Garden Happenings

Tomate Verde #2

Purple Coban Tomatillo

I haven’t blogged in so long, and the only excuse I have is that I have been enjoying the summer sunshine and really relishing the fact that I don’t have to sit in front of a computer. While I have been trying lots of new recipes, I have really focused on tending to our awesome garden. I wanted to give you a peak at some of the things we planted this year. We ordered the majority of our seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, and purchased some more specific items from Totally Tomatoes, Native Seeds/SEARCH, Botanical Interests, and Burpee. My dad usually starts the peppers and tomatoes indoors in March and we transplant everything around the middle of May. For everything else, we usually direct sow around the same time.

 Pictured above is a variety of tomatillo called the Purple Coban. The plant itself is HUGE! It is about 5′ tall and looks like a tree. The amount of tomatillos on each plant is out of control! We are going to be swimming in tomatillos. This variety comes from Coban, Guatemala and is supposed to produce purplish green fruits that are 1″ in diameter. We plan on using these for salsas.


Here is a picture of our garden. It is 20′ x 40′ and it is located in our backyard. The area receives full sun for the majority of the day, and our only major problem is keeping the rabbits, groundhogs, and deer out. In the garden, we planted 6 varieties of peppers, 5 varieties of tomatoes (including a tomatillo), cucumbers, watermelon, and cantaloupe. Scattered elsewhere around the house, we also planted pumpkins, basil, oregano, corn, and a variety of flowers.

Tomate Roma

Martino’s Roma Tomato

Martino’s Roma is supposed to provide great yields of delicious plum-shaped tomatoes. The plant is compact, and while it is supposed require little staking, ours is out of control, so we had to stake it. The fruit should weigh about 2-3 ounces and be very meaty with few seeds. Can’t wait to use these for salsas.

Chile Mirasol (Guajillo)

Chile Mirasol

This is the chile mirasol, which means “looking at the sun” in Spanish. This chile is often left on the plant until red and then dried to be used in lots of Mexican dishes. It is called the guajillo when dried, and we plan on trying our hand at drying these once they are ready. The pepper should be about 1″ wide and 5″ long. They are relatively mild and usually bring a beautiful red color to many salsas.

Chile Habanero

Mustard Habanero Pepper

Last year we had a lot of luck with some habanero plants that we purchased at a local nursery. This year we started these ones from seed, and they have been doing tremendously well. This habanero should ripen to a unique mustard color and then to a brilliant orange. This variety was started in Kutztown, Pennsylvania and produces a very hot-tasting pepper.

Chile de Árbol

Chile de Árbol de Baja California Sur

Here is another chile we plan to dry. It is called the chile de árbol. It is a very thin pepper that will become about 4″ long. Although some people eat these fresh, they are mainly harvested when bright red and then dried. While they are small in size, they have a ton of heat.

Craig’s Grande Jalapeño Pepper

This is our second year planting jalapeños. We had a bumper crop last year, and canned an overwhelming number of jars. This jalapeños will become big and fat, and it appears that it is turning a deep purplish color. If you are growing jalapeños and they appear to have cracking on the skin, don’t worry. It is a sign of a healthy crop.

Tomate Cherry

A Grappoli D’Inverno Tomato

This is called a “winter grape” tomato and comes from Italy. Italian farmers used to hang the fruit-covered vines indoors and the fruit stayed fresh into the winter. They are supposed to be very flavorful, and can be eaten fresh or dried.

Tomate Tappy's
Tappy’s Heritage Tomato

This tomato is supposed to yield large, smooth globe-shaped fruit that has fantastic flavor. It is disease-resistant and provides great yields.

Calabaza de Castilla

Musque de Provence Pumpkin

This is our second year growing the Musque de Provence, Calabaza de Castilla, or Cinderella pumpkin. They did extremely well last year and practically took over the entire backyard. The pumpkins are enormous, too! We had one that weighed 29 lbs. last year. They are flat-shaped and have deep lobes, and they kind of look like a big wheel of cheese. The skin will turn a beautiful burnt orange color when they ripen. This pumpkin is traditional of southern France, but it is used a lot in Mexican cooking. We use it to make Tamales de Calabaza in the fall.


Telegraph Improved Cucumber

Cucumbers are one of my favorite vegetables. This variety is supposed to be crisp and mild with few seeds. Cross my fingers, it is a high-yielding variety.


Italian Large Leaf Basil

I love using basil in fresh tomato sauces and paired with fresh mozzarella. This variety is growing wonderfully in these small containers. The smell is amazing!


Musa ‘Basjoo’ Banana

I know this is way over the top, but we are growing our own bananas in hopes that we will be able to use the leaves for tamales. Banana leaves are used a lot in Mexican coastal cooking, and since Roberto is from Veracruz, we always find that we need them. Unfortunately, the only type of banana leaves that we can find around here are frozen. When we defrost them, they always tend to crack and are not as pliable as we would like.

This banana is supposed to withstand temperatures below zero with proper mulching. It grows many feet in a season and will grow up to 13′ in height. Although it does produce bananas, they are inedible. We are planning to bring one indoors for the winter and leave one outside to see how it fairs.

Chile Guero (Banana Hot)

Banana Hot Pepper

We have been growing Banana Hots for years now. We love to eat them stuffed or pickle them for eating year round. They also freeze well and provide lots of peppers all season long. They are slightly hot, but not overpowering.


African Crackerjack Marigolds

These marigolds are unbelievable! They are currently about 2′ tall and have yet to bloom. They are supposed to get big, double blooms that range in color from lemon yellow to fire orange.  Can’t wait to see what they look like!


Slo-bolt Cilantro

Our cilantro is kind of on its way out because the warm weather has arrived, but it was very abundant in early June. I think, I’ll plant some more once the weather gets cooler. It did much better in the ground than in a pot.

Zinnia Pink Señorita

Pink Señorita Zinnia

My favorite garden attraction right now is the charming zinnias. We have three different varieties, and they get more beautiful each day. When this zinnia first opened up, I was kind of disappointed because it didn’t seem very full. But, as the days went on, it developed three layers of coral-colored petals. I love that it has a frilly skirt. It is about 2-3″ in diameter.

Zinnia Dream

Dream Zinnia

Our second variety of zinnia is just opening. I have a feeling that it is also going to become fuller like the Pink Señorita. It is a Byzantine purple color and is also about 2-3″ in diameter.

Zinnia Cherry Queen

Cherry Queen Zinnia

Our last zinnia is just opening up. It is a brilliant, scarlet-red and is supposed to have double blooms, too. All zinnias make terrific cut flowers which is why I planted them. I can’t wait to enjoy their color all summer long.

What is planted in your garden this year?


2 thoughts on “Garden Happenings

  1. Lola's Cocina says:

    I cannot believe everything that you have growing in your beautiful garden! I had started quite a few things from seed this season, but then left them out one day when it poured all day so most of my seedlings drowned. All I have now are a few herbs — mint, sage, epazote, basil, and lemon balm. In terms of veggies, I have two types of tomatoes, serranos, and bell peppers. Oh and I planted a quince fruit bush that supposedly bears fruit after three years.

    If you have any tips on how to keep away the rabbits, pass them along. I almost died when I saw my celery disappear overnight because of them!

    Your zinnia’s look great!

    • Nicole says:

      Hi Lola! It’s such a bummer that you lost your seedlings. One quick swoop of bad weather and all your hard work is gone. I should plant some epazote next year! So, in terms of animals, here’s what I’ve found. The groundhog and deer have completely destroyed our garden in the past. The only way to keep them away is with a fence. We have found that we needed to put chicken wire (sort of curved into the ground) along the bottom of the fence and fasten it with a wire pin. This has also keep the majority of rabbits out, too. We also tried sprinkling ground up habanero around the garden. This kept all animals out for several days until it rained. They won’t come near your garden because they can’t stand the heat of the pepper. Hope those pesky bunnies stay away. It’s the worst when you look out and find all of the leaves nibbled off!

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