Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Veteran Vegetables

by Ben Watson


Old-time shell peas ramble up trellis fashioned of prunings

Most gardeners feel a pleasant tension in having to decide between the very latest vegetable varieties and those dependable ones that performed well for them in the past. Obviously, we would like to grow them all, "had we but world enough, and time." In the end, though, most of us compromise; we experiment each year with a few new varieties but end up planting a lot of old favorites, too.

Planting new varieties helps keep the garden interesting and dynamic, season after season. But while you're testing some of the newest vegetables, don't forget about the classics--those hybrid and open-pollinated varieties that have stood the test of time and whose fame and reputation have been built by home gardeners. The following are a few superior, widely adapted varieties that I have grown and would recommend highly to all home gardeners.

Descriptive information for each variety includes days to maturity, which is the average number of days from seed to harvest. A lowercase "t" ater the number indicates the number of days from transplants to harvest.

Beans

Beans
'Kentucky Wonder' pole bean

'Low's Champion' (68 days snap, 90 days dry). This tasty variety, first introduced in 1884, features broad, meaty, 4- to 5-inch-long Romano-like green beans, and pods that mature to a beautiful mahogany red. It's excellent used fresh, shelled, or dry.

'Kentucky Wonder' (58 to 72 days). Since the 1850s, it's been one of the best and most popular pole bean varieties. The 7- to 10-inch-long meaty pods, borne in clusters, resist rust. 'Kentucky Wonder' is available in bush and wax forms, and can also be eaten dried.

'Trionfo Violetto' (62 days). This Italian heirloom is the most dependable purple-podded pole variety I've grown. Like other purple beans, the 7-inch oval pods turn olive green when cooked.

Carrots

'Ingot' (63 to 66 days). A dark orange, 6- to 8-inch-long Nantes-type hybrid with strong tops. It's especially high in beta carotene.

'Red-Cored Chantenay' (60 to 74 days). These vivid red-orange, 6-inch-long cone-shaped roots were first introduced in 1929. Their fine-grained flesh has a sweet flavor that improves in storage. This is a good choice for gardeners with heavy clay soil.

Corn (sweet)

Corn (sweet)
'Silver Queen' sweet corn

'Golden Bantam' (70 to 85 days). From its introduction in 1902 until the development of corn hybrids in the 1930s, this open-pollinated classic set the standard in yellow sweet corn. The 5- to 6-foot stalks bear two or more 5- to 7-inch ears with a classic, not too sweet, corn taste.

'Silver Queen' (90 to 92 days). This 1960 introduction remains the standard for late white sweet corn. Stalks grow 8 to 9 feet tall and produce 8- to 9-inch well-filled ears. Seeds require warm soil temperatures (at least 65oF) to germinate.

Cucumbers

'Lemon' (60 to 70 days). This 1894 heirloom produces oval, 2- to 3-inch-long lemon yellow cukes on disease-resistant vines. If harvested before they turn yellow, the tender cukes can be eaten unpeeled. They also make an excellent round pickle.

'Marketmore 76' (58 to 65 days). This open-pollinated cuke, introduced in 1976, is one of the best slicing varieties available. Disease-resistant vines produce mildly sweet dark green cukes 8 to 9 inches long. It's a favorite in cold-climate areas.

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