The top crops in the Southwest region span three growing seasons.
The Southwest gardening region.
The Southwest region’s list of 10 top crops looks pretty mainstream, but because hot, dry summers split the season in two, many gardeners grow three gardens each year: fast-growing cool-season crops for spring, heat-tolerant veggies for summer, and a feast of fine edibles for fall.
In your garden, this might play out as lettuce, potatoes, and onions in spring; tomatoes, beans, and peppers in summer; and everything from bulb fennel to mizuna (a popular Asian mustard) in the fall. Tart tomatillos become a versatile vegetable in the hands of good Southwestern cooks (authentic salsa verde is impossible without roasted tomatillos).
This fast-growing tomato relative earned strong ratings from gardeners in this region, and Modesto, CA, gardener Sandra Burnette says they’re not as invasive as tomatoes, “which will take over the entire garden if left to themselves,” she says.
Edamame (edible green soybean) is a rising star in Southwest gardens, too. Burnette has tried several varieties, and says she has enjoyed them all.
Cabbage family: Kale, kohlrabi
Cucumber family: Cucumber, pumpkin, winter squash
Leafy greens: Arugula, chard, Chinese cabbage, mâche, pac choi, spinach
Legumes: Dry soup bean, edamame, fava bean, snap bean (all types), snow/snap and shell pea, Southern pea
Root crops: Beet, radish, shallot, sunchoke, sweet potato
Tomato family: Eggplant, hot pepper, tomatillo
Miscellaneous: Bulb fennel, leek, okra, rhubarb, scallion
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 Google+.