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Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Vegetables

Testers Top Veggie Picks

by Charlie Nardozzi

Last year, we grew 22 of the newest seed company offerings. The hot temperatures and drought conditions in many parts of the country and the cool, wet spring in other areas adversely affected the growth of some varieties. Despite the tough weather conditions, there were many outstanding introductions that testers deemed worthy enough to buy and grow again. Here, we discuss the testers' top 10 vegetable variety picks for 1996. The chart below summarizes how those winners measured up.

Top Hot Peppers

The hot pepper popularity wave has been riding strong across the country for some time now. This year's results prove the trend continues. Hot peppers--one loved for its hotness, the other for its lack of it--ranked number 1 and number 2 in our testers' trials.

'Senorita' hybrid (60 days from transplant) is a large-sized jalape-o pepper with high yields and a very mild flavor. Testers across the country loved the sturdy plant and the mild but flavorful fruit. "'Senorita' produced a compact plant with large peppers that turned red early and had very little heat but still had a nice jalapeno flavor," notes Joyce Rabellino of Atascadero, California.

Even testers who didn't like 'Senorita' said it was only because they like hotter jalapenos better. "It was like eating a sweet pepper," explains David Saltzman of Windsor, Connecticut. "I don't see the purpose of a sweet jalapeno."

For gardeners like David, 'Sizzler' hybrid (65t days) was right on target. This large, tapered hot pepper is quick to turn red and produces an abundance of peppers. It consistently outproduced the traditional 'Hungarian Hot Wax' in our test. "Sizzler was a compact plant that produced an amazing amount of huge 10-inch-long, moderately hot peppers that turned red earlier than any other pepper," reports Molly Hackett of Victor, Montana.

The two sweet peppers in our test didn't fare as well. 'Jackpot' hybrid (74t days) produced one of the largest bell peppers around, maturing to an attractive yellow-gold. Testers in the South and West had the best luck with this variety and claimed that the large, thick-walled fruits tasted great. Other testers reported slow fruit set and lower yields compared with standard varieties, such as 'California Wonder'.

'Red Beauty' hybrid (68t days) is known for its ability to turn red two weeks sooner than any other red bell pepper. Most testers agreed the quick-maturing, crisp, meaty fruits were a pleasure to eat, but some testers (especially those in the Northeast and Rocky Mountains) had trouble maturing red fruit and reported low yields.

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