The Annual Test Garden Review

Meet the organic growers who test vegetables for this magazine—and some of their favorite varieties.

By Doug Hall

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Bush Wax Beans

'Beurre de Rocquencourt'

Seed source: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Test Gardener: Leslie Halleck
Dallas, Texas

“In regards to heirloom ‘Beurre de Rocquencourt’ wax beans, what’s not to like?” asks Leslie Halleck of Dallas. “First off, simply saying the name gives one the feeling of being a supremely sophisticated gardener. But don’t let the fancy name fool you; in the garden this bean is both a racehorse and a workhorse. Plants are reliable and yield early (about 55 days from sowing) and produce heavier the more you harvest.”

Leslie, who previously managed a retail garden center, is now a horticultural consultant. Years of gardening experience have taught her what vegetable varieties perform best in Dallas’s unforgiving climate, including ‘Beurre de Rocquencourt’.

“They are heat-tolerant, which comes in handy down here in Texas,” she says. “Because it’s a fast crop, we can sow twice for both summer and fall harvest. Plants can tolerate a bit of shade in the afternoon and still produce well.”

Best of all, this bean is tasty. “‘Beurre de Rocquencourt’ offers up a wonderful natural buttery flavor,” says Leslie. “It’s the ‘Yukon Gold’ of the bean world, if you will. I typically lightly steam or braise them with a bit of garlic and butter, although the natural flavor of these beans doesn’t require the addition of much butter or oil. Their crispness and color make them good for pickling, as well.”

Carrot

'Yaya'

Seed source: John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds

Test Gardener: Michelle Zettel
Challis, Idaho

When it comes to vegetables, kids can be a picky crowd. That’s one reason Michelle Zettel, the mother of two sons, always plants ‘Yaya’ carrots.

“I tried these carrots when I first started test gardening for Organic Gardening, 6 years ago,” Michelle says. “My older son, then 10 years old, has always been a fresh carrot connoisseur.” ‘Yaya’ immediately became his carrot of choice. “He has always said they are the best-tasting carrots ever.”

Michelle, who grew up on a farm, now operates a whitewater rafting company with her husband. In her high-elevation garden in mountainous central Idaho, frosts in the middle of summer are not unheard-of. Cool-season vegetables, including carrots, are the best season extenders.

“I usually leave them in the ground over the winter,” Michelle says. “I cover the rows with bales of straw, which insulates the ground from freezing too hard to dig. When I want fresh carrots, I go out, move a bale of straw, and dig them up. I think this is the perfect way to have fresh carrots all winter.”

And ‘Yaya’ is Michelle’s choice for a perfect carrot. A Nantes-type variety, it grows about 6 inches long with a stubby, smooth profile.

Roast these carrots with Mint and Honey for a delicious side dish!

Portaits by Robert Peacock, Paulette Phlipot.

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