Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2011
Regional Report

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Beets are delicious in all colors, and some are grown just for their leaves.

Starting Fall and Winter Edibles

In the summer, I'm a tomato fiend, with 20 to 30 varieties growing in my garden. During the winter I'm a lettuce fiend. Adding the beets, chards, kales, kohlrabi, cauliflower, spinach, pak choi, peas, cilantro, and parsley, I'm depending on another 30 varieties of deliciously nutritious greens to carry us through the spring and beyond.

The nine lettuces I just started are Romana A Costa Rosata (cos type with some rosy flecks), Romana Bionda Delle 7 Lunes (butterhead with rosy specks), Parella Rossa (rich russet outer and delicate green inner leaves), Merveille de Quatre Saisons (rosy), Tom Thumb (Thomas Jefferson's favorite, tiny single-serving size), Garden Babies (single-serving size), Speckles (highly rosy-flecked), basic buttercrunch, and a new butterhead this year from Renee's Seeds called Rhapsody.

I've loved kohlrabi since I was a little kid. The plants were just too weird not to love -- always looking like a helicopter about to take off like a whirling top. Even now, kids at our school gardens love them too. And, when harvested no larger than two inches wide after being grown without being allowed to dry out, they're sweet and crunchy. Both purple and green varieties are green after being peeled. Leaves are also edible like chard, kale, and beet greens.

Detroit Dark Red beets are the ones I enjoy most, whether eaten hot with butter, cold in a salad, or pickled. The yellow, pink and white color variations of Chioggia add delightful variety to salads.

Fun cauliflower colors include purple (Sicilia Violetto), green (Verde di Macerate), cheddar, and beautiful green twirl (Romanesco Precoce). For milder flavor, keep soil evenly moist. Cauliflower plants can be persnickety -- if they develop a tiny flowerhead no larger than a button, they've been stressed and should be pulled out since they won't grow any larger.

My spinach varieties include Merlo Nero, Bloomsdale Longstanding, Oriental Giant, Catalina and Correnta. I've been astounded to have Lanceolata and Dwarf Blue Curled kale thrive through the summer, as long as they're kept watered. I've also planted Portuguese Tronchuda Beira and Siberian. Rainbow chard and baby pak choi Green Fortune are the remaining greens.

As to peas, my husband and I have narrowed it down to only two varieties, one for each of us. For me, Super Sugar Snap for its sweetness, long and heavy yield, and the fact that you can eat the whole pod. For my husband, who enjoys the labor of removing the pod and scrolling out the little peas with his tongue, Little Marvel is the winner; although his all-time favorite, which I can't seem to find anymore, is Mr. Big.

Ever since my husband's and my digestive systems decided against onions, I've grown leeks. After experimenting with every single variety I could find, I've determined that any variety will do just fine.

Rounding out my winter edibles are cilantro and parsley, which I sow in blocks next to pathways, one foot wide and however long the pathway is, for easy cut-and-come-again harvesting and resowing every three or four weeks throughout the year, except during July and August.

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