Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Yard & Garden Planning

Guide to Great Vegetable Varieties for 1998

by Charlie Nardozzi

This list of new vegetable garden varieties for 1998 includes 13 that were runners-up to ones in ″NG's Top 10 Best Vegetable List″; these are identified with the letters NG. Because we can't test every new variety, many of these must be purchased based on their descriptions alone. Some have obvious benefits, such as the nematode resistance of 'Charleston Bell' pepper. Others include descriptions of unique traits and improvements over currently available varieties.

However, when I grow an untested variety, I like to plant a few tried-and-true alternatives as a hedge against what may turn out to be an unsatisfactory new variety. I'd hate to grow just one cucumber, for example, only to find it's a dud. Growing standard and new varieties side by side is also a valid way to compare performances in your garden, and for beginning gardeners, it's a way to ensure a good harvest the first time out.

At the beginning of each category of vegetables, I've included descriptions of a few widely adapted varieties and some varieties that performed well in earlier NG tests. The number after the name of each new variety is the days to maturity (a 't' after the number means it's the number of days from transplant).


Standard red-fruited hybrids include 'Big Beef' (1994 test winner that combines the size and flavor of 'Beefsteak' with the uniformity and disease resistance of modern hybrids), 'Celebrity', and 'Early Girl'. For paste tomatoes, try 'Super Marzano' (1995 winner with long fruits and better yield than 'San Marzano') or 'Viva Italia' (1992 winner with the shape and meatiness of a pear-shaped paste tomato, but the juice and flavor of an eating variety). Good red cherry tomatoes include 'Super Sweet 100' and 'Sweet Million'.

'Besser': 75 days. This red cherry German heirloom produces clusters of sweet fruits on indeterminate vines.

'Clear Pink Early': 58 days. This Russian heirloom produces attractive 6-ounce pink fruits on 3-foot-tall determinate plants.

'Daniella': 72 days; NG. This indeterminate hybrid produces 8-ounce red fruits that last up to three weeks on the vine or in the house. In our tests, the large, crack-free fruits were produced earlier and were sweeter than similar varieties, such as 'Long Keeper'. But the flavor couldn't compare to that of other nonkeeping tomatoes.

'Isis Candy': 67 days. This sweet, yellow-gold indeterminate cherry tomato features red marbling in the skin and flesh.

'Keepsake': 70 days. The red, round, 8-ounce fruits are sweeter and crisper than other ″long-keeping″ varieties.

'Northern Delight': 62 days. This hybrid determinate plant produces full-flavored 2-inch red fruits as early as the Fourth of July.

'Novelty from Dresty': 85 days. Determinate 3-foot plant produces pear-shaped red fruits all at once. Great for canning.

'OTV Brandywine': 72 days. The editors of Off The Vine, a newsletter for heirloom tomato enthusiasts, selected this strain of 'Brandywine'. It combines indeterminate, potato-leaved growth and distinctive flavor with larger red fruit and a higher percentage of usable fruits.

'Picardy': 76 days. French heirloom with indeterminate vines and 5-ounce deep red fruits that are smooth, meaty, firm, and globe-shaped.

'Purple Brandy': 87 days. This cross between 'Brandywine' and 'Marizol Purple' produces deep pink-to-purple, smooth-shouldered, 1-pound fruits.

'Red October': 68 days. An improved 'Long Keeper' type. The 8-ounce fruits on this indeterminate hybrid have deeper red color and a more intense tomato flavor, and they last three weeks indoors after harvesting.

'Rose': 78 days. This indeterminate plant produces smooth, attractive, large red fruits. Its flavor is similar to that of 'Brandywine'.

'Spitze': 87 days. Indeterminate plants produce sweet, 4-inch-long, meaty, red paste tomatoes.

'Sun Leaper': 69 days. This variety from Randy Gardner, tomato hybridizer at North Carolina State University produces 9-ounce red fruits. The disease-resistant, determinate plants set fruit at high night temperatures. Best grown in the South and West.

'Zogola': 85 days. This Polish indeterminate plant produces many 1-pound, juicy and sweet, smooth-skinned fruits.

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