure I will be eating many of them fresh right off the vine. Edamame has been something we love to purchase from the freezer section, but have not had the opportunity to enjoy them fresh. I am excited to give these a try, and enjoy them steamed with a sprinkling of salt.
I am so looking forward to growing these new fruits and vegetables, and trying them out in new recipes. From where I sit I can see both garden beds, where the peas are starting to entwine themselves together and up the trellis, and the spinach is forming into beautiful rounded leaves. Let the season begin.