2017 was definitely the year of the fish pepper. There was probably more social media buzz about it than any other variety of vegetable out there--and for good reason. Fish peppers are believed to have been brought over by slaves and continued to be grown in African-American gardens in Philadelphia and Baltimore, where they got their name as a companion to seafood. Beyond their great back story, they have the utmost flair. Our plants were mostly green with some green and white variegation. The peppers themselves are often striped as well. Ours were most often green, but the occasional one be green and white and ripen to orange and brown before turning red. Highly productive. We had so many that we dried several kilos worth and made pepper garlands.
In the kitchen, we found them to be of medium heat when fresh, and the heat was towards the front of the mouth, like a good jalapeno. Once dried, the heat mellowed, allowing the flavor to come to the forefront.
We saved the most decorative pods for planting next year in hopes that we get even more variegation. Stay tuned.
Another stand-out from the looks department last year was the Coban tomatillo. Originally from Guatemala, the coban tomatillo is unique in that it turns purple as it ripens. The intermediate stage displays the most adorable sunburn, with the fruit exposed to the sun ripening first. The plants were mostly upright and tree form but required some staking. Although not technically determinate, the fruits seemed to all ripen within a two week period, and then the plants gave up the ghost. Plants were very productive. Fruits were small compared to standard tomatillos, similar to cherry tomatoes.
In the kitchen, this tomatillo had great flavor, and we canned several jars of tomatillo salsa.
Boston Marrow Squash
Forgive us if it seems like cheating to review something we didn't grow, but we felt we needed to get the word out about this squash. Member of the Slow Food Arc of Taste, this was originally THE pumpkin that people ate in this country, and its no surprise with its great flavor. Its best feature is that the rind is so thin that it does not need to be peeled (notice you can barely see it in the photo). Incidentally, this also meant that it did not make a good candidate for commercialization and it fell out of favor. We think it's due for a comeback!
This cherry tomato has been a favorite for several years. To our knowledge, Johnny's Seed developed this bumblebee collection of especially attractive and productive plants, and the Sunrise has performed the best for us. Last year, one plant productive 105 plants, nearly one everyday. We can't say enough good things about.
Where would we have been this year without sungolds? This darling of the farmers' market is there for good reason. One plant produced 95 of those little yellow gems. This year was not the best for tomatoes, but that didn't get the sungold down. We would recommend keeping one in your next garden.
In the kitchen, we mainly used sungolds cut in half for salads. Our only complaint, if you can say this about a tomato, is that they are on the sweet side, but you can balance this with spiciness or high-acid dressings.
We grew three rare varieties this year that all did great: Stelley, Alabama Red, and Jing Orange. If we have to pick a favorite, which one supposes is the point of this post, it would have to be the Alabama Red. These stubby little pods did not get tough, as others this size might. Like many okra, it was highly productive. By the end of the season, we have to bend the stalk over to harvest!
Where Alabama Red really stands out is in the kitchen, especially when fried. You will notice these getting gobbled off before they are barely cool (but is anything cool in okra season?).
Boy do habaneros like Atlanta. We could not keep all of the ripe peppers picked, and leading to loads of experimentation with fermenting our own hot sauce, bags in the freezer, etc.
Our habaneros have not tended to be so hot that your head comes off. We just pop one in whole to a dish, and you get much more of their flavor than heat. I just saw a seed catalog charging you extra for a new variety without any heat--what's the point?
Last and Least
Not everything we try comes out well, so we thought it would be a good counterpoint to let you know about our utter dislike of the Madhu Raj melon. Sold as a hard-skinned melon that likes heat and humidity, we thought we had found ourselves a charentais-type that we could easily grow. Grow well it did, producing several lobed fruits with green veins.
Where we get into trouble is the kitchen. The texture was mushy--yuck! And the flavor was more gourd that melon--gross! At first I tried to convince myself that we have become too accustomed to saccharine fruits and that I should keep an open mind. "Maybe it works in a lassi," I thought. I somehow never got around to it, so if someone out there knows of a splendid use for this melon, please let us know.