Ask Farmer Tim: Peek into the Seed Pantry
Early spring is an important time for Tim King, who is in charge of Field Operations at Freedom Farms.
He’s busy in the greenhouse seeding and transplanting. Early season crops planted last fall are ready to harvest, and outside the greenhouse the fields are being prepped for the upcoming growing season. This month, we asked Farmer Tim about his favorite varieties of seeds, to get a sneak peek at what Freedom Farms will be offering at the Farmers Market locations soon.
When do you order your seeds?
Tim King: I order my seeds in December. Each fall, I clean up my fields and make up a plan to plant the fields in the following year. In December, I take an inventory of the seeds I have on hand and place my order.
What do you look for in a seed source?
TK: Most importantly, my seed source needs to provide the go-to varieties I know and love. I look for high quality, and good pricing. I’m also always looking for new varieties so that I can improve our crops each year.
What are you the most excited about trying this year?
TK: We’re going to try growing a no till potato. We’re not going to till the ground at all. Instead, we will lay the potatoes down, unroll a bale of straw on them, and see how it goes. Each year, we try to disturb the soil less and less. It’s important to develop new growing methods to make that happen.
Can you share some of your favorite varieties with us?
TK: Sure. Here of some of the varieties I use every year, because the flavor, quality, and consistency are exceptional.
Brandywine Heirloom tomatoes are my favorite. They have an amazing flavor and do well.
Artisan Blend This is a new blend of heirloom tomatoes I’m trying this year. This blend is a great mix of heirloom grape and cherry tomatoes. There is a lot of color, and the mixture will really bring any table to life. It looks great in a quart basket and tastes great in a salad.
I’m a big fan of leaf lettuce. I don’t grow iceberg lettuce, because leaf lettuce has a much better taste and nutritional content. Buy some of each of these types to get the best nutrient quality.
New Fire Red This red leaf variety is time tested. We’ve been growing it since I was a kid. Red leaf lettuce has a high vitamin and mineral content, and this variety does very well.
Black Seeded Simpson This is another classic variety that produces nice big leaves with a bright light green color. It’s been around a long time, because it’s the best.
Panisse Lettuce Everybody loves oak leaf lettuce. It has a very dense head compared to leaf lettuce, but is not quite as dense as a romaine. Panisse has a light green color and a great texture. It works well in sandwiches and really brightens up a salad. This variety has a nice shape to the leaf, and it’s not a lot of work to grow.
Eureka I personally prefer pickling cucumbers, and the Eureka is a great one. I like the crispness of the pickles and the size of the seeds. Some cucumbers can get overdeveloped, with tough skin and big seeds. Pickling cukes are tender and thin skinned, with small seeds. The harvest time is very important for cucumbers. We always pick them when they are smaller than an inch and a half in diameter. In fact, pickling cucumbers should be an inch or under. Some people are proud to pick a big cucumber, but that means you will have huge seeds inside, thick skin, and a bitter taste. A cucumber should have a mild subtle flavor that is not overpowering. Plant the Eureka, pick it when it is under an inch in thickness, and you’ll have good results every time.
Brunswick This is an older heirloom variety that still does very well. Great quality, great taste.
I love peppers – snack peppers, sweet peppers, mild peppers, and especially hot peppers. Here are my favorites.
Inferno This is a great hot banana pepper. I’ve tried other varieties but always come back to this one. It has a great yield, a nice size, and the thickness of the wall is great.
Pageant A very nice sweet banana pepper.
Revolution This is a good, reliable green bell pepper that turns red in the fall.
Red Knight This is a good red bell pepper. I also like Aristotle.
Yummy Mix Peppers These are the perfect snack mix. Great color, taste, and variety.
Mammoth This is my favorite jalapeño pepper. I like hot peppers, and this is a great one.
Walla Walla This is a very good, reliable sweet onion.
Candy This is the Pennsylvania yellow sweet onion. The Candy onion is a regional favorite, and I highly recommend it.
Cabernet When I’m planting red onions, I go with Cabernet. This onion has a really nice shape and size. It’s medium large and has a very good flavor.