It’s that frustrating time of year when seventy degree days are mixed with rain and even snow. The temptation to begin planting is almost unbearable as we watch the first buds begin to peek above the frost-hardened soil and grasses begin to turn a rich, deep green. With properly prepared soil, frost safeguards, and the appropriate types of cold-weather hardy plants, you can give in to that temptation and try your hand at an early spring garden!
When to Plant
Spring may seem a bit early in some states to begin planting vegetables outside, yet spring is the best time to plant your hardy veggies! In gardening terminology, the term hardy refers to vegetable plants that withstand frost and temperatures as cold as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, hardy vegetables obtain their best flavors when they mature in cool temperatures. For the best results, make sure to prepare based on the average last frost of the year. While hardy plants can withstand frost, it’s important to be prepared to protect them if temperatures drop below 20 degrees.
Seeds and You
While avid gardeners may be aware of the many seed options available, novice gardeners generally go for the traditional stock. Yet, each year farmers across the states participate in seed trials for the All-American Selections, the oldest and most recognized flower and edible seed independent testing organization in the states. Through these trials, new hybrids of veggies are introduced to the populace. If you’re looking to invigorate and diversify your garden this year, try a few of these exciting new veggies!
5 New Veggies for Your 2018 Garden
Growing your own vegetables is one of the most satisfying and wonderful experiences for those practicing a plant-based diet. Not only does it inspire outdoor activity and more experimentation with veggie varieties, but, in the long run, it can save you money as well. In order to prepare for your spring or summer gardens, here are five new hybrid vegetables hitting the gardening scene for 2018!
Red Scarvita Cabbage
Braised Red Cabbage With Apples and Pecans/One Green Planet
This new breed of Chinese cabbage could be mistaken for red cabbage or even radicchio. The heart of the Red Scarvita is a bright red or pink, while the outside layers of the leaf are a beautiful deep velvety green. While many red cabbages are known for their bitter flavor, this new breed does not.
Even though it’s recommended to plant Red Scarvita in late summer to early fall, if you have access to greenhouse-style structures — such as an enclosed raised bed, hoop house, or greenhouse — you can plant these year-round! When planted in cold weather, cabbage takes on a very sweet and tender flavor, different from its traditional bitter bite. If you’re looking to plant cabbage for the summer harvest, make sure to get your seeds in the ground at least four weeks before the last frost.
Cabbage also needs at least six hours of sunlight, if not more, so be particular in your planting location. This plant also requires “fertile, well-drained, moist soil with plenty of rich organic matter.” To obtain the optimal soil add nitrogen amplifiers such as composted manure or cottonseed meal. Give your plants at least one to two feet in diameter, as well as ample watering, at least one inch each week.
Once your red scarvita has matured, try supplementing this new variety in some of these traditional cabbage recipes: Braised Red Cabbage With Apples and Pecans, Easy Pickled Red Cabbage, Roasted Purple Cabbage With Green Goddess Dressing, or this Chinese Cabbage Noodle Stir-Fry.
Sugar Loaf Endive
Pan-Seared Belgian Endives With White Wine Orange Reduction/One Green Planet
The sugar loaf endive is part of the chicory family and is known as a gourmet ingredient used widely in France and Italy. This variety is easily mistaken as Romaine lettuce with its deep green and hearty leaves. But it’s important to recognize its massively different flavors. While Romaine lettuce is earthy and mild, this new variety of endive offers a bitter and spicy taste. The Sugar Loaf Endive is an upright plant — meaning it grows straight up in an elongated form — and is also quite hardy, withstanding frost temperatures as low as the twenties.
Endive is the perfect early spring veggie! It’s recommended to start your endive seeds in small containers inside a home or greenhouse. After the final frost of the season, transplant your endives into your outdoor garden. Like many other vegetables, the endive requires well-draining and nutritious soil. Yet, the endive also needs loose soil, so be wary of overpacking! The endive is tolerant of some shade, yet requires full sun for part of every day. Endives mature around at about 80 days.
Endives are the perfect salad base. Simply harvest, wash, and chop your new variety of Sugar Loaf Endive into one of these great endive-based salads and snacks: Belgian Pear and Endive Salad, Endive Boats With Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese, Grilled Apricot and Endive Salad, Pan-Seared Belgian Endives With White Wine Orange Reduction, or this Vegan Endive Salad With Crispy Chickpeas.
Eggplant Rollatini with Basil Tofu Ricotta/One Green Planet
The traditional eggplant is known for its peanut-shaped, deep purple body. This new variety called Piccolo is shorter and rounded, generally growing only three by four inches. The coloring exquisite with the same resonating purple, yet only as a foreground with white streaks bleeding through. The Piccolo’s flesh is firmer than that of the traditional eggplant, which offers more variety when it comes to plant-based cooking options.
Lots of sunlight, loose soil, and great drainage are the keys to eggplants. These veggies are relatively easy to care for and grow, as long as you start out with proper seed care. To fertilize the soil, simply turn in a soil additive or all-natural option such as composted manure. The leafy stems of the eggplant withstand heat like a champion, yet the flesh of the veggie needs to be kept relatively cool by layering hay or biodegradable material on the surface. Space your eggplants at least two feet apart and make sure to match the original indoor container hole depth. Avoid overwatering by supply slow and steady drip watering. Finally, be prepared with stakes for heavily laden fruit near maturity.
When it comes to plant-based diets, eggplant is a great meat substitute. Look to supplementing the Piccolo in these traditional eggplant recipes: Eggplant Rollatini with Basil Tofu Ricotta, Eggplant Burger, Asian Eggplant Stir-Fry, or this Eggplant and Zucchini No-Noodle Lasagna.
Creamy Garlic and Leek Autumn Pasta/One Green Planet
One of the great aspects of the Lancia leek is its ability to be harvested before full maturity. Harvested before full maturity, the Lancia leek becomes a gourmet baby leek. Lancia, also referred to as Swiss Giant, has a “strong flag foliage” of crisp green and a “long white shank.” While this leek is great for summer and fall harvests, begin your leek garden indoors or in a greenhouse-style gardening bed in the spring
Leeks enjoy lots of sunlight and nutritious, well-draining soil, which means it does well in raised beds, containers, or even straight into the earth. The most important aspects to healthy, thriving leeks are nitrogen-rich soil and consistent moisturizing. Be careful not to saturate the soil! Leeks also require blanching, a process in which part of the plant is hidden from the sun, which helps the plant retain tender flavoring and the stark white shank. Simply plant your seed deeper, preferably six to eight inches, and then continually build up soil around the green stalk as the leek matures.
While leeks offer many health benefits — such as high levels of antioxidants, anti-bacterial, viral, and fungal properties, and over fifty percent of the daily requirement of vitamin K — they are also an incredibly diverse ingredient in plant-based diets. Due to its mild onion flavoring, leeks offer a great substitute or alternative to onions and scallions. Try out a few of these leek-based recipes: Crispy Potato Leek Rolls, Leek and Broccoli Flan, Pumpkin Leek Soup, or this Creamy Garlic and Leek Autumn Pasta.
Naked Bear Pumpkins
Pumpkin and Kale Steel-Cut Oatmeal With Sausage/One Green Planet
Pumpkins are a simple and delicious staple. From Jack o’ lanterns on doorsteps to pumpkin pie simmering in the over, this squash is a darling of American culture. This year, All-American Selections has chosen the Naked Bear Pumpkin as the lead in new pumpkin breeds.
Even though this pumpkin may resemble your standard variety, there are few special quirks that make it even better! First off, the seeds are born “naked”, which means they are hull-less making for easy and delicious snacking. They are also smaller, growing to the size of a bowling ball, and have a high resistance to mildew. Naked Bear Pumpkins still offer sweet flesh for baking and cooking, as well as thick skin for Jack o’ lantern carving.
Like most squash plants, pumpkins are wild growers and require lots of space, so give each of your plants at least a three-foot diameter and a good hill or mound. Planting soil needs to be warm and fertile. Fertile soil can be brewed simply by adding a growing mixture such as Miracle-Gro® Garden Soil for Vegetables & Herbs. Those in cold climates need to warm the ground via black plastic for at least a week before planting. When your flowers and fruit arrive, make sure to water the stem and root consistently without wetting the actual foliage.
Whether it’s holiday season or simply any old Monday, try your hand at a few of these non-traditional pumpkin recipes: Thai Pumpkin Soup With Peanut Butter Roasted Chickpeas, Pumpkin and Kale Steel-Cut Oatmeal With Sausage, Lacinato Kale and Pumpkin Crepes, or this simple yet classic Pumpkin Grilled Cheese.
For more delicious recipes to help you make the most of your vegetable garden, we highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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