We adore trying new things. And, while it’s not only new varieties or crops that excite us (it’s also fun each year to re-connect with old friends/favourite crops), here are some that we can’t wait to grow and harvest this year.
Chocolate Sprinkles tomato: Trialing new tomato varieties is an addiction we’re slowly getting a handle on. I mean, you’ll still see a few varieties on this list (and there are others that are new for us this year too that excite us but didn’t make the cut for this list) but for the past few years the crazy tomato trialing excitement has calmed a bit (last year, melons were the crop that took on our obsessive tendencies, the year before that was probably winter squash…..2017 just might be peppers……although don’t even get me started on flowers!). This tomato, besides having a great name, just looks really cool. In general, we love the taste of purple/black tomatoes so it’s always exciting for our taste buds to try a new one.
Stevia: Shannon is avoiding sugar and stevia has become a big-time replacement. We’re not into the processed stevia products (the white powder or liquid drops) but are big fans of the leaf. Interestingly, stevia is the first plant Shannon ever grew, as a teenager. At the time, she found she liked it with things that could “steep.” So she used it to replace sugar in lemonade that would steep overnight. Or to replace sugar in the bread she made (in a bread maker).
Spring Kohlrabi: We’ve grown fall kohlrabi for years (and love it). It’s been a long time since we planted any spring kohlrabi varieties as we never found them as tasty. But there’s been some new varieties coming out over the past few years that have emphasized the great flavour. We’re hoping that to be very impressed with the varieties we’re trialing this spring. (And I couldn’t help but post this incredible photo of purple spring kohlrabi from the book The Forest Feast…check out the recipe for Spring Kohlrabi Salad!)
Snacking peppers: We’ve got a few different varieties (including these beautiful Picnic peppers from High Mowing seeds) of smaller snacking peppers this year. It’s exciting for us because we love snacking on sweet peppers ourselves and they make great snacks for both kids and adults so we know our customers will love them. So tasty. Convenient. What’s not to love? Part of our growing pepper obsession. We’ll also be selling some as seedlings for backyard gardeners.
Bizhiki tomato: We’ve been interested in trying this variety for a few years now. Sold exclusively by Hawthorn Farm Seeds (in Ontario), this variety was created by a small scale biodynamic farmer in Ontario (Cory Eichman) whose farm we visited as apprentice farmers. He wanted an alternative to the hybrid tomato Buffalo so set to work de-hybridizing it. Bizhiki is the Anishnabe word for Buffalo.
Dove melon: Last year, we grew this small melon with big flavour and fell in love. Our taste buds can’t wait for them to ripen this year. Though last year we were incredibly smart and froze a really healthy amount of melon slices. We’ve been enjoying very frequent smoothies (almost daily!) all winter and are just now on our last 2 weeks worth.
Pomodoro Red Pear Tomato: On Shannon’s trip to Italy last year, this tomato was everywhere in the markets. Her hostess kindly gave her a seed packet to add to our collection. Growing this variety is like bringing a Slow Food Italian vacation to the Maritimes.
Hinona Kabu turnips: We adored this unique turnip variety when we grew it 2 years ago. And it was popular at market too. We were supposed to grow them for restaurants as well last year but then the seed was unavailable due to crop failure. We’ve got seed to grow this year plus we’re going to try saving some seeds of it so that hopefully we can avoid not being able to get any in the future.
Mushrooms: This is more of a long-term project that we’re excited to kick off this year. We really like eating mushrooms. And mycchorrhiza (a symbiotic association between a fungus and the roots of a vascular host plant….we are loving Michael Phillip’s new book Mycorrhizal Planet: How Fungi and Plants Work Together to Create Dynamic Soils) has really been filling our minds with inspiration lately. We’re getting some spores of King Stropharia mushroom from our awesome friends at Bay of Fungi. We’ll be creating a ‘Mothership’ under one of our elderly crab apple trees. (Which we learned about by reading Mycelial Mayhem.) Once it’s thriving, we can remove portions of it to other areas of the farm. Then hopefully we’ll have tons in the future! We’re not necessarily planning on growing it to sell at this point – our plans right now are all about adding it to our own meals and its benefits to our soil health (and symbiotic benefits to the crops we do grow to sell!).
Seeds we’re saving: Last year, Shannon had a seed mentor and this year, Bryan is the one being mentored on seed growing – by the same wonderful seed mentor Steph (from Twisted Brook Farm). We’re focusing a bit more on biennial seed saving this year, with a carrot, Nash’s Rhumba, in its 2nd year (the seed production year!), an onion, Dakota Tears, in its first year (the onion bulb year), and a turnip, Hinona Kabu. We’re also still saving some annual seeds with a tomato, Pink Grape, that we saved back in 2011 after growing it from a package that said it would be a green grape tomato, and a radish variety, because we’ve never saved radish seed before but we do grow a lot of radishes. Our red pepper breeding project continues, into its 2nd year. Now, all the plants we’re growing for it were ones we saved last year from fruit that ripened out in the field, except for an exciting addition of a pepper cross (Aristotle x Ace) from a red pepper breeding project that started last year in Ontario. The seed adventure continues!