Selecting different vegetables
No matter how wild our winter and spring may be, this is the time for getting certain warm season plants started. If a Mojave gardener wants to grow unusual tomatoes — orange, striped, purple — it will be necessary to find seeds. The less common ones are rarely, if ever, available as transplants from nurseries or any of the big box stores. Why is this an issue? Why would anyone go out of their way to get unique types of tomatoes when it is possible simply to go to the store and buy them?
One might as well ask — “why choose something that tastes wonderful when there are tasteless varieties that are so plentiful?” The question answers itself.
On the other hand, why seek out cultivars that come in different colors, shapes and sizes? Is there more work involved in growing them?
Some heirloom tomatoes are full of flavor, but may be a little fussy growing here, where the heat is so high and the humidity so low.
No more labor is involved in producing a small purple tomato than a small red one. Again, the cherry-type varieties are usually plentiful in supermarkets. Like many other purple vegetables, purple tomatoes may actually have more antioxidant properties than the more familiar red ones. Having grown them in previous years, I can attest to their wonderful flavor.
The requirements for growing peppers are similar to their tomato cousins, although peppers tend to tolerate high temperatures somewhat better. None of them is particularly drought tolerant. They are also available in a range of shapes and colors, not to mention different levels of spiciness.
In grocery stores, the common sweet pepper, or bell pepper, is usually green. Other colors, like yellow or orange, are generally more expensive. People who are not gardeners are surprised to discover that when almost any pepper is left on the plant, it will ripen to a bright red. The flesh of these becomes thinner as it ripens. Those for sale in supermarkets are hybrids that plant breeders have selected to keep their thick walls even when ripe. Here again, growing them from seed allows the intrepid gardener to make different selections. Why not look for seeds to grow chocolate brown one, or even lavender?
Hot peppers are even easier to grow than their sweet cousins are. These hot fruits are generally smaller than bell peppers and range in levels of fire. Many of us might find jalapenos and poblanos wildly hot if we were to bite one, but compared to others, they are downright chilly. Cayennes, serranoes, and habaneros can start a conflagration in one’s mouth, especially for those people who are unfamiliar with hot foods.
Small hot peppers, which ripen to a vivid crimson, will grow with a minimum of labor. Even if they are not picked for dinner, these are attractive ornaments on the plant. If you opt to grow them, remember not to touch your eyes if you handle them, for obvious reasons.Dr. Angela O’Callaghan is the Social Horticulture Specialist for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Email or call O’Callaghan at 702-257-5581.