Gardening Articles: Care :: Seeds & Propagation

Experts' Favorite Vegetable Varieties (page 2 of 5)

by Lynn Ocone

Monte Thompson

Monte Thompson
'Sugar Snap' pea

In zone 5, Thompson has a 165-day growing season.

Tomato: 'Celebrity' is the top tomato in Thompson's garden. It produces equally in a wet or dry year. Firm, red, medium-size fruits grow on determinate vines. Deep orange 'Sun Drop' is her favorite small tomato. "This open-pollinated tomato with 2-inch fruits has a nice thick wall and is wonderful in preserves," she said. For sheer quantity, nothing approaches 'Sweet Chelsea'. It produces what seems like 1,000 small, super-sweet tomatoes on a single plant.

Sweet Pepper: 'Bell Boy' is Thompson's favorite. She prefers red sweet peppers over other kinds and this one, with its large, blocky, thick walls, fits the bill perfectly. She enjoys them broiled, then freezes the surplus. 'Jingle Bells' also rates high. Its small, 2-inch peppers come 30 or 40 to each compact bush. They're thin-skinned, color early and, though not as sweet as larger bells. They're great stir-fried, broiled and in salads.

Beans: High-yielding 'Astrel', a French filet type, is at its peak when 41/2-inches long. But the pods remain tender even at 6 inches. 'Dandy' also ranks high. The petite pods of this productive bush variety are very tender, plus they can and freeze well.

Cucumber: 'Southern Delight' is tops. The long, slender fruits of this burpless variety stay 1-inch in diameter even if a foot or more long. There's never any bitter taste in the skin. The plants produce well even through excess heat and moisture.

Onion: 'Red Wethersfield' is prized by Thompson for its excellent storage quality. Bulbs are red-skinned and flattened. Flesh is white, juicy and mild.

Lettuce: Slow-to-bolt 'Simpson Elite', is a tender cut-and-come-again variety that Thompson plants in early spring. "But 'Sudia', a small heading bibb lettuce, is so pretty and delicious. It looks perfect in a row," she told me. Its oblong, 1-pound heads are dark green, the hearts are yellow.

Carrot: Cylindrical, blunt-tipped 'French Primo' rates number one. It grows to 8-inches long. Leaves are short and strong. Thompson plants in mid- to late June once soil is thoroughly warm. Harvest comes just 60 days later. "They're sweeter," she adds, "Once touched by frost."

Radish: "I don't grow radishes," Thompson says without a trace of apology. It may be the eighth most popular vegetable in America, but not with her.

Squash: 'Early Summer Yellow' crookneck and 'Goldfinger' zucchini tie for first with Thompson. The crookneck is extremely prolific and has a smooth, buttery flavor. It's best picked young. The zucchini's nonbitter skin is a smooth, glossy golden orange. Both squashes have notably small seed cavities.

Peas: 'Alaska W.R.' is her top shelling pea. Round pods plump with six to eight sweet peas are ready to pick about five weeks after planting; 30-inch plants produce well into warm weather. Thompson plants in April, as soon as soil is workable. 'Sugar Snap' and 'Bush Snapper' rate tops for edible pod peas. According to Thompson, both are tender and produce well, even in warm weather.

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