Top Crops: Central/Midwest

Everyone loves 'maters in the Central/Midwest U.S. It tops the list of the region's top crops.
By Barbara Pleasant
April/May 2009
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Much beloved in the Central/Midwest region, gardeners rate tomatoes at #1 in their list of top food crops.

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A tight space race goes on in gardens in the central/Midwest U.S. because so many crops grow well. Cabbage and summer squash earn high overall ratings, but except for spinach and lettuce, leafy greens are bit players here. Of course, we’re talking about a climate in which spring is fleeting, summers can be scorchers, and fall slips into winter overnight. It’s no wonder that vigorous warm-weather crops are the top crops.

The largest sample group in the survey came from the Midwest, which may have given a boost to the national numbers behind tomatoes and peppers, both much beloved in the heartland. Note that sweet corn is missing from the list, and in fact it was more highly rated in the Mid-Atlantic region than in the Midwest. It’s possible that, like carrot lovers in the Northeast, Midwesterners let market farmers grow space-hungry sweet corn for them.

Delving into the numbers behind Midwestern tomatoes, we noticed that gardeners who often or occasionally use chemicals rated the overall performance of tomatoes at 3.1 (on a scale of 1 to 4). Organic gardeners rated them a little higher at 3.2. Moving up to Midwestern gardeners with more than 20 years experience who described themselves (and presumably their soils) as “beyond organic/sustainable,” the numbers rose to 3.6. That’s not far short of a perfect score (4) — good reason to keep digging in compost and using plenty of mulch!

Top 10

  1. Slicing tomato
  2. Sweet pepper
  3. Cherry tomato
  4. Onion
  5. Bush snap bean
  6. Carrot
  7. Garlic
  8. Paste tomato
  9. Snow/snap pea
  10. Lettuce

Other Highly Rated Crops

Cabbage family: Broccoli, cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi

Cucumber family: Cucumber, pumpkin, summer squash, winter squash

Leafy greens: Arugula, chard, mustard (all types), pac choi, sorrel, spinach, turnip greens

Legumes: Dry soup bean, pole bean, shell pea, Southern pea

Root crops: Beet, parsnip, potato, rutabaga, shallot, turnip

Tomato family: Hot pepper, tomatillo

Miscellaneous: Asparagus, leek, okra, rhubarb, scallion, sweet corn

Read The Best Crops for Your Garden to find top crops for other U.S. gardening regions.

Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers, and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on .

Post a comment below.


5/10/2009 8:01:01 PM
Eastern Kansas for me! We really do have a great growing season. Seems more mild than it used to be. Anxious for those summer tomatoes already!

Steve Thyng
5/3/2009 9:54:06 AM
This will be my first full growing summer in Kansas. I am told that with an active growing season that extends from mid-April through mid-December, I will be able to get two or even three crops of many vegetables! You can bet I'm excited!

4/24/2009 5:58:36 PM
I'm smack-dab in Kansas and I am very surprised to see that cantaloupe, watermelon and zucchini weren't mentioned (unless it got lumped under "summer squash")on any of the Midwestern lists.

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