Gardening Articles: Care :: Seeds & Propagation

Experts' Favorite Vegetable Varieties (page 5 of 5)

by Lynn Ocone

Renee Shepherd

Straddling zones 7 and 8, Shepherd has the luxury of a 360-day growing season.

Tomato: Shepherd compares the beauty of 'Enchantment' to a jeweled Faberge egg. She loves this wonderfully disease-resistant variety for its glossy, crimson, three-inch oval fruits that cascade in large sprays on indeterminate vines. The firm, yet juicy tomatoes have full-bodied flavor and are excellent fresh or cooked into sauce.

Sweet Pepper: Shepherd chooses sweet peppers for their flavor, earliness and colors (she likes to slice and mix them). Her two top picks are the persimmon orange 'Ariane' and the elongated, deep red 'Vidi' (excellent roasted). Both are vigorous plants that bear sweet, meaty fruits.

Beans: 'Vernandon', a French filet green bean with long, slender pods, is Shepherd's favorite. She savors their delicate, sweet taste raw or steamed tender-crisp. For best quality, she harvests the beans when under 1/4-inch thick.

Cucumber: Her hands-down-favorite cucumber is the mid-Eastern hybrid 'Kidma', with very smooth, glossy, thin skin. "I like it because it's so crunchy," Shepherd says. "The fruits are very juicy and quenching. They're best eaten out of hand when five to eight inches long." 'Lemon' cucumber ranks high as well. Plants are extremely productive and fruits are mild and crunchy with nonbitter skins. Shepherd says they are best when picked very young.

Onion: 'Borettana' tops Shepherd's list for its beauty and versatility. It looks like large, 2-inch-diameter buttons. "I love them for kebabs. They're also wonderful served whole in a sweet and sour sauce or pickled," she told me.

Lettuce: The favorite is 'Nevada'; "It has the crispness of a romaine with the shape of a butterhead." She harvests individual leaves or entire heads, which hold well even in warm weather. For a tender, buttery lettuce, she prefers the red butterhead 'Juliet'. Its velvety texture is perfect with creamy dressings.

Carrot: Bright orange hybrid 'Bolero' is her first-choice carrot. This French Nantes type is consistently sweet even in Shepherd's garden of soil that doesn't make good carrots. They have no off or soapy taste. The 6- to 7-inch roots are slender and smooth-skinned.

Radish: 'Scarlet Red Gala' ranks tops for its crunchy texture and mild flavor. Shepherd plants radishes only in the cool season and harvests roots young. She uses fabric row covers to protect plants from flea beetles and root maggots.

Squash: "My favorites are 'Sunburst', a golden yellow scallop squash with a sweet, nutty flavor, and 'Clarimore', a pastel green zucchini with smooth, tender skin and creamy flesh," she said without hesitation.

Peas: Shepherd's best and most abundant pea is the edible-podded 'Super Sugar Mel'. For full, sweet flavor, she lets the peas fully develop in the pods. Shepherd notes these peas require warmer soil than other peas to germinate. But they are also more heat tolerant and powdery mildew resistant than other snap pea varieties.

Formerly a senior editor for Today's Homeowner magazine, Lynn Ocone has been a frequent contributor to National Gardening.

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