A Closer Look: Bed 3 Plans
Many years we attempt a garden bed that reflects the vegetables and herbs of a particular cuisine or culture. It has been a couple years since we did this, and more than a couple years since we did a Latin American themed garden.
While it would be easy to just plant tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro, and call it Latin American, there is actually a lot more to the varied cuisines of Latin America – and a lot more vegetable and herb diversity than most Americans appreciate. As you can see, we have a LOT going on in this bed.
Starting from the left, on the trellis, we will have two different squashes. One is Chayote, which is used like a squash but is a completely different species. It is slightly sweeter than most zucchinis, and the crazy thing about it is that the seed grows best fresh from the fruit – so most recommendations are to either plant a whole fruit or to harvest the seed and plant immediately. It is also very long season and day-length sensitive, so we may or may not get anything from the plant.
The ‘Tatume’ squash is round, heirloom squash that can be harvested either as a “zucchini” stage or hard squash stage vegetable. It is supposedly resistant to squash vine borer as well.
Under the trellis, we will have several cilantro plants, which are cool season herbs. We will let them flower and go to seed for coriander as well. And maybe let them reseed for a fall crop of cilantro.
Moving toward the center of the bed, we have a section dedicated to white-fleshed sweet potatoes, which are more common in Latin America than orange-fleshed types. We also have an heirloom black bean planned. This is a bush bean type.
That brings us to the “numbered” half of the garden. I’m going to work backwards numerically, starting with two herbs that you may not be particularly familiar with.
Epazote is an aromatic herb that is common in traditional Mexican cooking. It has a pretty strong scent and flavor, but most sources I have looked at recommend keeping it heavily trimmed so the tender leaves have a softer scent (and texture). Raw, it has almost a turpentine scent. Cooked, it is supposed to be similar to strong oregano, savory, or tarragon.
Papalo is a heat-tolerant herb that has a strong, cilantro-like flavor. The seed packet said that germination is naturally low, so I am going to be interested to see how it does – and if it would be a good choice for us as a cilantro replacement in the heat of summer.
That brings us to our two tomato varieties – ‘Plum Perfect’ and ‘Granadero.’ Both of these are roma varieties that were selected because they have root knot nematode resistance. ‘Plum Perfect’ is a determinate plant with 4 oz fruit that are supposed to have exceptional flavor paired with strong disease resistance. ‘Granadero’ is very similar in fruit size and disease resistance, but on an indeterminate plant.
Next are the three tomatillo varieties – two more traditional, the pineapple one less so. The purple and green tomatillos are going to have a more traditional flavor and texture. Tomatillos yield best when they have two different varieties for cross-pollination – hence planting 3 types. The last time we had tomatillos in the garden, they were leggy and not very productive, and what fruit we did get were utterly decimated by fruitworms. So – I may be a bit cynical about our likelihood for success. The Pineapple tomatillo is an heirloom that is small-fruited, with soft, very sweet fruit – almost like a cherry.
Last, but not least, are the peppers. The ‘Jalafuego’ and ‘Big Jim’ are both peppers that we have grown in the past and performed well. We also wanted to mix it up a bit. Chile de Arbol is a hot pepper with a slight smoky flavor. The plant can supposedly get up to 4′ tall in one season and looks like a tree. (Arbol is Spanish for tree.) The guajillo/mirasol pepper is traditional for making mole sauces, so we wanted to try it out. The actual variety is ‘El Eden’ Guajillo. This type is not very spicy, and is best used dried or in sauces due to the tough skin.
If all goes well, we should have quite a variety of new recipes to try using veggies from this particular garden bed. If things don’t go well….hm…we could have LOTS of insects that are really happy!