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2005 Vegetable Garden
Martha Maletta, Home Horticultural Consultant
Dated -  January 21, 2005

Starting to think about the 2005 vegetable garden? Want to try something different? Rutgers Cooperative Research and Extension has four new Fact Sheets that inspire trying and instruct on growing globe artichokes, edamame, international eggplants, and tomatillos. All of them are available from RCE of Hunterdon County, 908-788-1339, or online from Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

Artichoke was a perennial crop restricted to areas with mild winters, e.g., California, until varieties were developed that could be grown as annuals. Based on recent research done at the RCRE Snyder Research and Extension Farm near Pittstown, the information in “Globe Artichoke Production in New Jersey” is aimed at commercial growers and home gardeners. Seeds should be ordered soon for planting indoors in March. (Seed and plant sources are listed in the Fact Sheet.) The secret to good flower bud production in artichokes, the bud being the edible part of the plant, is vernalization. This is simply the exposure of the transplants to about two weeks of cool temperatures before they are set in the field. Vernalization is most easily accomplished by placing the plants in a cold frame. Details on growing artichoke are well covered in the Fact Sheet. Edamame (eh-dah-MAH-may) is known variously as edible, garden, and vegetable-type soybean.

There are several readily available varieties, some of which have been tested for northern New Jersey at the Snyder Farm. Some of the suggested faster maturing varieties (75 to 80 days) listed in “Edamame: the Vegetable Soybean” are Early Hukucho, Beer Friend, Lucky Lion, Green Legend and Envy. Edamame culture is similar to that of snap beans. It is best planted once soil has warmed up -usually by late May- and can benefit from a seed inoculant (Bradyrhizobium japonica) that is specific for soybeans. (Some seed may be sold with inoculant.)

The crop is harvest for best eating quality when the pods are dark green, the seeds are still green and the pod is almost but not completely filled out. All the details on growing, harvesting, serving and preserving edamame, as well as health information and a list of seed sources, are covered in the Fact Sheet.There are many more sorts of eggplants than are typically available in supermarkets. Different skin color, color pattern and thickness, varied fruit shape and size and flesh texture and flavor characterize the large number of varieties that can be found in seed catalogs. My two years of research with the cultivar ‘Millionaire’ sold me on this long, dark colored, thin-skinned, meaty and mild Japanese eggplant. Eggplant is truly an international crop. The Rutgers suggested varieties, listed in the Fact Sheet “International Eggplants”, originate from India, Italy, Brazil, Ukraine, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, France and Greece. Eggplant’s widespread production and use no doubt reflects cultivation since 500 B.C.One secret to growing eggplant is not planting too early.

This is definitely a warm season crop and should only be transplanted when soil has warmed to 65 º F and average daily air temperature is 65 to 70 º F, probably at least early June in Hunterdon. Seed should not be started indoors until about 8 weeks before the average last frost date, mid-May for Hunterdon. A key to getting the best eating from eggplant is to harvest before fruit are over-mature, seedy and bitter. Some of these international varieties will be quite small when ready to harvest. Detailed cultural information, pest control suggestions and seed sources are given in the Fact Sheet.For those who enjoy Mexican cuisine, tomatillos, a key ingredient in many dishes, are an easy to grow addition to the home garden. These tomato, eggplant and pepper relatives are a warm season crop, and plants should be started indoors for harvest beginning in mid-summer that should continue through the season. Like tomatoes, homegrown, vine-ripened tomatillos are reportedly unrivaled by the typical supermarket offerings. Full information on varieties and seed sources, culture, pest problems, harvest and preparation are covered in the Fact Sheet “Tomatillos”.