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[ Rat-Tail Radish (Raphanus sativus var. caudatus) | Posted on October 2, 2017 ]

I grew this for the first time in 2017 and didn't plant the seeds until mid July, as an afterthought. The plants are pretty scraggly looking and for quite some time I was disappointed in that very few actual pods were forming, despite having lots of flowers. By late September, though, there were many pods to start harvesting; they're so tasty I'm not sure any are going to make it into the house to use in a stir-fry! As an added bonus, the flowers are very attractive to butterflies and bees. I definitely will be growing these again, they're a very interesting addition to the vegetable garden.

[ Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum 'Viva Italia') | Posted on September 19, 2017 ]

I've grown this variety for a number of years and it has never failed to produce well, despite being one of the first to succumb to disease every year. This year and last year I've been growing it inside a high-tunnel greenhouse and it has been disease free and continued to produce tomatoes all season long. The tomatoes are essentially always blemish free, slightly firm, tasty, and great for using in a salad as well as for making sauce, salsa, juice, etc. They are easy to pick, not the type that needs to be cut off the vine with scissors, and yet they don't fall to the ground with a touch or bump either. The skin does tend to be a bit thicker than many tomatoes, but it isn't unpleasantly so even for eating fresh and it makes peeling easy. I would note that one of the comments indicates that it is an open-pollinated type, but the seeds I have purchased have always been listed as hybrid. It also tends to get taller than most determinate types, mine usually get to about 5 feet tall.

[ Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum 'Paul Robeson') | Posted on September 14, 2017 ]

I grew this variety for the first time this year (2017). The plants were vigorous and I did get a good fruit set of beautiful tomatoes. However, I thought the flavor was just "okay," and the skin seemed quite tough in comparison to most other heirloom types. Probably will not grow again.

[ Snap Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris 'Grandma Nellie's Yellow Mushroom Bean') | Posted on August 12, 2016 ]

My 2nd year for growing these and we finally had our first meal with them; last year I had only a few seeds and so left all the pods to mature to multiply the seeds. These are a yellow-podded, tall pole bean (over 8 feet tall), very productive for me in 2016, with very "meaty" pods for a flat-podded type, definitely not like a typical Romano bean. Although I didn't detect a "mushroom flavor" (maybe my palate just isn't that sensitive?), they are a very nice, mild yellow bean, tender and non-fibrous. The pods are nice and straight, averaging about 8 inches long. I'll definitely be growing these heirloom beans again.

[ Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum 'Beaverlodge 6808 Slicer') | Posted on August 5, 2016 ]

I obtained seeds for Beaverlodge Slicer from TomatoFest in 2015. Their description said: "These extremely compact, determinate plants tend to creep rather than grow tall and would be perfect in a hanging basket or patio container." I started my seeds a month earlier than normal and put my plants out in an unheated "high tunnel" on April 29th (also a good month earlier than I normally plant my tomatoes). The plants are well over 6 feet tall, and they ARE loaded with golfball-size tomatoes that I started picking in July -- and I don't think I have EVER harvested a ripe tomato in July here in the Michigan UP. The flavor may not be quite as good as some of the larger, later tomatoes, but it certainly beats anything we can find in the supermarkets; the tomatoes are relatively thin skinned, very juicy, and very productive. Very happy that I tried this variety, and I certainly would recommend it as an early tomato for northern gardeners!

[ Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum 'Aunt Ruby's German Green') | Posted on September 23, 2015 ]

This year (2015) was my first year growing this variety. Nice big, bushy plants, loaded with tomatoes. I was afraid I would have trouble telling when they were ripe, but the bottom half turns a greenish-gold color that makes it easy to know when to check them. I was also afraid that the green color would be rather off-putting, but for me, at least, it isn't at all -- the flesh is the color of a perfectly ripe avocado! The flavor is a little sweet, balanced by just the right amount of tartness. This one is definitely on my list to grow again!

[ Common Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris 'Limelight') | Posted on September 4, 2015 ]

According to Heritage Harvest Seed Company, Limelight was first released in 1968. It was developed as a "lima bean for the north," maturing in 70-80 days for dry beans. They are useful as both fresh "shelly beans" and as dry beans. This was my first year to grow them and I had only an 8-foot-long row, so I harvested most of the pods for seed; however, I did pick enough to give the shelly beans a try and found them very easy to shell out and quite similar to baby lima beans. I don't know why this variety went out of favor with the commercial companies, but I will definitely continue to grow it and save my own seeds.

[ Wax Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris 'Roc d'Or') | Posted on August 10, 2015 ]

This round-podded, black-seeded bean is my favorite wax bean type. The pods are long and slender, and I've always had excellent germination from this variety. The golden color is beautiful on its own, as well as in combination with green beans. The plants benefit from some support (I use cheap garden border fence along the bean row) to keep the pods from contacting the ground, and like all bush beans have only a relatively short period of production; making successive plantings several weeks apart will increase the time that you will be harvesting fresh beans.

[ Hot Pepper (Capsicum annuum 'Super Chili') | Posted on August 2, 2015 ]

This is a nice, bushy plant that starts setting fruit early in the season. Light green 2 to 2-1/2-inch peppers change to orange and then red, grow pointing upward, and are about as hot as a cayenne pepper -- wearing gloves when cutting these little firecrackers up is strongly advised! This variety makes a nice ornamental and is very suitable for growing in pots. The peppers can be used to make hot sauce, and they also dry nicely and can be used for making your own crushed peppers and "cayenne" pepper.

[ Winter Squash (Cucurbita maxima 'Golden Hubbard') | Posted on August 1, 2015 ]

This is a beautiful heirloom squash with very vigorous vines. They reach a top size of about 12 pounds, and store very well. The flesh is fine grained, sweet, and actually improves in storage as it becomes less watery. Great for any recipe that calls for winter squash or canned pumpkin. The seeds are nice and large and can be easily roasted for snacks.

[ Snap Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris 'Grandma Nellie's Yellow Mushroom Bean') | Posted on May 22, 2015 ]

Pole bean type. This bean originated in Russia and was obtained by Nellie Chernoff, of Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1952. The pods are yellow and are said to taste similar to mushrooms when cooked. Of note, the pods tend to open ("shatter") when dry.

[ Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) | Posted on February 28, 2015 ]

A little aggressive in a cultivated area (I transplanted a few milkweed plants from the woods edge to my perennial garden), but easy to pull out if there are too many and well worth the trouble for the benefit to butterflies and bees. Milkweed is the sole host plant for Monarch butterflies, as well as Milkweed Tussock Moths, and crucial to their survival. The flowers are also fragrant, and the pods can add interest to dried flower arrangements. Many types of insects visit the flowers for the nectar.

[ Eastern Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) | Posted on February 28, 2015 ]

I originally purchased seed for this plant from Pinetree and have enjoyed it in my garden ever since then; it completely dies back in my zone 4b-5a garden, and then pops back up every spring, as well as self-sowing quite prolifically. A great plant for naturalizing with ferns, forget-me-nots, and other plants that enjoy partial shade.

[ Zucchini (Cucurbita pepo 'Gold Rush') | Posted on February 28, 2015 ]

This is a hybrid variety that produced quite a few squash in my garden, but seemed more prone to blossom-end rot than other types that I've grown. I like the golden zucchini types because it's so easy to spot them and pick before they get too large, and also because the skin never seems to have any bitterness.

[ Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo 'Jack Be Little') | Posted on February 28, 2015 ]

These make great decorations and are also edible! Just cut off the top like you would a big pumpkin, use a melon baller to remove the seeds and stringy pulp, add some butter and seasonings of your choice to the inside -- or stuff with whatever you like, as you would an acorn squash -- and then bake for 30-45 minutes, until tender.

[ Red Amaranth (Amaranthus cruentus 'Komo') | Posted on February 28, 2015 ]

Amaranth leaves can be eaten like spinach and the tiny seeds used like grain for cooked cereal, popped like popcorn, roasted or sprouted. The seeds can also be used as a "meal" for making traditional dishes, including beverages. Red dye is produced from the flower clusters, leaves and stems. The flower heads can be used dried or fresh for flower arrangements, or left on the plants for the birds to enjoy; the flowers are also attractive to bees and butterflies.

[ Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum 'King Umberto') | Posted on November 9, 2014 ]

The tomato I grew, from a "gift packet" received with other seeds, was called "Umberto," but after doing a bit of research I believe this is the same as "King Humbert." This is an old Italian heirloom, probably best used for making paste or sauce. My plants grew very large and were loaded with tomatoes, which were actually more of a pinkish-red color, as compared to other red varieties. The tomatoes are fairly small but very meaty, and although I did mainly use them for roasted tomato sauce, the flavor as a fresh tomato was quite good. Our weather was not very good this year and it still yielded a lot of tomatoes... I would definitely try growing this again.

[ Jalapeno Pepper (Capsicum annuum 'Goliath') | Posted on October 19, 2014 ]

Large, thick-walled, jalapeno-type peppers. Moderately hot, heat seems to be somewhat variable. Excellent producer in my northern garden, this is a variety that I have grown every year for at least 8 years. Great for adding to salsa, making "poppers," and pickling. Green turning to bright red when ripe.

[ Sweet Pepper (Capsicum annuum 'Peperoncino') | Posted on August 28, 2014 ]

This open-pollinated variety has mildly spicy, wrinkled, thin-walled, light-green fruit that turns red when mature. The plants produce abundant amounts of 3- to 4-inch long peppers, which are excellent for pickling. About 72 days to maturity, these are ready to start picking at just about the same time as my hot banana peppers and jalapenos. Although they become somewhat softer (less crisp) when mature, the peppers do seem to become a little hotter at that stage. I highly recommend these for anyone that likes pickled peppers!

[ Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) | Posted on July 30, 2014 ]

This native of Eurasia is a seriously invasive, non-native species in our area. It seems important to note that there are chemicals in the leaves, stems, and flowers that can cause skin rashes, burns, and blisters, especially in the presence of sunlight. Please use caution if you are thinking about growing this plant.

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