Between the Rows: What’s new in vegetables?
What’s new in vege-tables? What a question. While I am not aware of any completely new species of vegetables, there are always new varieties which at least purport to be better, have a shorter or longer growing season, more disease resistance, be smaller for container growing, larger for those who enjoy the thrill of giant vegetable growing, more flavorful for demanding cooks or more nutritious for the ever-more health conscious.
Every seed catalog begins with a page or two of new varieties being introduced for the first time — at least for that seed company. Johnny’s Selected Seeds is one of my favorite companies. This year, it is offering Artisan Tomatoes, a new family of tomatoes that have been bred for the specialty market. They are small, pretty tomatoes with good flavor. Artisan Pink Tiger, Green Tiger and Blush Tiger get their name from the tiger striping on their skin. Because a mix of these pretty tomatoes is part of the appeal, you can also buy a packet of Artisan Tiger Mix. There is also Purple Bumble Bee and Pink Bumble Bee, which are round cherry tomatoes. Double pleasure is available in the Artisan Mix, which gives you all the Tigers and Bumble Bees. These seeds are also available at Totally Tomatoes.
Burpee Seeds is looking at tomatoes in a different way. They are offering a new Beefsteak Hybrid that promises to produce three-pound tomatoes with heirloom flavor. Like the little Artisan tomatoes, these are indeterminate, which means the tomato vine will keep growing and growing, up to 12 feet, setting fruit until frost. Determinate tomatoes are more compact and will grow to about 4 feet and don’t need much staking. Determinate tomatoes will all ripen pretty much at once, within two weeks.
Burpee is also introducing Pick-a-Bushel semi-bush hybrid cucumber that can be grown in containers. Each plant will produce 10 to 20 small cukes. Pick-a-Bushel is a 2014 AAS Regional winner and is a disease-resistant variety.
Speaking of AAS, or the All-America Seed Selections, which have tested seeds for dependability and desirability over a wide range of conditions, I was attracted by the bush bean Mascotte. It has bushy upright growth and its compact size makes it suitable for container growing. The fine pods are long and straight and disease resistant. I love green beans and wax beans, too. More and more people are determined to grow a few vegetables for their dinners, even if they have to grow them in a pot on the deck.
Pepper Mama Mia Giallo is another AAS national winner. This elongated yellow sweet pepper has compact growth and resistance to the tobacco mosaic virus. I have never grown peppers, but these ripen in a (relatively) short period, 125 days. They can be started indoors and then moved out to the garden in five to six weeks. My Front Garden, right in front of the house, faces south and is protected from the wind. I believe in global disruption more than global warming as far as the garden is concerned, but this might be the place and time to try peppers. Watch for the AAS logo on seed packets when you go shopping.
Hakurei turnips are not new at all, but they were new to me last year and now I plan to grow them every year. These little round white turnips look a lot like radishes and they can be used raw in salads like radishes. This is how I have eaten them, but they can also be cooked up quickly with their greens and eaten hot. I like them because they can be planted early in the spring and late in the summer, harvesting them in 30 days when young or in 40 to 50 days when mature and about 2 inches in diameter. They resist frost and when a floating row cover is used, they are also protected from flea beetles and root maggots. These sweet and spicy delights are for eating fresh. They are not suitable for storage.
If you can’t wait to start gardening, you can get a jump on the season by planting microgreens indoors. Microgreens are not only ready for harvest in 14 days, recent research shows that these tiny plants are a powerhouse of vitamins. Twenty-five microgreens were tested by the USDA at the University of Maryland. Results showed that almost all had four to six times more nutrients than the mature leaves of the same plant. I planted a Savory mix from Botanical Interests, which includes beets, swiss chard, radishes, mustard, cabbage and kohlrabi seeds. I also planted a flat of pea seeds and plan to harvest the pea shoots for my salads as well. Several companies are offering similar mixes, or you can just use some of the seeds you plan to plant outdoors.
To grow my microgreens, I used little planting flats and watering trays and seed starting mix. You can also use plastic containers that mushrooms and other vegetables come in, but put drainage holes in the bottom. My microgreens are not ready for their close-up yet, but keep watching.
Whether you are trying a new variety off vegetable that has just come on the market, or a vegetable variety that is new to you, it is time to make some decisions, because it will not be too long before you can start planting those seeds indoors.
Readers can leave comments at Pat Leuchtman’s Web site: www.commonweeder.com. Leuchtman has been writing and gardening in Heath at End of the Road Farm since 1980.