New fruits, veggies are delicious to see as well as to eat
By Valerie Easton
From The Seattle Times, Saturday, April 24, 2010
MORE THAN 41 million households in the U.S. grew a vegetable garden last year, meaning that a remarkable 38 percent of the population tended and harvested their own fresh food. New edibles bred for beauty as well as nutrition are sure to coax even more people outdoors to dig in the dirt.
What could be more multitasking than a plant that’s as pretty to look at as it is delicious? Talk about taking advantage of every square inch of soil. A few of these new-to-the-market edibles will liven up your cooking as well as your garden this summer:
A pink blueberry might sound like an anomaly in need of a new name, but Vaccinium ‘Pink Lemonade’ is a surprise version of the familiar fruit. Just picture a handful of pink blueberries scattered on top of a fruit salad. ‘Pink Lemonade’ adds to the landscape year ’round, with pale pink flowers in spring, loads of antioxidant-rich fruit in summer, vivid autumn color and auburn stems in winter. Bred at Washington state’s own Briggs Nursery, this new look in blueberries grows 5 feet high and works as a hedge or focal-point shrub.
An heirloom variety of onion (Allium cepa var. proliferum), found on an old southeast Iowa farm, has been introduced to the market by Oregon wholesaler Log House Plants. ‘Amish Spreading’ is the name of this hardy perennial walking onion with a long growing season and a bountiful harvest.
These are the first onions to appear in spring, as green shoots come up early and can be snipped to use as chives. In summer, ‘Amish Spreading’ sends up flower stalks with clusters of light purple onion bulbs. That’s right, the onions grow high up on the stalk, not on the root end of the plant. Weird, huh? Harvest in mid-to-late summer and use the bulbs like pearl onions or shallots; they’re delicious pickled. But here’s the cool part: The name “walking onion” comes from how these vegetables propagate all on their own. After the main harvest, the plant throws up smaller stalks of bulbs, which you leave in the garden to topple over and root. You’ll have a fresh crop of walking onions next year.
Arugula ‘Myway’ is a Danish addition to these tangy, peppery-flavored greens that are nutritious and easy to grow. It’s one of the earliest arugulas to mature and also slow to bolt when the weather warms. A compact plant, it is milder tasting than many arugulas, and delicious tossed with a lemon vinaigrette or combined in a mixed salad with a variety of baby lettuce leaves.
Sweet potato ‘Purple’ is unlike any you’ve ever seen, with bright purple skins and flesh streaked in the same dark shade. Sweet potatoes may be native to the tropics, but Log House Plants has figured out how to jump-start them so they’ll mature here in the Northwest. Buy starts at the nursery, plant them a foot or so apart at the bottom of a 20-inch-deep trench. Hill up the soil as the plants grow, keeping 12 inches of foliage above the soil surface. Plant in well-drained soil in full sun and water them regularly, and you’ll be able to surprise your Thanksgiving guests with purple sweet potatoes.
Tomato ‘Black Sea Man’ is a Russian heirloom variety that’s as intensely favored as it is colored. The plump fruits are a rich mahogany color; slice them open to reveal swirls of black seeping through the red. And slice them you will, to admire their dark beauty before popping them into salads or sandwiches. The plants grow 4 to 6 feet tall, so be sure to provide a sturdy cage or trellis, and allow about 75 days to mature from a transplant.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “The New Low-Maintenance Garden.” Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.
Copyright © The Seattle Times Company
Vaccinium ‘Pink Lemonade’
LOG HOUSE PLANTS
Sweet potato ‘Purple’
More choices to chew on
Clustered fruit: Tomato ‘Reisotomate’ bears a bunch of mini-tomatoes fused together into one big, lobed fruit.
Lettuce blend: Territorial Seed Company offers a new Global Gourmet Blend for salads or stir-fries, with brassicas, Asian herbs and a variety of lettuces.
Lasting Bull’s-Eye: ‘Guardsmark’ is an improved strain of chioggia beet that promises to keep its bull’s-eye stripes even after cooking.