Last night I used the last of my home-grown parsnips, the last of my cabbage, and the last of our home-grown carrots to make egg rolls. We aren't out of produce yet--we still have three daikon radishes, some small heads of lettuce, a bucket of brussel sprouts, and a few jars of tomatoes. Not to mention the several pounds of peppers Derrick's been smoking and drying and turning into salsas to preserve. But I feel the end of our wonderful summer bounty at hand and I'm sad.
I liked the parsnips. There's something very earthy about their smell that's just right. Parsnips were one of our experimental veggies this year, and I wish we'd planted more. We had a hard time getting them to sprout (though I admit, that difficulty may have been one of identification more than sprouting--the first ones may have fallen victim to an overzealous weeder unfamiliar with their broad leaves). We also planted them near our brassica relatives (broccoli and brussels sprouts, specifically). Those plants grew tall and broad, and probably shaded the parsnips until we finally pulled some of them out. Definitely, I'll plant parsnips again.
This was the first year we grew tomatillos, too. They're kind of a weedy plant--sort of expansive and floppy. I didn't do a great job weeding the grasses out from around them, but they didn't seem to mind the competition once they were well established. They were prolific producers, too--even with Sylvia snatching some to snack on. They do best in groups, though--the few we had on their own didn't really produce fruits. As it turns out, they're self-infertile, meaning you have to plant them in groups--something to keep in mind when we grow them again.
Okra I wish I'd discovered earlier. I don't think Derrick will ever enjoy the stuff, but I like it. Unfortunately, I didn't realize you have to pick it very young--smaller than 4 inches long--or it's too tough to eat. I offered one of the few small ones I harvested to Sylvia and, after nibbling on an end she shoved it in my mouth (how wonderful it is she's learned to share). Raw okra turns out to be quite tasty. It's a pretty plant, so Derrick may allow it as an ornamental, as long as I don't make him eat any. I hope I get a chance to grow this one again.
Brussels sprouts were actually an experimental crop for us this year, and they worked out well. We planted transplants from a local nursery and let them grow all summer, and have had an impressive fall harvest.
Potatoes were good. I wish we hadn't had quite so many problems with fungi, but if the weather doesn't cooperate, there's only so much you can do. Purple potatoes were fun, and the plants are quite striking. The foliage made our garden look so verdant and successful for that first month or so until the weeds revealed how woefully inadequate our commitment to gardening really was. Still, high success for low-input--definitely a crop to revisit.
Daikon radishes are very mellow, and I've really liked them in stir fry. They did better in the fall for us, though I think trying to get them to produce seeds (as Derrick wanted) wasn't the best choice. If we grow them again, I'm definitely voting to eat the radishes, and not wait for the seeds. We didn't eve harvest many seeds, so I'm guessing whoever inherits our plot next year will be battling the radishes in whatever they attempt to grow.
The three sisters (corn, squash, and pole-beans) didn't work out as well, though we did get some wonderful corn. Indeed, I got my fill of corn this summer and doubt I would need to grow corn next summer even if it were an option. Garden fresh corn is the bomb, by the way. We didn't do so well with the beans. Between everything being very close together and me not doing the world's best job of watering, most of our pole beans died about July, just as they were starting to produce. Still, it seemed the squashes did much better when grown in amongst the corn. Perhaps a bit of competition is good for them. I think if we try this again, I'm going to suggest we grow a little less corn, a little further apart, and put in a few more squash.
I'm sure there were other lessons I learned from gardening this year, but they'll have to wait.