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GET GROWING: Shake up your vegetable garden this year

There’s no shortage of outstanding varieties of fruits and vegetables to grow this year. Gardening expert Niki Jabbour shares the ones she's most excited about right now. NIKI JABBOUR
There’s no shortage of outstanding varieties of fruits and vegetables to grow this year. Gardening expert Niki Jabbour shares the ones she's most excited about right now. NIKI JABBOUR - Niki Jabbour

One of the best parts of having a vegetable garden is deciding what to grow. And thanks to the many seed growers and suppliers in the province, there’s no shortage of outstanding varieties to plant. Here are some I’m most excited to grow in 2021:

Roulette pepper

A new introduction at Halifax Seed, roulette is a habanero pepper without the heat. So why grow a heatless habanero? Roulette produces a heavy crop of large fruits that add a sweet, citrusy flavour to your favourite dishes and sauces. Expect dozens of bright red peppers per plant with the harvest beginning in mid-August.

Jarrahdale pumpkins are an Australian heirloom variety with blue-grey skin and bright orange flesh. - Niki Jabbour
Jarrahdale pumpkins are an Australian heirloom variety with blue-grey skin and bright orange flesh. - Niki Jabbour

Jarrahdale pumpkin

Orange pumpkins may be traditional, but why not shake up your 2021 vegetable garden with a blue pumpkin? Jarrahdale is an Australian heirloom with blue-grey skin and bright orange flesh. The fruits are decorative and delicious and weigh six to 10 pounds. Use this autumn beauty for pies, soups, and baking. A new variety from Yonder Hill Farms.

Starlight grape tomato

This unique tomato is high on my to-grow list and I’ve already picked up my seed packet. The slender grape tomatoes are bright yellow and around two inches long and just three-quarters of an inch across. I love sweet tomatoes and starlight grape is said to have exceptionally sweet fruits. The plants are vigorous and grow over six feet tall so be sure to provide sturdy support.

Saffron summer squash have a semi-crookneck shape and should be harvested when four to six inches long for optimum flavour and tenderness. - Niki  Jabbour
Saffron summer squash have a semi-crookneck shape and should be harvested when four to six inches long for optimum flavour and tenderness. - Niki Jabbour

Saffron summer squash

Yonder Hill Farm in Lunenburg County produces all of the seeds they sell including saffron, a summer squash that is both early and high yielding. The bright yellow fruits have a semi-crookneck shape and should be harvested when four to six inches long for optimum flavour and tenderness. The bush plants are compact and don’t take up too much garden space.

Worry tomato

Annapolis Seeds in Middleton has become well known for their large selection of tomatoes. This year, they’re introducing a new variety called worry which produces sturdy dwarf plants ideal for containers and raised beds. The beefsteak fruits are gorgeous with red and gold stripes and streaks, and perfect for the ultimate summer treat — a tomato sandwich.

Flaming flare peppers are tough, high-yielding, and suited to container or garden growing. - Niki  Jabbour
Flaming flare peppers are tough, high-yielding, and suited to container or garden growing. - Niki Jabbour

Flaming flare pepper

This award-winning pepper was recently added to the Halifax Seed catalogue and has already earned an annual spot in my garden. Why? The plants are tough, high-yielding, and suited to container or garden growing. The cherry red fruits are both sweet and hot, and add unbeatable flavour to salsas and sauces. This pepper is ideal for short season climates and produces a good harvest of three to four inches long fruits.

Asian long eggplant

If you’ve never grown eggplant in your garden, give Asian long a try in 2021. The eight to 10 inch long slender fruits offer a mild flavour that is far superior to any grocery store eggplant. It’s also early to mature with the first fruits ready to harvest in August and continuing to pump out more until frost. Available from Yonder Hill Farm.

Lemon drop pepper

I’ve been growing lemon drop, an heirloom pepper for years, but always had to order seeds from distant suppliers. Happily Annapolis Seeds has added this vigorous pepper to its 2021 catalogue. The lemon yellow fruits grow two to three inches long and offer a heat similar to that of a cayenne pepper. They make a delicious yellow hot sauce, but can be added to all your favourite dishes.

Silver slicer cucumber

Love cucumbers? Plant silver slicer, an open-pollinated variety with unusual white fruits and crisp, never bitter, flesh. The plants are resistant to powdery mildew and incredibly productive with the harvest beginning early and running late. Harvest when the fruits are six to eight inches long for sweet, mild tasting cucumbers. Available from Halifax Seed.

Niki Jabbour is the best-selling author of three gardening books, and a two-time winner of the prestigious American Horticultural Society Book Award. Her latest book, Growing Under Cover is now available

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