Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Better Performing New Veggies

by Charlie Nardozzi

After studying the 1997 catalogs and consulting with the vegetable seed companies, I compiled this list of 64 new varieties, including 13 runners-up to our top 10 new selections. Except for a few heirlooms, none have been available to home gardeners before.

Most new varieties are superior in some specific quality, such as flavor, earliness, or disease resistance, so I categorized this year's introductions accordingly. Of course, some varieties fit into more than one category, so check the whole list.

Terms Explained

Determinate (tomato): bushier plants bear fruit all at once, don't need staking. Indeterminate (tomato): more vinelike plants grow and bear throughout the growing season. Heirloom: open-pollinated variety dating to before World War II.

t: a lowercase t after the number of days to maturity indicates the number of days from transplant to harvest.

Better Flavor

Flavor is subjective and depends upon harvesting at peak maturity. But if flavor alone determines your vegetable choices, it makes sense to start with varieties that tout flavor as their main selling points.

Chard, Swiss

'Palak Durga' (55 to 60 days to maturity). A very tender, light green small chard that's popular in India as a cooked green. It has a sweet-salty taste.

Corn

'Silver King' (82 days). This sugar-enhanced (SE) hybrid white corn has increased disease resistance, and its 8-inch-long ears are sweeter and more flavorful than its sister, 'Silver Queen'.

Leek

'Albinstar' baby leek (115 days). This white-stemmed leek is more tender than other varieties when harvested in summer as a baby leek with the diameter of a pencil, or harvested in fall when mature.

Melon

'Flavor Bouquet' (85 days). This orange-fleshed hybrid Charentais type (a deep orange, aromatic French melon) has good disease resistance but is most notable for its intense fragrance and sweetness.

'Sweet Passion' (85 days). An Ohio heirloom whose salmon-orange flesh is aromatic and sweet. Wilt-tolerant vines produce 3- to 4-pound fruits.

Pepper

'Sugarchili' (60t days). This pepper has sweet, thick flesh. The 6-inch-long tapered fruits can be hot if you don't remove the interior ribs and seeds.

Tomato

'Aunt Ginny's' (80t days). Indeterminate plants produce smooth, crack-resistant beefsteak-type pink fruits that are said to have better flavor than 'Brandywine'.

'Cherry Baby' (68t days). This tiny cherry tomato produces lots of small currantlike fruits. However, many testers thought the flavor was too sweet, and the fruits were hard to pick without splitting them.

'Dr. Carolyn' (65t days). This indeterminate heirloom yellow cherry tomato is the most flavorful of any of the yellow cherry tomatoes on the market.

'Larissa' (75t days). This compact determinate Russian heirloom is known for its small, early red fruits that are tastier than those of other early varieties.

'Pear-adise' (65t days). This indeterminate cherry tomato produces pinkish red, pear-shaped fruits. Some testers liked the sweet flavor, but many thought the plant lacked vigor and uniformity.

'Ruby Cluster' (60t days). This disease-resistant indeterminate tomato produces clusters of 2- to 3-ounce fruits that have exceptionally concentrated tomato flavor.

'Sophie's Choice' (55t days). This heirloom dwarf produces 6- to 8-ounce orange-red fruits that are larger and more flavorful than those of most early tomatoes.

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