Josh Leveque and his family grow a lot of the food they eat. They have a huge garden overlooking Little Harbor in Woods Hole and each year they put up gallons and gallons of vegetables. The season starts with lettuce.
“So we really like it’s a Boston or a Bibb lettuce called Nancy and that’s best in the spring, so that’s the first lettuce that we start. And then we go through the summer where lettuces struggle, especially head lettuces with the heat, we use something called Batavian lettuce.”
Batavian lettuce leaves have more body, they don’t get bitter and they don’t bolt. Josh likes the flavor. They use one called Nevada and one called Magenta.
Batavian lettuces are also known as summer crisps or French crisps.
Some of his other favorite varieties for annuals include tomatillos. They like toma verde, Rio grande, and de milpa.
“We take the papery husk off the tomatillos and broil them until they’re really black and charred and then we put them into a food processor and grind it up and that’s the base for salsa and a number of dishes we make with tomatillos and then we freeze that in two cup increments and our goal is to have at least 2 gallons of that in the freezer. And sun gold cherry tomatoes, I think we grew nine sun gold cherry tomato plants and two slicer tomato plants,” Josh said.
Josh likes to try different slicers every year—whatever looks good for seedlings at the farmers market. And the sun golds are for dehydrating—the Leveques dry them to use in winter salads, toss with pasta, or grind up as a filling for ravioli. Peppers are another family favorite:
“There’s tremendous variety and range and heat and amazing flavors in peppers that’s what’s really intrigued me. I like heat you know but it’s not a contest like how hot can I go. And one pepper that stood out for flavor not necessarily for yield was aji benito.”
Aji benitos are small and red and they’re pretty hot—on a scale from 1-10, seed packets list them as a seven. Josh says the flavor is something like a cross between a tomato and a guava. He and his family do a lot of seed trials to get really specific about which cultivars they like. Last year they lost a lot of labels to rain and wind, but one trial stood out as a success.
Here's where Brussels sprouts come in.
“Brussels sprouts we also did a trial and the marking system did work (woohoo!) but we only grew four plants of four different varieties but one stood out: Dagon had nice yield, big sprouts, didn’t fall over, and the sprouts held pretty well in the field.”
Josh also swears by Red Russian kale and delicata squash, and he says if you want to overwinter or store carrots look for old European and Japanese varieties—Europe and Asia is where carrots are originally from. As for perennials, he and his family recently added a raspberry patch in an unusual color.
“We have tried the yellow variety that Johnny’s has I believe it’s called Anne, and really liked that, you know that’s the one that we really look forward to the yellow raspberry.”
Yellow Anne raspberries are a favorite at my house too—the flavor is sweet and a little more subtle than traditional red raspberries with hints of lemon and apricot.