With the return of summer, gardeners are looking forward to growing their favorite edibles. One fun thing about favorites is that they were once new, too, and with an adventurous and curious mind new varieties were grown and new favorites were found. Along with the tried and true, here are just a few of the new varieties we’re excited to add to our edible gardens this year.
Eleonora Basil – A version of the basic pesto variety basil, Eleonora is a little spicier with a more open growth habit, making it more resistant to basil downy mildew. We love this one for traditional basil flavor and think it’s one of the best for home herb gardens.
Calendula officinalis – This is one herb you’ll want to let go to flower. Orange and yellow blossoms provide color for much of the summer and into fall. Besides being pretty, the flowers are edible and have a nice, zesty punch. Add to salads or other fresh dishes for an added touch of flavor and presentation. Bonus, it’s deer resistant and attracts butterflies. Grow in full sun or part shade in well-drained soil. If plants look grumpy during the hottest part of summer, just cut back and wait for a new flush of flowers in fall.
Santo Cilantro – This slow-to-bolt variety is also fast growing, perfect for several cuttings and for enjoying longer into summer than other cilantro varieties. Enjoy in a variety of dishes, especially Mexican dishes, salsas, and eggs. Plant in full sun. Let it go to seed and harvest the seeds for use as coriander.
Cumin – Feathery foliage is pretty and can be added to salads, but it’s the seed that is most often used in cooking. Use cumin as a whole seed or in powder form to add a warm, bitter, and spicy taste to foods, especially of Mexican and Indian origin. Add to chili, barbecue and other sauces, curry powder, falafals, mole, and hummus, and that’s just a start. Grow plants in full sun in well-drained soil. Harvest seeds when they turn brown and the plant dies back.
Epazote – Used mainly in Mexican and Guatemalan dishes, this leafy herb is best added near or at the end of cooking as it does not stand up to heat well. Pungent and perhaps a bit of an acquired taste, epazote is often used to flavor beans, stews, and corn dishes. Epazote may be especially useful when added to bean dishes, as it is purported to lessen the side effects. Do no ingest seeds, oil, flowers, or flowering tips. Pregnant women should not consume epazote. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil.
Magnus Lovage – Much easier to grow than celery, and about twice as intense tasting, lovage will provide the celery flavor, along with underlying tones of curry. The leaves, stems, and seeds are all edible and excellent with seafood, grains, potato salads, soups, and salads. Grow in full sun in average soil.
Curly Mint – Just like it sounds, a delicious mint with curly leaves makes it even prettier in drinks and dishes. Grow in full sun, average soil, or in a container. Remember, mint is a runner and it will travel everywhere.
Shiso Britton – A unique and interesteing cross between basil and mint with spicy and sweet notes, this leafy green is a great addition to salads and the edible flowers are a delightful addition to cucumber dishes, fish, rice, and Asian dishes. Grow in full sun in well-drained soil.
Patio Snacker Cucumber – 6 to 7 inch long never-bitter fruits on a compact plant make this one perfect for small space gardens and patio pots. Keep picking the cucumbers as they are ready and this plant will just keep making more.
Orange Habanero – Habaneros are hot! Pungent and smoky, this is a great pepper for spicy sauces and hot salsas, but use sparingly to enjoy the flavor with less burn.
Zucchini Dunja – Early maturing and high yield, this compact, spineless zucchini plant is somewhat resistant to powdery mildew and produces beautiful, dark green, straight fruit that is easy to harvest. Use sautéed, in soups, for kabobs, and in baked goods.
John Baer Tomato – A prolific producer, the round, bright red fruits continue to ripen through the season. Mildly sweet, crack resistant, and perfect for any dish. Great for canning and eating fresh, too.
Tidy Rose Tomato – Though indeterminate, this tomato plant remains small enough to grow in a container or in a small garden. Like other indeterminates, once fruit begins to ripen, the plant will set and produce fruit as long as temperature allows.
That beautiful, bright sun has finally returned and it’s time to plant edibles. See you soon!