Hello you Rays of Sunshine! Have you wondered what weird and wonderful plants you came
home with? Well look no further, we have put a small description together to help you
discover what you are going to grow and eat this summer. If you cannot determine what the
plant is from the pictures below, plant it anyways and enjoy the mystery!
Generally, most herbs, vegetable or fruiting plants love sun and moist soil. In a perfect world
“full sun” conditions means +8 hrs sun. “Part sun” means about 4 hours. Will your plants rebel
against you if they do not get all 8 hours? No, but they may protest by deciding not to give you
as many fruits. However, if you plant a full sun herb in a deep dark corner under your deck –
let’s just say it might not survive for too long.
Moist soil means that they generally enjoy a bit of water – not too much (aka. a swimming pool)
and not too little (aka a desert)! Water as required to ensure your green babies don’t shrivel up
and lay down for a ‘long nap’ in your garden bed. Don’t water so much that they start to turn
(Aka. The Tomato Family)
(Aka, The Cabbage Family)
Herbs are amazing fresh and are best planted in a sunny location somewhere close to your kitchen for easy access!
Identifying Feature: Although thin, these shiny leaves are highly aromatic. Gently pinch the tip of a leaf and smell. If you are reminded of delicious freshly cooked pizza, you successfully identified your herb. In addition, look for roundish leaves that have a smooth to slightly toothed margin (outer edge of the leaf). The stem is also notably square instead of round.
Cultivar: Genovese Basil
Interesting Fact: Basil can be planted as a companion to tomato plants as it can deter pests and improve flavour.
Identifying Feature: This herb has fern-like fine leaves that nearly look like carrot tops. If you thought you had a carrot – look again it is probably dill! (especially since we did not grow carrots this year!) The leaves should also have the fragrance of pickles.
Cultivar: Bouquet Dill
Interesting Fact: Let dill go to flower to help attract beneficial insects like lady bugs and lacewings to your garden!
Parsley vs. Cilantro
Identifying Feature: Now here is a zinger to identify by leaf! Both parsley and cilantro are similar – with very different taste and cuisine uses. Maybe you are one of the lucky few who carry a special gene in your DNA that causes cilantro to taste like soap (it’s really a thing, see here – https://www.britannica.com/story/why-does-cilantro-taste-like-soap-to-some-people). If your taste buds cannot tell you the difference, focus on the details of the leaf. Cilantro has a more rounded, full leaf. Parsley has a more divided leaf with three noticeable segments.
Cultivar: Santo Cilantro or Dark Green Italian Parsley
Interesting Fact: Did you know that cilantro seeds are the popular spice called coriander! Collect these seeds to either replant more cilantro or to use in your cooking!
Identifying Feature: The smell of this wonderful herb may remind you of your grandmothers stuffing. Give a little pinch and sniff to test it out. The leaves are a dull green-gray and have little tiny hairs on the top surface.
Cultivar: Common Sage
Interesting Fact: Not only do beneficial insects love this plant but hummingbirds will also feed from the flowers.
Identifying Feature: This herb gives you the other delicious smell of pizza. The leaves are the size of mouse ears with a little bit of fuzz.
Cultivar: Organic Greek Oregano
These wonderful plants are grown to eat their foliage. The general rule of thumb is to harvest old leaves first by gently removing the leaf from the stem. If you wait too long however, old leaves will start to get tough and bitter.
Identifying Feature: Similar in use to spinach, this leafy green actually has some burgundy on the leaf. No other plants in your tray should have this colouration.
Cultivar: Red Leaf Amaranth
Height: 3 feet
Interesting Fact: Eat the leaves raw in a salad or cooked like spinach.
Identifying Feature: Although spinach leaves can look similar to basil to the novice plants-person, they definitely don’t taste the same! It should taste like spinach . This plant is also more compact than other crops with the leaves sprouting from the base of the plant. Another great identification tip is to look for their accompanying helicopter-esk ‘seed leaf’ or cotyledon (see picture below). The leaves are also glossy and have a whole leaf margin (the outer edge of the leaf does not have any spikes or edges).
Cultivar: Olympia & Monstrueux de Viroflay
Interesting Fact: That bitter taste you often get from spinach is the oxalic acid found in the plant cells. Some cultivars have more than others.
Identifying Feature: Whether you call it Pac Choi, Bok Choy or Pok Choi – identifying this little baby from the related collards, cabbage or kale can be tough for the plant novice. Fear not! First, we did not grow any collards this year. Second, pac choi grows very quickly and is ready to harvest in a month. Look for rounded leaves with a thick bulbous white stem at the base.
Cultivar: Ching Chiang Shanghai
Interesting Fact: You can harvest the older leaves first or wait until the plant has matured to harvest the whole plant together.
Identifying Feature: Here’s the good news! We selected the fun rainbow cultivar making this chard easier to identify. Here’s the bad news…. You might have a yellow, pink or white selection. Is that really bad news? No, it will just make your garden more colourful. Look for the glossy leaves and thick colourful midrib (thick center vein on the leaf) to identify it as chard. Be cautious however – chard seedlings look deceivingly similar to beet seedlings! (See the beets section for more info).
Cultivar: Rainbow Chard
Interesting Fact: By harvesting the oldest leaves first, these plants will provide plenty of chard until it freezes!
Identifying Feature: You might be getting cross-eyed at this stage, thinking that all these leaves look the same! It’s true, they are similar but the differences are there. Kale’s secrete is in the leaf edges (called margins) – you will notice these leaves have a wavy or undulating margin. The leaves are also dull (not shiny). Kale is part of the Brassica family and just like any family…all Brassicas have a tendency to look very similar when they are baby plants. Sometimes you just have to be patient and see how they develop into their awkward teenage stage and future responsible adults.
The other important thing to know about kale is that there are 3 different varieties this year which look and taste very different from each other.
Cultivar: Bear Necessities Kale, Scarlet Kale, Lacinato Kale
Height: 16” – 36”
Interesting Fact: Kale contains higher levels of beta-carotene than any other green vegetable, and is also high in vitamin C and calcium.
Solanaceous (aka. The Tomato Family)
Welcome to the nightshade family. Unlike the actual nightshade weed however, these plants develop lovely edible fruits for you to enjoy. The trick to any Solanaceous plant is to provide lots of sun and heat!
Identifying Feature: Tomato leaves are separated into several small leaflets, as seen in the photo. The leaves are dull and have little hairs on them. The stems also have hairs. Tomatoes also release a “special” (unpleasant) smell when the leaves are bruised that screams “don’t eat me”, hence why many people use tomato leaf clippings to make their own pest deterrent spray.
There are two types of growing habits for tomatoes – determinate (bush) and indeterminate (vine). See this link to learn more about each variety and how to properly support the plant.
Cultivar: This year we grew many, many different cultivars. Enjoy!
Height: 4 feet to 7 feet
Interesting Fact: Determinate tomato plants ripen a heavy crop over a few weeks. Indeterminate varieties bear fruit continuously until frost.
Identifying Feature: Peppers have glossy green leaves with a whole leaf margin (no ruffly edges on these leaves!). Peppers also have a fairly straight main stem with leaves equally spaced, versus being more compact and having the leaves gathered at the base like spinach. All the peppers we grew this year should grow sweet red fruits. Careful though…. Some will grow very hot fruits!
Cultivar: King Aurthur, Escamillio, Jalepeno, Habanero
Height: 3 feet
Interesting Fact: Break off the first flower/fruit of the peppers, this will help to get additional yield of subsequent crops.
Identifying Feature: Eggplant leaves are dull and usually wider at the base and smaller at the tip. They also usually have an undulating margin (outer edge of leaf). This Black Beauty cultivar also has slightly purple veins and stems.
Cultivar: Black Beauty
Interesting Fact: This cultivar has been grown for over 100 years! These plants love the heat and sun!
Brassicas (aka, The Cabbage Family)
Did you know broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi and cabbage are all variants of the same species of plant! They are all Brassica oleracea and originally are evolved from wild mustards.
Identifying Feature: Once again, another member of the Brasssica family rears its beautiful head to confuse and confound you! We will be honest here – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collard and kale will all look very similar at this stage of its life. Wait until the mature leafs emerge to determine which plant you have. Both broccoli and cauliflower have dull matte leaves that are longer than the rounded collard relations.
Cultivar: Organic Piracicaba Broccoli (“pee-ree-see-kah-bah”, quick, small head broccoli)
Interesting Fact: Her head production is minimal but her abundant, succulent side-shoots are sweet and tender enough for enjoying raw. Ready in 55 days!
Identifying Feature: See “Broccoli” for details.
Cultivar: Organic Sativa Brussels Sprout
Interesting Fact: One of the most rewarding vegetables to grow, Brussels Sprouts are also one of the most challenging vegetables to grow well in our short seasons. For the biggest, most flavorful Brussel ssprouts, don’t hold back on fertility and resist harvesting until they’ve experienced at least one month of hard frost. Their tender sweetness is just so worth it!
Identifying Feature: There are two very different cabbages this year – your standard grocery store green cabbage (Charmant) and a Napa cabbage (China Express Napa). Technically they aren’t even the same species but that’s getting wayyyy to nerdy! Look for the standard deceivingly similar kale/collard/broccoli/cauliflower leaves but this time they should be a more matte grey-green colour. The plant is also more compact with the leaves forming at the base (similar to spinach’s growth habit).
Cultivar: Charmant & China Express Napa
Interesting Fact: Cabbage heads are ready when they’re firm to the touch, and when the interior is fairly dense.
Cucumber & Squash
Identifying Feature: Both cucumber and squash have very similar juvenile leaves that are must larger than anything else you will get from your mystery tray (4” or larger). Unfortunately they will be difficult to distinguish until they mature. Once they do get larger, cucumber leaves are generally 4-6” long where squash leaves are usually much larger (10-12”). When you get to this step here is a great link on how to tell the difference between the two;
Cultivar: Sunburst Scallopini Pattypan Squash, Black Beauty Zucchini, Goldy Zucchini, Sibley Winter Squash, Marketmore 76 cucumber, Synny Delight, Pink Banana, Eight Ball
Height: 20” if grown on the ground but suggested to grow vertical on trellis to save space.
Spacing: 3 feet unless grown vertical. Sibley Winter Squash will spread 5 feet.
Interesting Fact: We know it’s weird, but zucchinis are squashes too. They are considered summer squash. Unlike their cousins however, for maximum flavour its best to harvest them before they get too large.
Identifying Feature: This member of the Cucurbits family has large deeply lobed leaves that look much like a frogs hand.
Cultivar: (unknown cultivar)
Height: 20” (Can also grow vertically)
Spacing: 3 feet
Interesting Fact: Do not water the last week before fruits are ripe, as overwatering can cause bland fruit.
Just like the band of misfit toys from Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer movie, here is a collection of oddities that did not fit anywhere else.
Identifying Feature: Depending if you received the yellow beets (Touchstone Gold) or the red-white striped beets (Chioggia), these seedlings will have red or yellow stems. Baby beet plants can look very similar to chard as they are basically different variants of the same species. One is grown for the foliage, versus the other develops a bulbous root to eat. As the plant develops gently prod the bottom of the stems to see if a large beet is growing. Regardless, both plants have edible foliage.
Cultivar: Touchstone Gold, Chioggia Guardsmark
Interesting Fact: Have you ever looked at a beet seed? They are a multi-germ seed able to produce 2 or 3 plants from one seed.
Celery & Celeriacs
Identifying Feature: Similar to parsley, celery and celeriac leaves are split into 3 leaflets. These leaflets are less divided then in parsley. Compare the image of celery above with the example of parsley and cilantro below. Celery also has an upright growth habit. If you get these confused, don’t worry too much – you will quickly figure out if its celery if the stems start to thicken. Celeriac is slightly different than celery as the root base develops into a big yummy white gob of vegetable for you to enjoy!
Cultivar: Tall Utah (celery) and Brilliant Celeriac
Interesting Fact: The leaves are strongly aromatic and useful in soups and savoury dishes of all kinds. Also, did you know celery is a biennial!
Identifying Feature: Here’s an easy one! It literally looks like a miniature corn plant or super large piece of grass.
Height: 6 feet
Interesting Fact: Corn needs other corn friends to help pollinate itself. If your corn is lonely and has no other friends use a paintbrush to help pollinate the female flower with the male flowers.
Identifying Feature: Sweet Alyssum has been added to these trays as a beneficial insect attractor. This plant is not meant to be eaten, but instead it is meant to help bring more pollinators into your garden so you can have more successful fruiting (the whole ‘Birds & the Bees’ thing). If you do not see tiny white flowers look for a stem with small sword shaped leaves.
Cultivar: Snow Cloth
Interesting Fact: Shear plants after first flowering for a second bloom, as late as early October.
Grower Link: https://www.westcoastseeds.com/products/snow-cloth
Identifying Feature: If you think you got a pot of grass, look no further…they are probably shallots! These little long leaves will slowly develop into yummy onions by late summer.
Interesting Fact: You can harvest these down to 2” from the ground and they will grow again throughout the season.
Grower Link: https://www.westcoastseeds.com/products/ambition