Saturday Spotlight: Thai Rai Kaw Tok Squash

Last year I decided to try several winter squash varieties I had never grown before. Many of them were heirloom varieties I had known about for years but had just never grown. However, one of the standout performers turned out to be a Thai squash called Rai Kaw Tok that I had never heard of before last year. It’s a variety of Cucurbita moschata squash, and as such is more resistant to the squash vine borer that makes squash growing difficult in many gardens.

Thai Rai Kaw Tok winter squash on the vine

Thai Rai Kaw Tok winter squash on the vine

I found out there’s very little information available about the Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash. I got the seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and they say it is a “Thai market variety that is sure to become popular here”. It gets rave reviews from their customers, and I will quickly add it gets rave reviews from me and my wife as well. In fact she told me I ought to do a spotlight on it, so here it is!

harvest of Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

harvest of Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

It is a vining squash, and my one plant quickly grew up the metal garden fencing and proceeded to vine in all directions, setting on lots of fruit in the process. The catalog description says the fruits get to be eight pounds, but mine averaged a little over nine pounds each. The five in the above photo weighed 49 pounds. The vine gave us a total of 65 pounds of squash by the end of the season, and it was the standout producer of my 2014 garden.

a big Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

a big Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

The largest one maxed out our digital scale, so I had to use the old fashioned one instead. It weighed 13 lbs, 11 oz, which made it the largest squash harvested in 2014. Most of the squash wound up setting on the vines high up off the ground, and despite their weight they hung on quite nicely. The green fruits are flattened and ribbed, with white and tan spots all over the thick outer rind. That rind turns a brownish orange after a few months in storage, as you can see in the below photo taken of one in February before cutting it up and cooking it.

Rai Kaw Tok squash after turning color in storage

Rai Kaw Tok squash after turning color in storage

In the kitchen, Rai Kaw Tok has quickly become a favorite here. The thick orange flesh is dense, flavorful, and not the least bit watery. The seed cavity is fairly small, leaving lots of usable flesh as you can see in the below photo.

cut Rai KawTok squash showing interior

cut Rai KawTok squash showing interior

I like to cut it into slices and toss with a little olive oil, sea salt, and paprika. Then I spread the slices out on a pan and bake in a 425°F oven until tender.

sliced squash before baking

sliced squash before baking

The squash slices make a great side dish prepared this way, and the outer rind softens up considerably during cooking and becomes quite edible, much like the skin on a Delicata squash. I think this variety is just as visually striking after cooking as it is fresh off the vine!

cooked slices of Rai Kaw Tok squash

cooked slices of Rai Kaw Tok squash

The folks at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange had a “Squash-athon” back in 2013, and tasters described Rai Kaw Tok as “having a spicier, more complex flavor”. They also noted that it was the best yielding C. moschata type in their test gardens that year. The fruits are too large for the two of us to consume in one or two meals, so I bake up the leftover pieces to make into puree. The deep orange pureed flesh has a spicy flavor like the folks at SESE describe it, and I can (and do) eat it with a spoon!

puree from Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

puree from Thai Rai Kaw Tok squash

The squash is keeping well in storage so far, and I have several of them left, including the big 13-pounder. In the future I plan on trying it in soups, and in things like this Thai Squash Curry recipe. This squash should work well in many recipes calling for either butternut or kabocha squash. I’ve also cooked it up in some Maple Pumpkin Custard, where it was lovely.

Maple Pumpkin Custard made with Thai squash

Maple Pumpkin Custard made with Thai squash

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Saturday Spotlight, and I’ll be back soon with another variety. Until then, Happy Growing from Happy Acres!

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

 

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Featured Cooking Bean: Cherokee Trail of Tears

This year I am on a mission to cook and eat as many different varieties of  beans as possible. This is the first in a series about my observations about those beans.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I truly love food that has a story associated with it. The food and the story are then permanently linked together. I think that is one of the many things that is lost when we let others grow our food for us. Food then becomes a commodity, one without heart or history. And often without much flavor or nutrition, though that is a topic for another day. The Cherokee Trail of Tears bean has plenty of both history and flavor, which I think makes it all the more special.

Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean seeds

Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean seeds

In 1977 the late Dr. John Wyche, who was a dentist of Cherokee descent, donated the seeds to the Seed Savers Exchange. According to Cherokee tradition, the bean seeds were carried during the forced relocation of the Cherokee Nation in 1838-1839. It is estimated that 4000 died of hunger, exposure, and disease during that march, and today the small black bean has become symbolic of the Cherokee struggle for survival.

harvest of Trail of Tears Beans

harvest of Trail of Tears Beans

In the garden, the Trail of Tears bean has a vining habit, and benefits from a study support. The 6-inch long pods are round and green with a distinctive purple overtone. It can be eaten as a snap bean while the pods are young, or allowed to mature for a dried bean. I have grown this variety for the last two years and for me it is a dependable but somewhat shy producer.

Trail of Tears beans after soaking

Trail of Tears beans after soaking

In the kitchen, the shiny black oblong seeds have a rich and full flavor. They have made it on Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, a list of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. According to food historian William Woys Weaver, the dried beans were originally used by the Native Americans to make flour. They were also sometimes cooked along with blue and black corns. I think they make an excellent black bean soup, and the beans hold up well in cooking. I have not found any commercial sources for the dried cooking beans, though the seeds are widely available from a number of seed companies.

Trail of Tears Bean soup

Trail of Tears Bean soup

I know they are popular among many gardeners out there, and I would be interested in hearing how others have prepared them, as well as any observations you might have on growing them. I hope you have enjoyed this review of the Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, and I will be back soon with another bean review. Until then, Happy Growing (and eating) from Happy Acres!

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Dark Rye Potato Rolls and Buns

For the last couple of years, I have become quite fond of all sorts of rye bread. I’ve loved eating rye bread since I was a child, but once I started baking my own bread I really learned to appreciate a tasty loaf of rye bread. I’ve tried quite a few recipes in the last few years, from my Light Rye Sandwich Loaf to crusty sourdough loaves using Jeffrey Hamelman’s 40% Caraway Rye recipe. Last year I set out to experiment with rye dinner rolls, and the following recipe was the one I developed and keep on making time after time.

Dark Rye Potato Rolls

Dark Rye Potato Rolls

These soft rolls have a secret ingredient: potatoes. Bread bakers have been using potato water or adding mashed potatoes to their breads since at least the 19th century, when it was often added to make up for a shortage of grain. This modern version uses either potato flour (available from King Arthur, Bob’s Red Mill and others) or dried potato flakes (used for making mashed potatoes). The starch from the potatoes makes for a tender crumb, and also helps keep the leftover bread moist and light.

dough after shaping for rolls

dough after shaping for rolls

As I tried different recipes, I discovered there are several different ways to give pumpernickel and other dark rye breads a dark color. Whole grain rye flour adds some color, but a combination of coffee, molasses, cocoa powder or caramel coloring is usually added to darken the dough further. I settled on using molasses and cocoa powder in this recipe. Any cocoa powder will work here, either natural of Dutch-processed. But I found out very quickly that not all molasses is created alike!

rolls ready for the oven

rolls ready for the oven

I started out using up an old bottle of Brer Rabbit molasses I had in the pantry. That worked well, until I used it all and had to buy some more. I bought a bottle of Wholesome Sweeteners organic, unsulphured molasses, but that gave the rolls a strong molasses flavor that dominated the bread. I wound up going to back to my old standby, this time using Brer Rabbit Mild Flavor molasses. I also tried some good old Tennessee sorghum, which also works quite well in this recipe.

dark rye buns

dark rye buns

Somewhere along the way I also discovered that this recipe can be used to make some wonderful dark rye buns. They are great for things like salmon burgers and BBQ sandwiches. I’ve included a couple of tips for other variations in case you want a sweeter roll, or don’t like the taste of caraway.

darkryepotatorolls15

Dark Rye Potato Rolls and Buns Print This Recipe Print This Recipe
adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe

10.5  oz unbleached all purpose flour (2-1/2 cups)
6  oz whole grain rye or dark rye flour (1-1/2 cups)
3 Tbsp potato flour OR 1/3 cup dried potato flakes
1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 Tbsp cocoa (natural or Dutched)
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 1/2 tsp salt
12  oz lukewarm water (1-1/2 cups)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp molasses

1. Mix dry ingredients, stir to combine. Mix water, oil and molasses in measuring cup. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix by hand, stand mixer or using the bread machine dough cycle. The dough will be slightly sticky. Avoid adding too much flour. While kneading, add water if necessary to make a moist dough. Wetter is better when it comes to rolls.

2. Cover dough and let rise until almost doubled, about 1-1/2 hours, or let bread machine finish the dough cycle.

3. Place dough on lightly greased work surface, or silicone baking mat. Punch down to remove any air bubbles. Divide into 12 pieces.

4. Lightly grease 9×13 inch baking pan or line with parchment paper. Shape dough into balls, spacing evenly on pan.

5. If making buns, cover and let dough rest for 15-20 minutes, then flatten dough balls using your hands into a bun shape. Dough balls should be almost touching each other.

6. Cover dough and let rise 1 to 1-1/2 hours, until puffy looking. The dough may not get very much oven spring, so let rise to almost the desired final size and shape. Preheat the oven to 350°F near the end of rising time.

7. Place the rolls in the oven, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until slightly browned and inside reaches at least 180°F. Remove from the oven and let cool thoroughly before serving. Store cooled rolls airtight, or freeze for later use.

Servings: 12

VARIATIONS: For a sweeter dinner roll, increase molasses to 2 Tbsp. Or for a milder taste, use 1/2 tsp caraway seeds, or omit entirely.

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 179 calories, 27 calories from fat, 3.1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 299.1mg sodium, 219.4mg potassium, 33g carbohydrates, 4.6g fiber, 1.2g sugar, 5.9g protein, 25.3mg calcium, <1g saturated fat.

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Featured Cooking Bean: Tiger’s Eye

This year I am on a mission to cook and eat as many different varieties of  beans as possible. This is the first in a series about my observations about those beans.

The yellowish brown Tiger’s Eye Beans are so named because they they have a swirl of dark maroon color on them that is said to resemble a tiger’s eye. The beans are about the size of kidney beans, though a bit thinner. While some beans are prized because they hold together after cooking, Tiger’s Eye is a favorite with cooks because the skins all but disappear after cooking and the flesh gets soft and creamy. Those attributes make it a great choice for refried beans, dips and casseroles. The cooked beans have a hearty flavor, and the smooth texture gives them a great mouth feel. Originally from Chile or Argentina, it’s also called Eye of the Tiger by some and Pepa de Zapallo by others.

Tiger's Eye Beans

Tiger’s Eye Beans

In the garden, Tiger’s Eye is a Phaseolus vulgaris variety that grows in bush fashion with greenish yellow pods, according to seed catalogues. It can be used as a snap bean, at the fresh shell stage, or allowed to dry for use as a dried bean. I have not grown this one myself, but I certainly would if I had more room in the garden. It’s possible I will give it a try in the future.

closeup view of Tiger's Eye Beans

closeup view of Tiger’s Eye Beans

In the kitchen, I generally prepare these beans simply. Before cooking I soak them in water for a few hours, from three to eight hours generally. Then I add more water to cover, plus a bit of finely chopped onions and a clove of minced garlic (I use a garlic press). I bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and gently simmer the beans until they start to soften. At that point, I add salt to taste and any other seasonings, like perhaps a bit of ground cumin and a little chile powder.

Tiger's Eye Beans after cooking

Tiger’s Eye Beans after cooking

At that point, the beans are great as a side dish, stuffed in a burrito, or used in a casserole dish. Or you can do like I often do and make frijoles refritos (refried beans) with them. I heat a little olive oil or lard in a skillet, then add the beans and a little bit of their cooking liquid. I use the back of a wooden spoon to mash the beans while they heat, mashing and stirring until I get them to the desired consistency, checking the seasoning as I go and adjusting as necessary. That’s how I prepared the ones in the below photo, which I used to top baked corn tortillas to make tostadas.

tostada made with Tiger's Eye Beans

tostada made with Tiger’s Eye Beans

I got my Tiger’s Eye beans from the Seed Savers Exchange. They generally have a small but nice selection of cooking beans for sale. The beans are also sometimes available from Purcell Mountain Farms, Elegant Beans and Beyond or Rancho Gordo. Packets of seed for the garden are widely available here in the U.S.

I hope you have enjoyed this review of the Tiger’s Eye beans. I will be back soon with another bean review. In fact, I had the next featured bean for lunch today, in a tasty bean soup. Until then, Happy Growing (and eating) from Happy Acres!

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Monday Recap: Wintery Mishmash

So far it hasn’t been real bad winter here. We’ve had a few brief cold spells where temperatures got down to near 0°F, which killed off the kale that was unprotected and the arugula that was protected by a cold frame. But other than the five inches of snow we got back in November we haven’t had much frozen precipitation. Which is a good thing, because I am no fan of snow and ice! We got rain yesterday, but it was too warm for snow. A little to the north of here it did snow, and that system is prepared to dump even more on the East Coast. It’s quite a while until spring arrives though, and there’s still plenty of time for snow here.

sweet potatoes for fries

sweet potatoes for fries

We eat a lot of foods from storage this time of year, and one staple is sweet potatoes. We have quite a few left from last season, and one of my favorite treatments is to make oven fries with them. I cut the sweet potatoes (skin and all) into half inch thick strips, then toss them with a little olive oil, sea salt and some of our homemade paprika. I bake them in a 425°F oven for 20-30 minutes until they get a little browned. I think I have come to like the purple ones more than the orange ones prepared this way, and this time I used the Purple sweet potatoes I got from Norma last year along with an orange Beauregard. I sometimes use other spices and herbs to vary the flavor a bit, but I generally keep the seasoning light so I can taste the sweet potatoes themselves.

sweet potato oven fries

sweet potato oven fries

Carrots are becoming a staple here, now that I have figured out (mostly) how to grow them. I pulled the last of the fall crop a couple of weeks ago right before the weather turned frigid again. I wanted to get them out of the ground before it froze up, though as it turned out the cold weather was short-lived and the ground quickly thawed out again. I harvested 35 pounds of them last year from a four foot square bed. The fall harvest won’t last us all winter, but we will sure enjoy them while they last. Bolero has proven to be one of the tastiest varieties I’ve grown so far and I plan on growing it again this year.

Bolero carrots

Bolero carrots

Some of those carrots went into a Golden Lentil Soup I made last week, using Petite Golden Lentils I bought from Purcell Mountain Farms. These split lentils are small and a bright yellow color. I put a few brown lentils next to them for reference in the below photo, so you can see how small they really are.

petite golden lentils

petite golden lentils

I decided to go with a yellow/orange theme for the soup, and sauteed some onions, celery and carrots in olive oil before adding chicken broth, minced garlic and ginger,  and ground turmeric. When the veggies had cooked a bit I added the lentils, plus some chopped cauliflower, salt and pepper and continued cooking. The lentils were done in no time, and I topped the soup with a little chopped cilantro from the greenhouse before serving. The cooked lentils look like little kernels of baby corn in the soup.

Golden Lentil Soup

Golden Lentil Soup

The cilantro from the greenhouse turned out to be the only harvest of the week. The cilantro also went into some pesto I made for dinner one night. I used the pesto along with grilled chicken and veggies in some wraps. I love the cilantro pesto, made with only oil, almonds, and a bit of garlic and salt added. It is truly one of my new favorite things, and I can’t believe it took me so long to try it. It helps that I have lots of fresh homegrown cilantro to make it with. I’ve got lots of parsley in the greenhouse too, but parsley pesto is not what I am craving lately.

cilantro for pesto

cilantro for pesto

Another one of my new favorite things is homemade sauerkraut. I made batches using cabbage, kohlrabi and turnips last fall, and stored them in the refrigerator after the initial fermenting period. I believe they have improved with age, and I can (and often do) eat them by themselves for a quick shot of beneficial bacteria. I made the turnip kraut from the red skinned Tsugaru Scarlet turnips, and they add a lovely color and taste to the milder tasting fermented kohlrabi and cabbage. All three starred on a meatless Reuben sandwich I made last week, using some of our homemade rye bread and Swiss cheese.

assembling the meatless Reuben

assembling the meatless Reuben

I’ve almost finished ordering seeds for the 2015 garden. I’ve already received my orders from Fedco, Johnny’s and Baker Creek, and the ones from Territorial, Totally Tomato and the Seed Savers Exchange are on the way. Seed starting will begin here in about a week, starting with parsley, lettuce, and some other cold weather greens. More on that later! To see what others are harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.

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Planning for the 2015 Garden

For me, part of the fun in gardening is researching and deciding what I will grow in the upcoming year. In addition to looking at seed catalogs and online listings, I also make notes of interesting varieties that other gardeners and bloggers are growing. Then I like to look at my records and notes for the past year to see how things did in our own garden.  A couple of weeks ago I posted my Stars of the Garden in 2014 recap which covers the 2014 garden. And I finished my seed inventory late last year, and that helps me know what seed I have leftover. With all those tasks done, I am now ready to come up with a list of what I plan to grow in 2015.

seedpacks2015

I love to experiment and try new things, so my growing list is usually pretty long. My wife and I try and grow as many of our vegetables and fruits as we can, so gardening is more than just a hobby for us.

Green Tiger and Black Cherry tomatoes

Green Tiger and Black Cherry tomatoes

Every year I like to try one or two new (to me) tomato varieties. Last year I grew Green Tiger, one of the recently released Artisan series of tomatoes. I also got a taste of several others in this line thanks to our friend Jan who grew a lot of them last year and sold them at farmer’s markets. My favorite was one called Blush, a yellow plum shaped variety that is striped with red and had a great sweet flavor. I’m going to try it this year, and it should make a nice companion to the green and yellow striped Green Tiger. I got my seeds from Johnny’s. I’m also trying Mexico Midget,  which is a small red cherry variety I got from the Seed Savers Exchange. For slicers I am going to trial one from the 1940’s called Sioux, and the Halladay family’s Mortgage Lifter tomato. Oops, I think that is four new tomatoes to try this year!

small-fruited tomatoes for dehydrating

small-fruited tomatoes for dehydrating

Juliet, Black Cherry and Sungold are three of my favorite small fruited types, and Golden Sweet is another one I like to grow. All of the four I just mentioned are great for dehydrating and oven roasting as well as eating fresh, and Juliet winds up in everything from sauces to salsas. Mountain Magic is a slightly larger ‘salad’ tomato that also does well for me. I plan on growing all of these again in 2015.

Gold Nugget and Cornell's Bush Delicata squash

Gold Nugget and Cornell’s Bush Delicata squash

Last year I tried several new winter squashes. I planted too many in the beds though, and some got smothered out. This year I hope to try Black Futsu, Marina di Chioggia, Seminole and Honeyboat Delicata. They will join the Thai squash Rai Kaw Tok that did so well last year, and Canada Crookneck which won our 2014 Pumpkin Smackdown. Violina Rugosa, Waltham Butternut and Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash are also in the plan, and Gold Nugget is another of my favorite winter squashes I will be growing again this year.

Imperial broccoli

Imperial broccoli

I’m still trying to figure out how to grow great broccoli. And I am slowly but surely finding varieties that do well for me. Packman is one I’ve grown for several years, and it’s a good one for heading up early, plus it makes a lot of side shoots. Green Magic was the best performer for the 2014 spring crop in terms of yield, while Imperial did the best in fall. I’m looking to try Gypsy or Goliath next year when I buy new seed. I’m also going to give broccoli rabe (aka rapini) another try next year.

Aji Dulce #2(front) and Trinidad Perfume(back) peppers

Aji Dulce #2(front) and Trinidad Perfume(back) peppers

The last few years I have been growing lots of different pepper varieties, and having fun making things like hot sauce, paprika and chile powder with them as well as enjoying them fresh. Last fall I experimented with smoking them, and now I have one more thing to do with all those peppers! This year I plan on trying a few new ones, including the C. bacchatum varieties Aji Golden, Kaleidoscope and Malawi Piquante and the C. chinense varieties Aji Panca and Rocotillo. The Malawi Piquante is very similar to the o/p peppers used to make the pricey trade-marked Peppadew pickled peppers you see on salad bars. They will join the tasty and versatile Aji Angelo, Aji Dulce and Trinidad Perfume peppers I have grown for a couple of years now. Some of the new ones may wind up in containers if I run out of garden space.

Jacob's Cattle beans

Jacob’s Cattle beans

I’ve been growing several dry shell beans the last couple of years with pretty good results. This year I’d like to try a bush black bean instead of the pole bean Cherokee Trail of Tears I’ve been growing. There are several out there to choose from, including Black Turtle (which I’ve grown before), and Black Valentine, but I believe I will try Black Coco this year as long as Fedco doesn’t run out of seeds. I’ve got my order in already so we will see. I will also be growing Good Mother Stallard and Jacob’s Cattle which are two of my favorite eating beans. I have a couple of others to choose from that I grew last year, as long as I don’t eat up all the seeds first!

Gold Marie and Musica pole beans

Gold Marie and Musica pole beans

I plan on growing my new favorite pole snap beans this year which are Fortex, Musica and Gold Marie. I’m also planning on growing a few of the purple podded Trionfo Violetto beans, which I have grown in the past. They should make a colorful addition to the overal mix.

I’m sure there will be later changes to my list, but this is pretty close to what I plan on growing this year. I’ve already ordered and received a few seeds, and now I can work on getting the rest.

Asian Greens: Komatsuna Carlton, Mizspoona, Mizuna Kyoto, Pak Choi Mei Qing, Senposai, Yukina Savoy

Beans (bush): Black Coco, Derby, Jacob’s Cattle

Beans (pole): Blue Speckled Tepary, Fortex, Gold Marie, Good Mother Stallard, Musica, Trionfo Violetto

Broccoli: Apollo, Diplomat, Green Magic, Gypsy, Goliath, Imperial

Broccoli Raab: Cima di Rapa Quarantino, Sorrento

Cabbage: Farao, KY Cross, Summer Glory

Carrots: Bolero, Hercules, Mokum, Nelson, Purple Haze, Yaya

Chard: Verde Da Taglio

Cucumber: Calypso, Dasher II, Green Fingers, Manny, Summer Dance,Tasty Green, Tasty Jade

Eggplant: Calliope, Dancer, Fairy Tale, Galine, Millionaire, Nadia

Greens: Arugula, Golden Corn Salad, Mache Large Dutch, Purslane Golden

Kale: Beedy’s Camden, Coalition Mix, Lacinato, Red Ursa, Sutherland, Western Front

Kohlrabi: Kolibri, Kossak, Winner

Lettuce: Anuenue, Black Seeded Simpson, Cardinale, Oak Leaf, Outstanding, Radichetta, Red Sails, Sierra, Simpson Elite, Slobolt, Spotted Trout(aka Forellenschluss), Tango, Winter Density

Melons: Brilliant Canary, Burpee’s Ambrosia, Diplomat Galia, Hollar’s Sensation

Onion: Ailsa Craig, Candy, Red Candy Apple, Red Torpedo Tropea, Sierra Blanca

Pepper(hot): Aji Angelo, Aji Dulce, Aji Golden, Aji Panca, Anaheim, Ancho 211, Biggie Chili, Bishop’s Crown, Cayenneta, Hot Happy Yummy, Holy Mole, Joe’s Long Cayenne, Malawi Piquante, Maule’s Red Hot, Mirasol, Mosquetero, Piccante Calabrese, Serrano Del Sol, Tam Jalapeno, Tarahumara Chile Colorado, Thai Bird, Trinidad Perfume

Pepper (sweet): Big Bertha, Corno di Toro Rosso, Dulce Rojo, Early Sunsation, Feher Ozon Paprika, Flavorburst, Goliath Goldrush, Gourmet, Sweet Happy Yummy, Jimmy Nardello’s, Orange Blaze, Topepo Rosso

Potato: Adirondack Blue, French Red Fingerling, Red Thumb, Yukon Gold

Radish: China Rose, Minowase Summer Cross, Misato Rose, Plum Purple, Shunkyo, Watermelon

Spinach: Amsterdam Prickly Seeded, Giant Noble, Gigante Inverno (Giant Winter), Viroflay

Squash(summer): Enterprise, Gentry, Partenon, Spineless Beauty, Romanesco, Striato d’Italia, Surething, White Scallop

Squash(winter): Black Futsu, Canada Crookneck, Cornell’s Bush Delicata, Gold Nugget, Kumi Kumi, Marina di Chioggia, Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck, Seminole, Thai Kang Kob, Thai Rai Kaw Tok, Triamble, Waltham Butternut

Sweet Potatoes: Beauregard, Carla’s Purple, Okinawa, Norma’s Purple

Tomatoes: Better Boy, Big Mama, Black Cherry, Blush, Celebrity, Champion II, Cherokee Purple, Eva Purple Ball, Golden Rave, Golden Sweet, Green Tiger, Health Kick, Jetsetter, Juliet, Ludmilla’s Red Plum, Mexico Midget, Mortgage Lifter (Halladay’s), Mountain Magic, Quadro, Rio Grande, Sioux, Sun Gold, Sun Sugar, Super Marzano, Super Sweet 100, Vinson Watts, Viva Italia

Turnips: Hakurei, Oasis, Tokyo Cross, Tsugaru Scarlet

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Saturday Spotlight: Red Sails Lettuce

Lettuce is an easy, quick growing vegetable that is popular with many home gardeners, including me. I almost always have a few lettuce plants growing, sometimes more than a few. Though lettuce thrives in the cooler growing conditions of spring and fall, there are types and varieties to grow for any season. Red Sails is one leaf lettuce variety that is truly good for all seasons.

Red Sails lettuce

Red Sails lettuce

Red Sails was an All America Selections winner in 1985. AAS winners are grown in trial gardens all over the U.S. and therefore must be able to perform well under a wide variety of growing conditions. I’ve been growing Red Sails for many years now, and it always does well for me. It’s one of a number of other AAS winners that I grow every year, including Juliet tomato, Fairy Tale eggplant, Gold Nugget winter squash and Holy Mole pepper. The seed for Red Sails is widely available from a number of sources.

head of Red Sails lettuce

head of Red Sails lettuce

I mentioned that Red Sails is a lettuce for all seasons, and last year proved that to me once again. Our November weather was much colder than normal, with temperatures dropping below freezing for 14 days that month. One night it got down to 9°F for a low, and the Red Sails plants protected by a cold frame survived all that and resumed growing in December when temperatures returned to normal. Red Sails also can take the heat, staying crisp and sweet without becoming bitter or bolting to seed.

mature leaf of Red Sails lettuce

mature leaf of Red Sails lettuce

The color of Red Sails varies with the amount of sunlight it receives, with more sun making for redder leaves. Individual leaves are reddish bronze near the edges, and more green near the center of the plant. The ruffled leaves can be harvested at any stage from baby leaves on up to full-sized.

Red Sails lettuce planted next to basil

Red Sails lettuce planted next to basil

If you are looking for a tasty and easy to grow leaf lettuce, you might consider trying Red Sails in your garden this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Saturday Spotlight, and I’ll be back soon with another variety. Until then, Happy Growing from Happy Acres!

To see my other Saturday Spotlights, visit the Variety Spotlights page.

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