When choosing which types of edibles to grow, we like to let our tastebuds do the talking—er, choosing. Not only do we plant our tried and true favorites, we also like to test out new varieties (not necessarily new to market, but new to us). You’d be surprised by the subtle flavor differences among different cherry tomatoes, for example.
We also fancy ourselves to be quite creative with our harvests in the kitchen. We pick to preserve, sauté, grill, slice, steam, stuff, mash, and barbecue. We’ve teamed up with the Home Grown Seed Collection by P. Allen Smith to show you a few fun gourmet veggies to grow. We’ve also gathered some suggestions to help you figure out what to do with them come harvest time. Don’t let any of your precious crops to go to waste!
Here are 6 gourmet veggie picks to add to your garden
Sauté it: Aspabroc F1 Baby Broccoli ‘Broccolini’
Aspabroc is a true gourmet vegetable that thrives in the spring and fall garden. This is the original Broccolini, a cross between broccoli and gai lan (aka Chinese broccoli) and is grown for its long-stemmed, broccoli-like flower buds. It’s pretty easy to grow, doesn’t mind a bit of cool weather, and doesn’t take up a lot of space in the garden. To encourage a long harvest of those yummy side-shoots, harvest the centre stalk just as it begins to mature. Then, apply a dose of liquid organic fertilizer to push the plant into high production.
Cooking with Broccolini: You can eat both the ends and the tender stalks that resemble asparagus (hence the name aspabroc!). It is delicious sautéed with a bit of olive oil, and salt and pepper—add some crushed garlic for even more of a kick. Many recipes will tell you to give it a dunk in boiling water for a couple of minutes, followed immediately by a cold rinse before tossing it in the frying pan. Serve it as a side dish, create a bed of Broccolini and add a scoop of quinoa salad on top, or drape it over a burger as a fancy topping.
Stuff it: ‘Right on Red’ (Hybrid) pepper
These peppers also go by the delicious moniker “Hungarian cheese pepper.” And everything tastes better with cheese. It looks a little different than your standard red or green pepper—it’s more squat than long and elegant. However that makes it perfect for stuffing. Seeds should be started indoors (10 to 12 weeks before the last frost), and the plants love the heat. Plants will grow to be 18 to 24 inches with lots of early-to-mature fruits that hang like tree ornaments, and can be placed in the garden or in containers. Check out Amy’s five tips for growing bigger peppers.
Cooking with ‘Right on Red’ peppers: The walls of this pepper are thick and there is space to add your favorite toppings—cooked quinoa with chickpeas, parsley, and feta, or ground beef, rice, and cheddar cheese topped with your favorite salsa. With a paring knife, trim around and remove the stem area. Scoop out the membrane and seeds. Brush the bottoms with olive oil and grill them for a few minutes on the barbecue, remove to add the filling, and then grill for a couple more minutes. For a cold option, where you don’t cook the pepper at all, simply fill the hollowed out pepper with a tuna salad or other yummy filling. You could also use these peppers as colorful serving bowls for fresh summer dips!
Purée it: ‘Little Dipper’ (Hybrid) butternut squash
While this variety of butternut squash does not produce behemoths—it produces fruit that weighs about two pounds each—the vines are vigorous and harvests are prolific. ‘Little Dipper’ seeds can be planted directly in the garden once all threat of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up. Plants prefer a well-draining soil. Enrich the area with compost before planting five to six seeds per hill.
Cooking with ‘Little Dipper’ squash: There is nothing like that rich, hearty, harvest flavor of a butternut squash soup. You don’t need too many ingredients, either. Most recipes simply call for roasting cubes of squash with garlic and onions that are then puréed with a vegetable stock and perhaps some fresh herbs. You can also stuff some of your squash harvest, just as you do with peppers.
Grill it: ‘Shikou’ (Hybrid) eggplant
The plants of this Asian-type eggplant produce long, elegant, deep purple fruit (about six to eight inches long) with a white interior. Seeds should be sown indoors eight to 10 weeks before the last frost. Plants like a well-drained soil and prefer a hot and sunny, but sheltered area. They mature in about 70 to 80 days.
Cooking with ‘Shikou’ eggplants: Niki says these small eggplants are delicious when sliced in half (they don’t need to be peeled), brushed with olive oil, and grilled on the barbecue.
Slice it: ‘Sweet Treats’ (Hybrid) tomato
This indeterminate tomato variety is disease resistant with vigorous plants that offer a prolific harvest. The sizable cherry tomatoes have a pink hue and a lovely rich flavor. Seeds should be sown indoors six to eight weeks before your region’s frost-free date. Seedlings require lots of light to prevent them from getting too spindly and leggy. Soil should be warm with lots of compost worked in.
Cooking with ‘Sweet Treats’: If any of these delicious cherry tomatoes make it into the kitchen from the garden, you can use them in a multitude of dishes. Slice them in half to toss into an Israeli-style salad with parsley, mint, cucumbers (also from the garden, of course), and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Skewer them alongside bocconcini cheese and basil, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar for an appetizer. Or, slice as many as you can to arrange on a hot dog bun with your favorite summer sausage.
Snip it: ‘Vulcan’ lettuce
Who wants boring iceberg lettuce when there are so many interesting types to choose from? We enjoy growing multiple varieties of lettuce to make for flavorful—and colorful—summer salads. Space out your sowing schedule, so not all your lettuces are planted at once. This will ensure that you have continuous salad-worthy greens available. Lettuce can be grown from spring through the fall, though it will bolt in the heat of the summer.
Cooking with ‘Vulcan’ lettuce: In this case, you’re not going to cook this edible, you’re going to snip fresh greens for a variety of purposes, from crisp salads to gourmet burger or sandwich toppings.
Our stomachs are now rumbling in anticipation of the harvest season! A big thank you to Home Grown Seed Collection by P. Allen Smith for sponsoring this post.
Seeds are available from:
- Halifax Seed (Canadian supplier)
- Park Seed (U.S. supplier)
- Roher Seeds (U.S. supplier)
- Twilley Seeds (U.S. supplier)
We’re always on the lookout for tasty new gourmet recipe ideas. Tell us how you like to cook these veggies!