MOTHER readers share their favorite crop varieties.
Great taste is one of the biggest reasons to grow your own
garden, yet many of the best-tasting varieties are becoming
hard to find. That's because our current food system often
values shelf life and shipping qualities more than taste
and tenderness. MOTHER'S Cream of the Crop series presents
outstanding favorite crop varieties recommended by our green-thumbed
Jaune Flamme Orange Tomato
An old French variety, "Jaune Flamme" is a fabulous
fresh-eating tomato with an explosive, intense flavor that
shines through any salad dressing with ease.
The outer walls are thick and meaty, with just enough juice
to provide a full-bodied, citrus-like flavor that surprises
all who try it for the first time. The real joy is cutting
into one. The yellow-orange skin yields to beautiful
red-mottled flesh inside.
Although this heirloom is excellent for fresh salads, it
reaches its full potential as a drying tomato. It has such
an exquisite flavor that I use it exclusively when baking,
especially in breads.
A joy to grow as well as to eat, the plants are
indeterminate (bearing fruit continuously) and early
producers, and seem resistant to many diseases that
normally plague tomatoes. The fruits are held in clusters
of six to eight, each fruit the size of a golf ball or
Seed is available from the Seed Savers Exchange catalog and
Tomato Growers Supply (listed as "Flamme").
— Melody Rose
Tobacco Worm Snap Beans
"Tobacco Worm" is the standard by which I judge all other
snap beans. A pole variety, it has pods that grow thick as
your finger and 6 or more inches long, yet never turn woody
or fibrous. Even when filled out with their average of six
seeds, they remain tender-crisp as long as they are green. "Tobacco Worm" has a rich, deep flavor without the high
sugar content that makes many other snap beans seem overly
sweet to me. Like most old-time varieties, "Tobacco Worm"
has zipper strings that are easily removed when you snap
off the tips before cooking.
"Tobacco Worm" beans hail from eastern Kentucky, where they
were thought to resemble the notorious tobacco worm. They
have been in some families for as many as six generations,
but it took me three years of searching to finally find
seed. My line comes from Virginia Jones of Waco, Kentucky,
whose family has grown the beans since the 1960s. Their
seed came from the Farris Rose family of Estill County,
Kentucky. Mr. Rose, who died at age 91 in 1988, had
inherited them from his parents, who presumably inherited
them from their parents.
There are no commercial sources of "Tobacco Worm" bean
seed. However, by special arrangement, MOTHER EARTH News
readers can order packets of 100 seeds for $5, postpaid,
from Bill Best; Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center;
— Brook Elliott
Laxton Progress No. 9 Garden Pea
At first bite, the sugars of this sweet, silky-smooth pea
spring to the surface, but balanced with just a hint of
starch, they also are savory enough to dress up a salad or
to eat fresh.
"Laxton Progress No. 9" is named in honor of Thomas Laxton,
a famous 19th century plant breeder. The 18-inch-tall, very
productive plants produce 4 1/2-inch pods that mature in 75
days. Seed is available from Victory. Willhite, Shumway and
William Dam companies.
— David Geier
El Cajon, California
Lutz Greenleaf Beet
Unlike some other beet varieties, "Lutz Greenleaf" is
deliciously sweet but not overwhelming. The mild taste of
these tender giants temps one to eat slice after slice.
Just cook them and eat them warm, with nothing else added.
The tops also are edible, simply steamed like Swiss chard
or added to a green salad.
The reddish-purple, top-shaped roots are one of the best
beets for winter storage. Sown in the spring for fall
harvest, they also overwinter well when mulched heavily.
Said to have originated in Germany, "Lutz Greenleaf" is an
Amish and Mennonite heirloom, common in Pennsylvania Dutch
country. "Winterkeeper" and "Lutz Greenleaf" are the same
variety, and "Longseason" may also be synonymous with them.
Seed is available from Nichols, Territorial, Abundant Life
and William Dam seed companies.
— Jeptha Yoder
For seed company addresses, see " Gardeners Almanac "
on pages 90 and 91 in this issue.
To nominate your favorite great-tasting variety,
contact Brook Elliott at BrookBarb @ aol.com for details.