Wednesday, January 15, 2014

3 Must Try Vegetables for 2014

Gibby's Garden
With the start of the new year and all the rain we've been getting here in Maine, I couldn't help but dig out my seed catalogs and start making a list of all the vegetables I want to plant come spring. Of course I have my normal must-haves like cukes and tomatoes, but I've also added a few vegetables I'd love to try but have never grown before.

With that being said, isn't time we all start to garden outside of the box and add some tasty adventures to our garden plots and boxes? Now, I'm not talking about some foreign vegetable that only Andrew Zimmern would dare to eat or one you can't pronounce. I'm talking about the veggies we see in our local produce departments that spark our interest and get our taste buds talking.

My 3 Must-Try Vegetables


Kale


I don't know about you, but I watch lots of cooking shows on TV, and I keep seeing kale starring as the main attraction. Kale is a great vegetable to grow here in the north because it's cold tolerant and the flavor only intensifies with a good frost. Kale loves fertile, highly organic, well-draining soil and grows best when watered consistently. 

When it comes time to harvest, begin clipping individual leaves after about 2 months time and continue clipping until a heavy frost kills the plants off. Once in the kitchen, have fun incorporating this tasty leafy green into your favorite dishes including chips, soups, pasta and more. 

If the thought of making your own crunchy chips and fresh pesto isn't enough, think about your waist line. Kale is packed with Vitamins A & C and is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, making this a must-try for 
those of us looking to eat a little healthier this year.

Leeks

Pauk/Wikimedia Commons


Leeks are nothing new; in fact, you've probably walked right by them in the produce section, perhaps not even knowing what they were. They have long greens stemming from white bottoms, which as you probably guessed, are the edible part. To me, leeks taste like a very mild onion and make for a great potato and leek soup, one of my favorite winter dishes. 

Due to the different varieties available, leeks can be grown successfully in hot and cold climates. Here in the north, it's important to grow a variety that is suitable to colder climates such as Lexton or Bandit. Both tolerate frost very well and can be planted in succession, meaning you can have multiple harvests over an extended period, even after the frost has killed off the rest of the garden.

Keep in mind, the more cold tolerant the leek, the longer it takes to mature - but trust me, it is well worth the wait.  Harvest baby leeks for a tender, sweeter taste and mature leeks, which may take 110-120 days to mature depending on the variety, for full flavor. 

Plant these toned-down onion cousins in fertile, well-draining soil in a sunny location in the garden. Now, without scaring you off from growing this must-try vegetable, you need to know that leeks must be blanched. All this means is that the stems need to be hidden from the sun in order to turn white. This can easily be done by planting leeks in trenches, and if need be, by piling soil over the stems should they peek from below ground.

Edamame

Tammy Green/Wikimedia Commons


Are you a fan of green peas and Lima beans? If yes, then edamame is a must-try in 2014. Grown in well-draining, moderately fertile soil, these soybeans, a staple in Japanese cuisine, are known for their flavor and nutrients.  Pop a handful into your mouth to enjoy a fresh, crunchy snack or steam as a tasty side to your favorite lean cut of meat.

A little sweeter than some peas, edamame is packed with nutrients like protein, amino acids, calcium, fiber and more. If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, edamame is a great source of folic acid. Edamame is also a great source of energy, so make sure to add it to your list of power-packed vegetables to try.

For us gardeners in the north, it's important to choose an early variety of edamame in order to enjoy it's full bounty. So, opt for a variety that takes about 90 days or less to mature. Butterbeans is a great variety that is sure to produce a heavy yield great for freezing, canning or eating fresh. Remember to pick these tasty vegetables when the seeds swell and before the pods turn yellow.

I don't know about you, but I cannot wait to get outdoors and work up a sweat in the garden. I know I still have a few more months before the Maine weather will allow me to do this, but I can dream can't I? Until the snow melts, the frost makes its way out of the ground and the blessed spring sun warms our gardens, I'll be busy making my lists of vegetables to grow and planning my garden.

What "new to you" vegetables are you going to try growing this year? Do you have any pointers for those us who will be growing kale, leeks or edamame?

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