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Veg variety

Carrot collection

This isn’t the first time I’ve pondered the question of variety on TFB, but the consideration recurs, so here’s another take… It would seem to be all around easier to grow just one variety of each veg crop, but that wouldn’t be any fun! One round, red beet, one big, round, red tomato, one shell pea, and so on. That’s the standard approach for most of the other full market garden growers at our small farmers’ market. There is SOME variation: green and yellow snap beans, maybe French Breakfast (red and white) radishes along with the standard round red ones, a few types of winter squash… Which is cool. Why bother growing three or more types of orange carrot, let alone orange (Nelson), purple (Purple Haze), and white (White Satin, for the first time this year)? I dunno. By growing several varieties of each veg crop, I’ve learned a bit, like the performance difference between hybrid and open pollinated varieties (in general, the OP tend to do better when field conditions get a little extreme, but that’s not a….scientific conclusion!). It’s not to be a novelty act, the guy at the market with the purple carrots, golden beets and round, yellow cucumbers. Or the round Eightball zucchini (below). If efficient tiny farming was the sole goal, I don’t have a really compelling…justification for all of the complicating seed ordering, transplant organizing, and extra direct seeding work it takes to grow as many different crops as I can, and numerous varieties of each. On the other hand, growing and offering variety, choice, and the non-standard make tiny farming so much fun. Which sounds good to me! It seemed like the thing to do from when I first pored over a seed catalog six years ago, and nothing’s changed my mind since! :)

Eightball zucchini



  1. They make eating fun too! Last night, instead of just enjoying the taste of a fresh sliced tomato with dinner, we cut up four different varieties. We had a tasting session and compared notes. Our dinner was THAT much better because  we stopped to really consider it.

  2. I love seeing different and unusual varieties at the farmer’s market — I especially love purple carrots!

    Also, as to the question of ‘why bother’, I’d say you’re promoting genetic diversity and preserving heirloom varieties that might otherwise disappear if people like you weren’t growing them!

  3. Robert

    I grow several kinds of Italian round zucchini and sell them at the local farmer’s market. I have to explain a lot as to what they are and how to use them. I have a light colored round zucchini that people seem to think is everything but a zucchini. One woman last year walked by and said to me “that is a funny looking pumpkin!” I replied “it is not a pumpkin” to which she said “yes it is!” Once I get the people to try the zucchini they always seem to come back for more later!

  4. How is the taste of the purple haze carrots? I’ve never grown them but I’d like to try. Are they fairly sweet?

  5. The tragedy here is that most customer at market appreciate the diversity, but will stick with the tried-and-true variety for their purchase.  A grower I worked with last summer stopped growing purple beans.  As he told me, everybody would comment on how nice the purple beans looked, but would end up buying the green and the yellow ones.
    I guess it depends on market, though.  If you’re lucky, people in your area will be adventurous and willing to try new things.  Also, it might be a good marketing strategy to grow a little amount of unusual stuff, even if it is a hard sell, just to set yourself apart from other vendors.  I plan on doing exactly that in my own tiny farm.  We will see how that works!

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