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
I had several Allium projects going this year, one was a biennial bulb onion, Allium cepa trial which managed to be massacred by a voracious legion of cutworms, leading to several replantings with heavy losses and a vow to try again next year.
The other was multiplier onion, Allium cepa aggregatum. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of shallot type to the same voracious cutworms forcing me to collar (protect each seedling) the replanting. Finally the darn things subsided and I got some growth, including regrowth of some that had, had their tops toppled. Like 2015, and all the years before, the multiplier onions were significantly more robust for me than the biennial bulbing onions, even those bulb onions that made it through the cursed cutworms with extra wide spacing (since all their neighbours had been eaten).
I'm pretty sure that the lesson here is to focus on multipliers though the stubborn streak in me means I have some promising biennial onion seeds, that I've been collecting, to try again.
Back to multipliers. My goals are two-fold. Firstly, I'd like a nest of four or more mid sized bulb onion with an easy to use shape that stores well over winter and has a pungent, pleasant taste. I'd like to maintain good seeding on top of nesting in order to continue to select. Secondly, and more fancifully, I'd like to mix up the colours a bit more with some reds, whites, roses and whatever else comes along.
I've been receiving a wide array of multiplier seeds for a number of years now. Included are seeds from Kelly Winterton's project, any seeds I could get from the usual potato onions floating around, seed grown (Allium cepa) shallots and a number of other more mysterious ones just labelled 'multiplier.'
Though I did have a few that had white skins and a few others with a touch of rose, most of mine are golden like these below. More variation was seen in the shape and orientation of the bulbs in the nest.
I had a good harvest this year considering the drought. Seed set was adequate. All the best candidates were fall in some large rows with wide spacing in order to maximize harvest of both bulbs and seeds for 2017. I am planning on adding more variety in the base population, especially to replace material lost to those nocturnal chewers.
All about growing, selecting and using edible plants in the Ottawa valley.