must grow veggie plantsWe are just a few weeks away from starting our seeds indoors for this year’s garden – and as always – it’s time to share our top seven must grow veggie plants for the garden!

Our garden is used not only for fresh food throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall months – but with a lot of canning in mind – so our “must haves” are chosen for incredible flavor and production.

And as always –  feel free to share your favorites in the comments section below – we love to learn what you love to grow too!

So in no particular order – here are our 2016 must grow veggie plants:

The 7 Must Grow Veggie Plants for 2016

Must grow veggie plants
The San Marzano Tomato

San Marzano Tomato

If you love pasta sauce – then the San Marzano is for you! This variety is straight from Italy and produces a heavy load of thick, rich tasting tomatoes that will add incredible flavor to all of your dishes.

The San Marzano has a tiny seed cluster that is easily removed – making it an excellent choice for the home gardener wanting to make great-tasting canned sauce, salsa, stewed tomatoes and more.  They also perfect for salads as well!

San Marzano variety is also an excellent choice for containers and patio planters – it’s smaller plant size, tight clustered fruit and compact root structure make it perfect to grow.

Italian Roaster

Italian Roaster Peppers
Italian Roaster Peppers

This plant has now rocketed to the top of our list for peppers! It is one of the first peppers we have picked now for the last two years – and only seems to get better as the year goes on.

In fact – our Italian Roaster plants become loaded with huge peppers by mid summer – some of which measure  over 12″ long!

The peppers start out firm and green and turn to a beautiful red as they mature. Their thick walls make them great for stuffing or for holding up well on the grill – and their mild but sweet green bell-like taste is simply delicious. They have become our absolute favorite pepper to grow!

must grow veggie plantsBeauregard Sweet Potato

This dark red-orange sweet potato has turned into one of our favorites! It has a super-moist sweet tasting orange flesh – and stores incredibly well – making it a great choice for gardeners.

It is also an excellent choice for cool season areas – unlike a lot of the sweet potato varieties out there.

They do require a lot of sun, so make sure to plant them in a sunny area that will let them reach their full potential. Although they can be grown in traditional rows – we will be trialing them in our potato crates this year to save on growing space.

If you love sweet potatoes – you have to try growing the Beauregard!

The Atomic Red Carrots - Photo courtesy of Baker Creek Seeds
The Atomic Red Carrots – Photo courtesy of Baker Creek Seeds

Atomic Red Carrots

These carrots were not only easy to grow – but their deep red color make them a conversation piece! They are also high in lycopene, making them a very healthy choice to grow as well.

The Atomic Red performed really well in our raised beds, even through an extremely wet early Spring and Summer.

We love to add them to salads for their great taste and color – but they are also the perfect choice for cooked carrots with their thick and meaty texture.

Chinese Five Color Pepper

If you like hot peppers – you have to grow these! We first picked up these ornamental hot pepper seeds in Florida a few years back when visiting Mary’s parents – and what a lucky find!

planting vegetables
A mass planting of Chinese Five Color

They grow hundreds of 1″ peppers on each plant in a beautiful array of colors from light purple to orange to deep red.  The plants are so beautiful in fact that we began to grow them all around our farm’s landscape beds to add color and interest.

Their flavor is simply unbeatable, with a spicy zing that doesn’t linger on the tongue. We use them fresh in salads and salsas – but when dried – hands down they make the most amazing pepper flakes and pepper grind you will ever taste.  It has the heat of cayenne pepper – but with so much more flavor!

Chocolate Cherry Tomato

Chocolate Cherry Tomato
Chocolate Cherry Tomato

As far as cherry tomatoes go – the Chocolate Cherry has become our clear-cut winner!

This heirloom variety produced well both in the garden, and in our patio planter at the house – producing hundreds upon hundreds of perfectly round dark reddish-brown fruits that burst with flavor.

They are perfect in salads, salsa – and were very easy to juice as well. One note – one or two plants may be more than enough – the sheer volume can be overwhelming! We harvested over 80 from one mature plant on a single day this past summer.

Once you taste a chocolate cherry tomato – you will never look at cherry tomatoes the same again!

Parris Island Lettuce

must grow veggie plants
Parris Island Lettuce

This has become the go-to lettuce in our garden!

It is a classic heirloom romaine variety – with compact, slightly curled dark green leaves. It has as a crisp and sweet flavor – making it perfect for salads! It is also much slower to bolt that our lettuce varieties – and keeps on producing long after the others have succumbed to the heat of summer.

Parris Island grows best in full sun, but can handle some partial shade as well.

So there you have it – our top  7 must grow veggie plants for 2016!  Feel free to share some of your favorites in the comments below.

Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary

Old World Garden Farms

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