Sell-Outs and Underdogs

by Ken Greene

You may have noticed that some of our varieties are now sold out. Maybe the sight of the words "Sold Out!" in the descriptions make you feel like you've missed out on a popular variety, but there are more reasons than popularity that varieties sell out and even more varieties still in stock that are equally beautiful, delicious, and will grow great in your garden.

It's hard for is to predict from year to year what will sell out first and which unsung seeds won't sell as well. Sometimes we sell out of a variety becasue we had a small seed crop, sometimes because that variety had a moment of fame. But there are always a few varieties that we feel deserve to be more popular. It could be because they are unusual, or you've never seen them in the grocery store--or maybe they are just misunderstood.

Here's a short list of some of our favorite overlooked varieties for home gardeners. Try one out!

Illustration by Wendy Hollender. Can you tell which part is drawn and which is the actual plant? Illustration by Wendy Hollender. Can you tell which part is drawn and which is the actual plant?

#1. Kohlrabi: Chances are you've never seen this bulbous brassica on a grocery store shelf. We love growing both our Gigante and Purple Vienna both for their interesting appearance, great eating qualities, storage capabilities, and culinary flexibility. We eat them sliced fresh with some Ume Plum vinegar, cube them and add them to stir fries, grate them in salads, and even bake them with roasted roots.

#2. Hot Peppers: Hot peppers are not a hot seller, but we think they fall under the "misunderstood" category. Many eaters are afraid of heat in peppers, as they are used to peppers that are more spice than flavor. The peppers we offer, like Matchbox and Ancho, are spicy AND flavorful. Our Matchbox variety is compact, decorative, and each little pepper packs some heat and a fruity flavor. Anchos are not too hot and are perfect for roasting and drying to add rich, vibrant flavors to winter meals.

#3. Melons: Too many gardeners in the northeast have given up growing melons. The reason is because they've ordered seeds based on their hyperbolic descriptions rather than their days to maturity. Unripe melons are a let down. All of the melons we offer--including the deliciously unusual Banana Melon, the NY heirloom Schoon's Hard Shell, sweet green Jenny Lind, and Iroquois--are adapted to our shorter growing season. These varieties will produce fully ripe, sweet, musky, perfumed melons for northeast gardeners.

#4. Green Tomatoes: Another misunderstood heirloom. A green tomato is not always unripe. In the case of tomatoes like Aunt Ruby's German and Green Zebra, green means fully ripe. Since you can't see the ripeness as well based on color, you can test for ripeness with a squeeze. When they have a little give, they're almost ready to pick.No need to fry these green tomatoes. Eat them fresh! The flavor of both is excellent, with Aunt Ruby's being truly outstanding.

#5. Radishes: We offer so many different kinds of radishes becasue we love them. Radishes are good for more than carved garnishes. They can be eaten steamed, baked, cooked in soups, as well as fresh. Radishes are some of the earliest of all garden crops and bring a vibrant color and zing to spring meals. Try growing some of each, including Watermelon (red inside and white rind), Easter Egg (pink, purple, red), and Cherry Belle (bright red) to reap a radically radiant radish row.

A few of our other unsung garden heroes include:

Red Giant Mustard
Apple Green Eggplant
New Zealand Spinach
Cushaw Squash
Burgess Buttercup Squash

We hope you give something new a try this year in addition to your tried and true garden varieties.