Six unusual cool-season vegetables to try growing at home

Growing your own veggies means you can plant varieties that simply cannot be found at the grocery store.

In last week’s column, I mentioned that it was time to plant your cool-season vegetables.

In the Northwest especially, we have two distinct seasons to plant veggies. Right now is the cool season, when the soils are still cold and an occasional frost can be expected to coat our roofs and lawns. Crops like peas, broccoli, spinach, chard, onions, potatoes and carrots — to name a few — love these cooler temps and also don’t mind frosty mornings.

Once we move into late April and May, it’s the warm season, or the time to plant our tomatoes, beans and cucumbers for the summer.

Whether you are a cool-season gardener and love to have fresh broccoli and peas for dinner, or prefer to wait and dine on tomatoes, zucchini and peppers in the summer, there is something special about growing our own vegetables.

For starters, the taste in incomparable. There is absolutely nothing in the market that can compare to the freshness of home-picked veggies. Even farm-to-market is slower than garden-to-kitchen. Truth be known, a lot of homegrown veggies are eaten in the garden and never even make it to the kitchen.

The other fun thing about homegrown veggies is that you can plant varieties that you simply cannot find at the grocery store. Many vegetables that are grown commercially have been selected for their shelf life or ease of growing. As home gardeners, we get to grow the unusual ones that will add some pizazz to the dinning room table.

Here are some examples that might pique your interest.

“Miz America” hybrid mustard: This mild-tasting mustard has exceptional bronze foliage that is attractive, sturdy, and durable in our wet Northwest climate. I planted some in my garden last week.

“Grand Duke” kohlrabi: I have always enjoyed kohlrabi. It is in the cabbage family, but instead of leaves, the stem enlarges into a bulb-like form and, when peeled and sliced, is a crisp and tasty addition to a salad — much like jicama but not as sweet.

“Lacinato Rainbow” kale: Also known as dinosaur or Tuscan kale, this Italian heirloom dates back to the 18th century. It is sweet and mild, and has heavily crinkled leaves that are as flavorful as they are decorative.

“Monstreux de Viroflay” spinach: Good luck pronouncing this one. This is a mid-1800’s heirloom variety with very large 10-inch-long leaves that will mature in fewer than two months. We sell it under the Botanical Interest Seed line. Spinach is an easy crop to grow this time of year.

“Sugar Magnolia” snap pea: According to the Botanical Interest website, this is a “purple snap pea that is not just a famous Grateful Dead song, it is also a beautiful, fine-flavored, edible-pod pea with purple flowers and hypertendrils (which are edible as well).”

“Calliope Blend” carrot: How often can you find carrots in a collection of rainbow colors? These colorful carrots will bring out the kid in all of us.

While growing veggies at home can be work, it also can bring a tremendous amount of pleasure. There is something magical about growing plants, whether you start with young transplants or from seed. To watch the miracle of growth never ceases to amaze me. And when the reward at the end of the day is a tasty morsel, it’s even better.

Whether you have lots of room or are restricted to a few containers, there are vegetables out there that you can grow and enjoy this season. Now is the time to get started! Bon appetite.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net.

Gardening classes

Attend a set of free classes next weekend at at Sunnyside Nursery, 3915 Sunnyside Blvd., Marysville. A class on weed control scheduled for 10 a.m. March 21, followed by a class on edible landscapes at 2 p.m. For more information or to sign up, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net.

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