Jessica Walliser
January 14, 2010

The Italian heirloom "Chioggia Guardsmark"
Photo by Jessica Walliser

Snow snow snow!  Everything is covered in a good 8 inches here, and the temps have been awfully frosty.  Even the chickens’ teeth are chattering! 

I walked past the veggie garden this morning on my way back from the chicken coop and peeked over the fence for a bit of dreaming.  Now that the seed catalogs are rolling in, I’m thinking about what fun things I’m going to try this year. 

A friend was telling me about a ‘new and improved’ version of my favorite beet—an Italian heirloom called ‘Chioggia’. I can’t imagine how they could possibly improve on it, but I’m going to have to give it a try. 

Apparently, there is improved bolt tolerance and the beets are more consistent in size with the new version.  It’s called ‘Chioggia Guardsmark’ and since I’m always up for a good experiment, I think I’m going to try it side-by-side with good old ‘Chioggia’ and see the difference myself. 

I have also been considering going back to growing melons.  It’s been a long time since I’ve grown them.  I’ve always had trouble with them for some reason.  Either it’s been too wet or they don’t set good fruit. 

I’m going to get a few different single-serving sized varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  ‘Tigger’ maybe, and/or ‘Alvaro’ for starters.  I’ll see what strikes my fancy when ordering time comes in a few weeks.  I’ll need to grow them vertically in order to have enough room for everything I want to grow.  That means I’ll need to devise some sort of trellis to anchor to the fence for support.  Hmmmm … any suggestions? 

I’ve been leafing through the Territorial Seed Company’s catalog too (and dog earring lots of pages!).  I’m curious about the ‘Bordeaux’ spinach they carry.  It has red stems and they tout it as being a “sweet, subtle flavor”—two words I have never heard when describing spinach.  The seeds aren’t any more expensive than traditional varieties either, so I may have to give it a try.

Another experimental (for me) veggie I plan to try is a cuke named ‘Rocky’.  It’s a mini-cuke that’s seedless and only about 2-3 inches long when mature.  It produces early and hopefully will become my new salad/snacking cucumber.  I’ll always grow ‘County Fair’ and ‘Marketmore 76’ for my pickles, but I prefer seedless varieties for snacking. 

It’s going to be a fun year!

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