Anyone who's lived in Southern Alberta for more than a season or two recognizes the challenges to gardening with our unpredictable weather and short growing season. With that in mind I came up with a list of my personal picks for the coming growing season. In addition to being fast-frowing foods, these picks are based on a number of other criteria I felt were cornerstones of abundant food crops, such as storeability, flavour, level of maintenance, and others. That said, personal taste is always a factor in the final decision on what makes the list. Nonetheless, I hope you'll find this useful and inspiring. Maybe you have a list of top veggies you'd like to share in the comments below. Please do let me know about anything you think I shrould try in the future too, as I love experimenting!
Here's my top veggie picks for 2023 (annuals)...
Ted's Top 10...
10. "Milena" Pepper - These mature to a sweet orange and are on the list for their all-round resiliency. They are one of the fastest-maturing varieties of pepper out there. Very vigorous and sturdy plants that grow well in all sorts of climates!
9. "Little Finger" Carrots - These do well in the heavier soils of Alberta as most carrot varieties require a looser, fluffier soil medium in order to prosper. With a relatively quick turnaround time, these babies can be harvested about 55 days after planting. Carrots also have better storability than many other veggies.
8. Romaine Lettuce "Coastal Star" - Very sweet and crunchy, great on sandwiches and in salads, with another quick turnaround time (65 days). Lettuce is also a great choice for partially shady areas. I chose Romaine because it tends to maintain its crunch factor for a longer period than most other lettuce varieties. (oh, and the bunnies love it too :-)
7. Beet "Cylindra" - Beets are super for antioxidants and other health factors, they pickle, ferment and store exceptionally well, and the greens can be eaten--this is why they made this year's list! Why did I choose the cylindrical variety? Easier to peel and to slice!
6. Arugula "Astro" - For an extra kick to your meals and another quick-growing green, Astro Arugula can be the star for the burst of flavour you may be looking for in salads and sandwiches. This particular variety forms leaves that are not as deeply lobed as others, which means you actually get more leaf and not so much stem.
5. "Pattypan" Squash (Also known as Scallopini) - Don't feel like waiting an entire growing season for your squash? These miniature beauties are ready to be picked by mid July - early August! Plus their small size makes them much quicker to cook than the larger varieties without the need to chop them up. Very tasty and tender as well--great for roasting or frying.
4. "Sunrise Bumblebee" Cherry Tomato - For an abundant harvest that lasts from early July to your first frost, these are a real crowd-pleaser, especially for kids! Sweet with a hint of citrus, you are sure to pick these all summer long, while enjoying the orange and yellow stripe patterns expressed on their thin skins. These plants are vining and indeterminate, so be ready to stake them as they can grow to 6 feet or higher.
3. French Breakfast Radishes - I planted a batch of these babies on September 15th of 2022. They were ready to eat on Oct 15th that year. If you like radishes, these crunchy, mildly spicey veggies grow wonderfully in the cooler times of the growing season.
2. Black Krim Tomato - Tomatoes make it this high on the list for their versatility both in cooking and in storage. Plus they are jam-packed with nutrients. Used in so many cultures throughout the world, they can be cooked, eaten fresh, made into sauces, salsas, bruchettas, curries, the list is endless. For storage you can pressure can them, ferment or pickle them and even dry them! I have picked the Black Krim variety for its abundant production (I've had 25 tomatoes averaging 1 lb each from one plant), as well as its resiliency in Alberta. Plus these beauties have such a depth of flavour!
1. The "Melody" Potato - No matter which variety of potato you choose, they are number one on this list for nearly every reason we have for growing food. They grow pretty much everywhere on the planet, are very low-maintenance, disease resistant and quick growing. Another reason to grow this nutritious food staple is their ability to store over long periods. This is the perfect choice for novice gardeners. I have selected the Melody variety in particular because of its drought-tolerance--a great strength to have in the Southern Alberta climate! Honestly, though, its pretty tough to make a mistake with nearly any variety you choose to go with, so pick something that tastes good to you and your family!
So what are your favourites? Are any on this list? What do you feel I missed? I know I will likely have some new ones for next year. Whatever you choose, I hope find some new treasures you decide to keep for years to come!
Ted Bahr is the founder of Prairie Sage Permaculture. MORE