Squash and pepper recommendations, and a cress update

The summer harvest is coming in, and while it’s been a pretty successful gardening season for me overall, I have a couple of varieties to recommend in particular: ‘Dario’ zucchini and ‘Corbaci’ pepper. Read on for details!

Those of you who’ve read my blog posts for a while know that the community garden I grow in has a persistent problem with a cucurbit mosaic virus. We’ve never had it tested, but by the evidence of what’s resisted disease in my plot and others, I’m guessing it’s watermelon mosaic virus. (All members of the family are vulnerable, not just the species the virus is named after.) So if I want my plants to live long enough to produce, I need to find varieties that can fight off “WMV.”

This year, I was excited to find a Cocozelle type of zucchini that has intermediate WMV resistance. I enjoy both the taste and the appearance of these striking striped squashes.

‘Dario’ is a F1 hybrid that also has resistance to powdery mildew. It’s growing prolifically in my garden, in the typical zucchini fashion where cute little fruits turn into hulking monsters if you turn your back. And it tastes just as good as other Cocozelles. Even if you don’t face mosaic virus (and most gardeners don’t, since even if it finds you it won’t become endemic if you’re careful about removing weeds (insects like aphids can be a vector), discard your seed packets (infected seeds are another), and maybe take a year off growing cucurbits) I would still recommend ‘Dario’ because it’s easy to grow and great on the plate.

I’m also growing the disease-resistant yellow zucchini ‘Golden Glory,’ which you can see pictured below in one of the pepper photos. Note: I’m seeing early symptoms of mosaic virus on both these squash (they are resistant, not immune) but they should last for a while before giving out.

I chose to grow the heirloom ‘Corbaci’ pepper this year not because of any disease resistance, but because a fellow Master Gardener had enjoyed it last year and had some seed to give me, and because it looked cool and I was curious. I have never seen a pepper like it that wasn’t very hot – and ‘Corbaci’ is actually a sweet pepper!

This is a super-prolific pepper with long skinny fruits. Here it is hanging out with an average-sized ‘Golden Glory’ zucchini.

They will turn from a pale green through yellow and orange to red. Mine are just starting to redden, but then all of my peppers and tomatoes are on a delayed schedule this year. The taste is sweet but not bland; they have the flavor notes of some hot peppers but none of the painful bite. Since they are so skinny, I haven’t found it worthwhile to cut them vertically and take out the seeds. I’ve cooked them two ways so far: frying the entire pepper until it’s soft and eating them like shishitos (better for smaller fruits), and slicing them horizontally and throwing them into a cooked dish or a salad. Some of the seeds will cling on this way and some will fall out.

Next I’m going to try pickling them, starting with refrigerator pickles of the immature fruits, and hopefully gathering enough ripe or near-ripe peppers later on to can them. And I also may dry them, either to save whole or to make into a paprika-like powder. They are also just really fun to look at in the garden. Easy to grow and a fascinating addition to dinner: recommended!

I wrote earlier this year about cress and decided to give it a try in my raised trough planter on my deck. It’s been a long time since I grew it, and I forgot or never learned that it’s actually not a cool-weather plant only. In fact, it’s quite heat-resistant. So if you want a spicy green that will produce all season long (give it afternoon shade) and is great in salads or sandwiches, try a garden or upland cress next year.

This is what mine looks like now. It has been chewed on by caterpillars (it’s in the Brassicaceae or mustard family, so subject to some pests) but that’s only been recently, and there are still plenty of whole leaves to choose from. You could always use floating row cover to keep the pests off entirely. Growing it in a container will also help.

I hope one or more of these recommendations help with your garden planning for next year.

By Erica Smith, Montgomery County Master Gardener. Read more posts by Erica.

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