Lettuce is fun to grow at home.

Lettuce is fun to grow at home.

Veggies taste so much better when you grow your own

Last week I mentioned that it was time to plant your “cool season” vegetables. In the Northwest we have two distinct seasons to plant veggies. Right now is the cool season, when the soils are still cold. Crops like peas, broccoli, spinach, chard, onions, potatoes and carrots love these cooler temps. Once we move into late April and May it is time to plant tomatoes, beans and cucumbers.

There is something special about growing our own veggies. For starters, the taste is 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 truly “fun” thing about home-grown veggies is that you can plant varieties that you simply cannot find at the grocery store. Many veggies 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 are unique and will add some pizazz to the dinning room table.

Here are some examples:

•Miz America hybrid mustard: This mild-tasting mustard has exceptional bronze foliage that is attractive, sturdy and durable in our wet climate. I planted some 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.

•Lancinato 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.

•Spinach Monstreux de Viroflay: Good luck pronouncing this one. This is a mid-1800’s heirloom variety with 10-inch-long leaves that will mature in under 2 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)”.

•Carrot Calliope Blend: 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 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.

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 owns Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. His column runs as space is available, but is always online.

P.S. – Sunnyside will be hosting two free classes, ‘Weed Control’ March 21 at 10 a.m. and ‘Edible Landscapes’ March 21 at 2 p.m. – for inclusion with the column. For details go to www.sunnysidenursery.net.

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