Huge thanks to Our Farm's Katie and Kate and Blackstar Urban Farm's Karen (1) for their hard work so far. All crops are in the ground, subject to mother nature for the West Carleton Calorie Crop Breeding Project. She has been busy helping us select plants this year. We have been experiencing a very wet spring and early summer, delaying planting for many people.
Year 1 is to grow out sweet potato for true seed from short season varieties. All three farms have had a great start though a hail storm or two have tattered leaves and I've had golden tortoise beetle though numbers are not overly high. Aster Lane Edibles also has a selection of True Sweet Potato Seedlings that are catching up to the slip planted varieties.
I'm particularly impressed by how gloriously the sweets are growing at Our Farm in their heavy clay soil, especially in this soggy year.
butternut squash landrace - farmer select
true potato seed
Some nice looking potato specimens growing from the Blue Leslie x OP seed kindly sent to me.
(1) Are you the sort of farmer that might want to help grow calorie crops in the nearby Ottawa Valley area? We are looking for two more farms next year. Learn about true seed growing of tuberous crosses and experience the fun of looking at underperforming rows or plants and saying "great selection year."
(2) True Seed, in this context, refers to plants grown from sexually reproduced seed when they are typically grown vegetatively. This reshuffling of genes allows for selection and production of new varieties.
the dried goods growing club
we grow edibles to eat right?
If gardening is my (so-called) profession (vocation would be more accurate at this point) then cooking is my hobby. I've been having a lot of fun creating a number of chufa based recipes and hope to post about them soon. I've also started to grow in longer rows, in what is called the Chef's garden, a few of the perennial edibles that show particular promise so that they can be used in bulk recipes that profile their flavour.
experimental grow op
I'm always learning while growing. Learning to love the land, learning to admire the complex dynamic ecosystem of life, learning to work efficiently with minimal equipment and input. This includes the first crop of edible weeds, quick turning beds, animal helpers and more.
I enjoy turning this observational and experiential knowledge into seminars, workshops, and written materials. It's always interesting to see ours gardens, in their chaotic glory, through others' eyes.
Often, when I do a camera tour of the gardens, I am sad that I can't capture the noise of native bees buzzing through the nine bark or the scent of pine. There is so much more to this landscape then what a photo can portray. I wish I could virtually share with you the hearty salads, the freshly picked asparagus quiche and the chufa chocolate cakes but this is the best I can do.
But there's more
Carrots and friends
I grow a number of members of the carrot family that I'd like to some work on but I am only actively selecting skirret and carrot. Next in my sights will be Sweet Cicely and Mitsuba whenever I get time!
Just Food breeding
Seeds of Diversity is working to increase seed capacity in Canada and Jester Lettuce is one of the OSSI (Open Source Seed Initiative) varieties that is available to growers. It was originally created by Frank Morton at Wild Garden Seeds and I have to say that I love it. This spring, when I did selection on the seedlings, I selected out some darker ones for my own purposes. We'll call them Pink Jester for fun.
I'm also growing out two short season community selections as part of the Just Food Seed by Growers for Growers: short season peppers and disease resistant cucumbers. I'm looking forward to the fried green peppers and cucumber sandwiches.
West Carelton calorie project
In my on going attempt to learn how to breed cabbages in the north, here are some babies. The cabbage is a delicious cross between a slightly blushed savoy (San Michele) and a long season red (Red Rock Mammoth). I've climbed quite a learning curb to get to third generation and continue to climb. For example, the tunnel is producing some great pods but I bet I can't use any pods whose flowers touch the top. At any rate, I should be growing out f4 next year!!
I'm also still doing grow outs and overwintering experiments on perennial kale crosses with Daubenton though I'm thinking of moving away from Brassica oleracea kales toward longer lived Brassica napus kales.
Of course, I'm still selecting seakale, growing out giant colewort, and mostly yellow winter-easy turnip. There is a much older project that I might turn my attention back toward which is a very nice Chinese cabbage. I've been growing it out for years and years but haven't been doing any serious selection. It may be time.
The public participatory blah blah long name.
As summer is around the corner, I thought I'd fill in readers on what's happening on the homestead. To start, so many breeding projects!
True seed grown tubers
Tubers and other calorie crops are of particular interest to me as a grower. This is not to say that I don't love other edible crops. I do. In fact, we have an abundance of greenery growing as weeds, perennial edibles and even the occasional treasured annual. I even have some projects on the go to produce interesting greens such as dandelion selection, thin petiole overwintering chard and Daubenton perennial kale crosses. But when it comes to feeding my family and my community, it is the tubers, legumes, grains and storables that I gravitate toward.
I grow out many tuber crops, which are usually started vegetatively, as true (sexually reproduced) seed. These include sweet potatoes, nightshade potatoes, oca, yacon, Apios, and Jerusalem artichoke.
Other projects falling under the calorie crop label would include The Dried Goods Growing Club, Storage vining crops including the Public Participatory Butternut Squash Landrace, and the West Carelton Calorie Project all in part 2. But before we explore those, let's veer into a few plant families that I tend to focus on.
What would life be without alliums?
I love my onion, garlic, leeks, chives and so forth. Though I sell a number of perennial onion seeds that are not undergoing heavy selection such as Blue Chives - a beautiful, tasty self seeding flat leafed plant that is perfect for the front of a sunny border), I also am working on a few breeding projects.
One of my oldest is probably the perennial leek. It is a cross between Oerprei (ancient) perennial bunching leek and a perennializing population of St. Victors leek selection for purple coloration in the leaf (first selected by the Long Island Seed Project). I'm already pretty happy with the cross that is reliably perennial here but larger than the ancient leek.
Next would come the potato onions. I have been growing out true seed of as many varieties as I could get my hands on including shallot seed. These have been mixed together with the best being replanted. I'm looking for high yielding storage onions that readily overwintering on a fall planting. Right now I have 2015 and 16's selections growing out, producing seed and sets along with a couple rows of new seedlings.
Last year I had a complete failure in my attempt to grow out seed sources for selection of a low input, bulb onion but the seedlings are doing much better this year. I hope to have some seed parent candidates later this summer.
Ongoing are my experiments with walking onion and grow outs of other wild or less cultivated onions including Allium altaicum, Allium stellatum and Allium cernuum.
beans, beans the magical fruit... Legumes
Here are some highlights though there are lots more growing including peanuts (Schronce's Black, Valencia ALE select), Ahipa, runner beans, true seed Apios, some really nifty dry peas that I'm testing, grass pea, soy and a few others as part of the Dried Goods Growing Club (part 3). That's not including al the fun Fabaceae plants in the forest gardens and fields that I am not eating!
I'm probably most excited that I'm finally at the stage of growing out enough Icicle pea to store, save and sell (even if only in a limited quantity). Also, though the peanuts were attacked by what was probably bean flea beetle, they are bouncing back so I'm hoping to do a little pollen swapping between the two northern strains to see what we can produce.
A little landrace of Chickpeas that I have been growing for more than a decade now is also at the stage of increasing again after a big loss a few years ago. I just *might* have enough to share!! Included in this mix are a variety of colours and some popping genes.
This year I'm also doing some selective growing of a few dry beans that I particularly enjoy not only fresh but also at what I like to call the shelly stage for frozen storage in winter. Lastly is one little side project of growing all my diminutive (both plant and seed) dry beans together including Carol Deppe's provider bean, brown selection (I'm missing the black for some reason) and a pink one called Peanut if I'm remembering correctly. They tend to cook up at approximately the same rate and I like the variation in colour.
Go to Part 2
Go to Part 3
All about growing, selecting and using edible plants in the Ottawa valley.