Big Sky Country

Defying unruly weather and a short growing season, Montana gardeners grow and prosper.

By Therese Ciesinski

Photography by Andrew Geiger


Varieties That Win in the West
Organic Gardening asked Linda Stoudt to choose the vegetable varieties that perform and taste the best in her climate-challenged garden. Here, in her own words, are her top picks and seed sources:

‘Boltardy’ beet. I was pleasantly surprised with this beet; I usually grow ‘Bull’s Blood’ or ‘Early Wonder’. We canned pickled beets and made a nice horseradish-and-beet relish. (Pinetree Garden Seeds)

‘Fin des Bagnols’ bush bean. These are beautiful, prolific beans. We eat them as if they are asparagus, with our fingers. (The Cook’s Garden)

‘Giant Red’ celery. This tall vegetable with red stalks pleases the eye and palate. The flavor is assertive—not for those who like mild tastes. (High Mowing Organic Seeds)

‘True Black Brandywine’ tomato. This is the most beautiful tomato, and the flavor makes me swoon. Because of its size, it is a challenge to grow, but I have had remarkable success using areas that provide residual heat in the cool nights. (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds)

Kailaan (Chinese kale). This brassica did very well under row covers. The mild taste compliments pork and chicken. (Botanical Interests)

‘Ailsa Craig’ onion. This long-day onion keeps well for us, despite what catalog descriptions say, and does not become sulfurous. (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for seeds; Dixondale Farms for plants)

‘Krantz’, ‘Sangre’, ‘Carola’, and ‘Rose Finn Apple’ potatoes. I usually save tubers for planting each year. There were lunkers to behold last season. (Seed Savers Exchange and local sources)

‘Marina di Chioggia’ winter squash. Although the short season does not allow for the sugar warts to form, the squash harvested has been excellent sliced and grilled with olive oil and herbes de Provence. (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds)