Mad Hatter Pepper

Grow Something NEW this Year!

Growing your own vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruits is one of the most rewarding things a person can do. It not only allows you gain some control over the food that you eat, it also inspires creativity. In the beginning, I wanted to grow my own edible garden because I was determined to eat as much organic food as possible. In the 1970’s, when I went to agriculture school, and in the 1980’s, when I started Natureworks, organic food was not readily available. Organic herbs and ornamental plants like perennials, annuals, trees, and shrubs were practically non-existent.

Fast forward to 2021 and I can see that the organic movement has grow a lot in the past 40 years. But that is no longer my ONLY reason for growing my own garden. Yes, I am thrilled that the way I care for the land in my care has built a very happy habitat for all sorts of creatures. But I also know that the mere act of growing is a creative endeavor. I learn something new every day. I am always curious about the next interesting vegetable or flower around the corner. I bet you feel that way too.

Every year, I choose a bunch of new plants to try. This year is no different. Luckily for me, I was once again in charge of ordering all the seeds for Natureworks this winter. Talk about a dream job! In the process, I chose some of new plants for 2021.


‘Mad Hatter’ peppers are the first thing that I knew I had to grow. This is how I describe them in our Online Store:

“Mad Hatter is probably the coolest new pepper variety we have had in years. The instant I saw it I thought of one we sold years ago called 'Umbatuba Cambuci'. 'Mad Hatter' is not a hot pepper, it is sweet with just a tiny bit of spice. What I remember about this shaped pepper is how easy it was to pop them open and clean them. Plus, they look like little spaceships and are really fun to grow. Perhaps they could have a place of honor in a container on your deck? Peppers are a warm season crop and must be started indoors in late March/early April. Don't even THINK about planting them outside until all danger of frost is over and the soil has warmed up.  -Nancy”


Tomato Ten Fingers of Naples (photo courtesy of Fruition Seeds)

Next up is Tomato ‘Ten Fingers of Naples’. Another aspect of our winter work at Natureworks is to contract with our organic growing partners to grow our organic vegetable seedlings. They all have their own lists that they offer to us and we pick from those lists, for sure. But then we buy and SEND them more seeds, specifically selected by us because, well, WE want to offer them on our benches (and grow them ourselves). This variety of tomato made the cut, at my urging I must admit, as I am always on the lookout for a better paste tomato in CT than ‘San Marzano’ which just seems to me to need a much hotter, longer growing season.



Broccoli 'A Foglia D'Ulivo' seed (photo courtesy of New England Seed)

My husband loves bitter greens, and he especially loves broccoli raab. I have been fairly successful at growing it, but he still doesn’t think it’s bitter enough. Enter Broccoli ‘A Foglia D’Ulivo’ seed.  This is the famous Italian “Olive Leaf” broccoli raab, so called because the leaves resemble those of an olive tree. Cut off the entire top of the plant and eat leaves, stem, flower buds and all. The leaves are very tender and bitter tasting. This plant has much higher leaves to flower bud ratio than other broccoli raab varieties. Perfect!


Every seed you sow, every plant you grow, is a personal choice. That is the beauty of it! You get to choose whatever strikes your fancy and try it. If you grow from seed, it is a very inexpensive way to experiment. Even if you buy pre-started seedlings, you will still get a lot of food and the invaluable experience about learning about a crop you have never met before.

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