Our Favorite Vegetable Varieties in the Garden
Here are some of our favorites that we grow every year in our garden because they have proven themselves to be reliable and delicious. Please note that some of the links are affiliate links, which means that if you buy something from them after clicking we get a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.
Buying or trading for seeds in the late winter and early spring is such a fun, hopeful process. We get to envision our garden for the year, all the things we’ll improve on and master, while still blissfully unaware of the new challenges that might pop up this growing season. Gardening is always a learning experience, which is one of the reasons we love it so much.
And one of the most helpful things to learn when gardening is what plant varieties work well in your garden. This takes some trial and error since everyone’s conditions are a little different, but learning to start your own seeds opens your garden planning up to a world of exciting choices. We’ve been growing food for over a decade and are still trying out new things that catch our eye, but there are some old standbys we plant every year because they have proven themselves to be reliable and delicious. So here are some of our all time favorites; we hope you give them a try!
The ears produced from this corn are so stunning that sometimes it’s hard to take them down from where they hang on our wall in the Fall to eat! But their excellent flavor and texture always persuades us to use them for their best purpose- making amazing tortillas and tamales.
If you know us at all, you know how much we love Wapsie Valley dent corn. This heirloom corn grows very sturdy and well-anchored, standing strong even when all our other corn varieties have been knocked around by heavy winds. The 7-9′ plants produce 1-2 large ears of corn that ranges from bright yellow to deep copper, and makes excellent grits, hushpuppies and cornbread.
Salads and Snacking: Jaune Flamme
Jaune Flamme is a delicious French heirloom that is one of our all-time favorites. These vibrant orange, salad-size tomatoes are bursting with sweet and tangy flavor, and the fruiting is prolific. In our experience, the Jaune Flamme plants also hold up very well throughout the season for an heirloom variety, lasting well into Fall without disease.
Cooking and Canning: Roma VF Paste
Roma VF Paste is our go-to determinate tomato for making sauce and paste to preserve for the Winter. Because they are determinate, these tomatoes set fruit all at once, leading to a bumper crop of solid, bright red paste tomatoes with intense tomato flavor. This plant also has great disease resistance and thick-skinned fruit that almost never cracks. On really busy years I’ll admit we have occasionally neglected to trellis ours and have still gotten a great crop of tomatoes from this reliable variety!
Sandwich Slicer: Rose de Berne
I manage an urban farm and every year we do a taste test of our many tomato varieties. Last year we tried all of the pink tomatoes (of which we grow many) and Rose de Berne was the clear winner! It’s got a great balance of sweetness and acidity and is never mealy.
Peas: PLS 595 Shelling Peas
These peas are compact plants with extra tendrils so they actually don’t need a trellis as long as you plant them close enough together that they can hold each other up (how sweet). This growth habit makes them really easy to sow in abundance without having to erect a large support system, so we often put these out at our community garden plot where they produce lots of sweet succulent peas with minimal oversight.
Dry Beans: Cherokee Black Pole Beans
We love to try out new dry beans every year because they come in such a dazzling array of shapes and colors, and beans are such a valuable staple crop in our household. But we devote most of our bean-growing space to these Cherokee heirloom beans because they have proven year after year to be the most productive.
Hot Pepper: Aji Rico F1
I tried this hybrid hot pepper last year for the first time and quickly fell in love. The plants are easy to grow, sturdy and productive. The fruit is beautiful, starts producing early, and continues to ripen these delicious hot peppers all season long. These peppers are about as hot as a Cayenne but much juicier, with a sweet citrusy flavor. We love them for hot sauce and salsas.
Sweet Pepper: Habanada
Habanada peppers look almost identical to habaneros and have the same deliciously fruity flavor, but with no heat. It can be daunting to taste one of these for the first time since they look so fiery, but they are well worth it. We like to use these in salads or pickled for burgers and tacos. They also make a great addition to hot sauces where you want to add more pepper flavor without raising the spice level. Habanada peppers grow into big, beautiful bushes and while they take a bit longer than other peppers to mature, they make up for it by pumping out vast quantities of fruit when they do get going.
Winter Squash: Walthum Butternut Squash
Other than our Carolina Princess Pumpkins (a variety of heirloom pumpkin we got from Silvan’s mom’s garden and have been saving seeds from ever since- unfortunately, not available in stores yet!), this is our favorite Winter Squash to grow. These plants reliably produce big, sturdy butternuts with dense, sweet flesh and a long storage life as long as they are cured properly.
Potato: Peter Wilcox
This mid-season potato is flavorful and beautiful, but it also stores well. The plants have a strong canopy to quickly shade out weeds and are disease resistant to scab and golden nematodes with abundant yields.