Kitchen garden talk: Favorite varieties

“Nancy” lettuce

Last issue we introduced this new column about kitchen garden topics that commonly come up when gardeners stroll among one another’s vegetable beds by asking some gardeners we know about where they get their seeds (Johnny’s and FEDCO seemed to be the hands-down favorites). At the end, we invited readers to respond to this question: Pick any vegetable(s) you plan to grow this coming season and tell us what your favorite variety is and why. Here are the responses we got:

George Tripp, Hart’s Neck: Enjoyed the kitchen garden talk article. One of our favorites is the “Fortex” pole bean from Johnny’s. Unfortunately, we may be giving up gardening due to the problem we have with deer. They have cleaned us out two years in a row. Perhaps an article on deer prevention would be helpful?

Chris Bly, Turkey Cove: When it comes to nasturtiums… they’re all lovely! But I highly recommend “MilkMaid,” a creamy slightly yellowish white bloom, and very prolific with at least half sun and ample water. I had really good luck growing them both in a large pot and in the ground as well.

I have also had great success growing “Ailsa Craig” onions. They grow to softball size if pampered with ample water and occasional fertilizer. But starting them from seed in February in a sunny window is the main key to success OR buying seedlings (not sets) if you can find them.

Fresh sweet lettuce is very popular and my all time favorite is “Nancy.” It’s a lightish green butter that will grow very large with a very sweet and tender heart. It really likes water, especially when young.

Anne Cox, Martinsville: I love the “Masai” haricot verts (skinny green beans). They are a bush bean, very productive and deliciously tender. One year I couldn’t get the seed and tried “Provider” instead. Good, but I returned to Masai as soon as I could.

Last year our neighbor, Fiona, asked if we grew “Marfax” dry beans, rumored to make the best baked beans. So I did, and will continue to grow and dry Marfax.

As for lettuce, there is nothing like “Nancy,” a lovely bright green butterhead. For a couple of years, there was a seed crop failure from the suppliers; fortunately, we are back in business again this year. Last year I also grew “Antonet,” a red lollo and “Ilema,” a green lollo, and will again. These frilly Italian lettuces were tasty, with a nice texture.
I couldn’t get the “Mellow Star” shishito pepper seed last year, but have it this year. Very productive, thin-skinned sweet peppers. Perfect for grilling.

There are so many favorites. “Silver Slicer” cucumber, a white slicing cucumber is delicious.

I used to grow “Ailsa Craig” onions, and they were huge, sweet onions—had one close to the size of a bowling ball I think (it was a good onion year). Instead, I now grow “Walla Walla” onions for sweet summer onions. The rest of my onions are good storage onions, but it is definitely worth having one particularly sweet one in the harvest.

And if I grew only one tomato, I think it would be “Aunt Ruby’s German Green.” Yum.

Next issue: What works best for deer prevention? (Thanks, George!). Send your replies to, or to Julie, St. George Dragon, PO Box 1, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860.

PHOTO: Anne Cox

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