Better Performing New Veggies

By Charlie Nardozzi

Small-Space Varieties

If you only have a small patio, a few containers, or a small bed, try growing some of these space-saving varieties.


'Little Guy' (40 days). A gaai laan type (small heads, slender stalks, edible leaves), this broccoli produces miniature dark green heads and small, tender leaves on a crisp, sweet stalk.

'Small Miracle' (55t days). Small-headed, hybrid dwarf plants reach only a foot tall. Testers liked the strong growth and being able to space plants only a foot apart. However, the small heads and low production didn't compare well with standards such as 'Green Comet'.


'Bush Early Girl' (54t days). This "little sister" of 'Early Girl' is not only a compact hybrid determinate, but it also produces larger fruits than the original.

'Bush Goliath' (68t days). Large 3- to 4-inch-diameter red fruits are produced on compact 3 1/2-foot, hybrid plants. This dwarf indeterminate (a dwarf plant that produces fruit all season long) bears until frost and is a great container plant.


'Holiday' (86 days). This compact, bush-type watermelon produces 14- to 19-pound red-fleshed, globe-shaped fruits with better Fusarium wilt and Anthracnose disease resistance than similar varieties.

'Petite Yellow' (68 days). The only open-pollinated, yellow-fleshed watermelon on the market. This bush variety produces flowery and fragrant, but not too sweet, icebox-type fruits.

Something Different

Some varieties, such as these two, defy being put in any category. They are worth a try.

'Magenta Parch' parched corn (110 days). This unique purple-kerneled heirloom corn has stalks to 5 feet tall, an ears 8 inches long. Unlike sweet corn, parched corn is heated in a skillet to prepare for eating.

'Sabah Snake' yard-long bean (80 days). Vigorous plants produce light green, wrinkled pods 33 inches long-the longest of the yard-long beans. From Malaysia.

Charlie Nardozzi is senior horticulturist at National Gardening.

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.


'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'.


'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.


'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.


'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.


'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.

Earlier Maturity

Varieties that grow and mature faster can offer great advantages for gardeners who live where the growing season is short. If you've ever watched your first crop of still-green tomatoes succumb to a September frost, you know the value of these fast varieties. Gardeners in long-season areas can use these to squeeze in second and third harvests.

Bean, Bush

'Valdor' wax (50 days). This high-yielding, excellent-flavored bean is one of the earliest yellow bush beans available.


'Early Dawn' (58t days). Vigorous hybrid plants produce 3-pound dense, creamy white heads.


'Kandy Kwik' (67 days). An earlier-maturing version of the sugar-enhanced (SE) hybrid 'Kandy Korn'. Testers liked the compact, sturdy stalks but judged flavor no better than that of other early yellow varieties.

'Yukon Chief' (55 days). An exceptionally early dwarf yellow sweet corn developed in Alaska. It has excellent tolerance of cold soil conditions.


'Fourth of July' (42t days). This determinate hybrid variety produces fruits the size of 'Early Girl', but 12 days earlier.

Improved Growth or Disease Resistance

Varieties that grow better or resist pests are not as glamorous as those that look or taste better, but they are a godsend to gardeners who have watched a plant collapsing under an attack from insects or disease.

Bean, Filet

'Nickel' (55 days). A stronger-growing, more weather- and disease-tolerant version of this very slender type of green bush bean. The stringless, 4-inch-long beans grow high on the plant for easy picking.


'Autumn King' (70 days). This reintroduced heirloom produces 7- to 9-inch-long roots that keep well in winter storage.


'Sweet Symphony' (75 days). A bicolor hybrid that's as sweet as the supersweets (Sh2) but with the vigor, yield, and cold-soil performance of a sugar-enhanced (SE) variety.


'Sweet Burpless' (60 days). This gynoecious (produces mostly female flowers) slicing cucumber produces huge 10-inch, burpless fruits. Testers were impressed with hybrid plants' ability to withstand adverse weather. Flavor is average, but fruits contain only a few large seeds.


'Winter Sun' (60 days). This easy-to-grow red loose-leaf lettuce has better cold tolerance and growth for fall and winter growing in mild areas compared with most varieties. 'Winter Marvel' is a green version.


'French Orange' (75 days). This hybrid cross between a Charentais and a typical cantaloupe has Charentais flavor, but ripeness is easier to tell by the color change on the skin. 'Honeydew Temptation' (85 days). This early-ripening, orange-fleshed hybrid honeydew has added disease resistance.


'Ruby' (95t days). This Russian heirloom pimento has a sheepnose shape and thick, sweet flesh. Testers in warmer areas of the South had the best success with 'Ruby', and liked the vigorous plants and large fruits.


'Forest Fire' (50t to 55t days). Determinate vines produce larger, firmer, and more crack-resistant fruits earlier than other early varieties such as 'Sub-Arctic Maxi'.

'Irish Setter' (60t days). An indeterminate seedless version of 'Oregon Spring', with better tolerance to both green shoulders and adverse growing conditions. Good for greenhouse production.

'Mule Team' (86t days). This indeterminate 10-ounce red tomato isn't fancy, but it produces dependably until frost. 'Red Rider' (64t days). An early beefsteak-type hybrid red tomato with good flavor and added resistance to disease and catfacing (cracking around the stem end of the fruits).

'Tappy's Heritage' (85t days). An improved version of 'Tappy's Finest', with more uniform fruits and red color. The sweet, meaty fruits and the insect and disease resistance are similar to the original.


'Seedless Sugar Baby' (82 days). This watermelon, similar to the classic 'Sugar Baby', produces 8- to 9-pound fruits, but without the seeds.

Improved Yield and Fruit Size

Sometimes bigger is better, and more is what you want. These varieties are known for large fruits and big yields.

Bean, Bush

'Blue Lagoon' (60 days). All the pods on this dark green, high-yielding bush bean mature at once. It is great for freezing and canning.

Lettuce, Leaf

'Mighty Red Oak' (50 days). This lettuce touts larger (16-inch) heads than 'Oak Leaf', and the leaves have a beautiful red tinge.


'Golden Jenny' (85 days). A more vigorous, compact, and productive version of the heirloom 'Jenny Lind'. Fruits are 1 1/2 pounds with sweet orange flesh.


'Cajun Delight' (50 days). This vigorous, dark green hybrid okra, an All-America Selections winner, produces high yields and stays tender even when large. Testers who like growing and eating okra appreciated the more compact growth, beautiful flowers, and consistent yields.

'Cowhorn' (68 days). This reintroduced heirloom is known for heavy production of 10- to 12-inch-long curled pods on tall, well-branched plants.


'Big Red' cayenne (85t days). This hybrid pepper produces a larger plant and bigger fruits than most other cayennes. Our testers loved the large, thick-fleshed fruits and the vigorous, strong plants. Their only complaint: This pepper took too long to mature in colder areas. The dried peppers make great ristras.

'The Godfather' (64t days). This high-yielding, large (7-inch-long), hybrid Italian sweet pepper, a grilling type, turns red in 80 days.

'Mucho Nacho' (75t days). Vigorous plants produce larger and wider fruits than the traditional jalape-o type. They turn red in 80 days.


'Viroflay' (50 days). This variety, known in France as "the monster spinach of Viroflay," can grow to 2 feet tall; its smooth leaves can reach 10 inches long and 8 inches wide.

Squash, Summer

'Starship' (45 days). This hybrid scallop squash has an open bush habit and produces more and higher-quality fruits than other scallop varieties.


'Florida Pink' (85t to 90t days). Indeterminate plants produce 2-pound light pink fruits that are crack-free, sweet, and juicy; yields are very high for a large tomato.

'Productiva' (88t days). This indeterminate heirloom from eastern Europe produces 3-inch-diameter red fruits. Testers liked their meaty, juicy, large size but noted a tendency toward green shoulders and a taste that was not noteworthy.

'Santa' (75t days). Hybrid indeterminate plants produce an abundance of firm, sweet, grape-shaped fruits.

Improved Color

In addition to offering a more intense or an unusual color, these varieties can be grown for good flavor and high production.


'Albina Verduna' (65 days). This white-fleshed, sweet-tasting heirloom beet produces large tops.

Chard, Swiss

'Yellow Dorat' (60 days). This yellow-ribbed chard looks great in combination with other Swiss chards. Testers liked the crisp, thick leave but some thought the texture too tough and color too pale.


'Purple Rain' (80t days). Testers called this hybrid violet-and-white-striped oval eggplant "attractive" and "eye-catching." It also produces more fruits later in the season than comparable open-pollinated types.


'Cardinale' (55 days). This French Batavian-type, hybrid loose-leaf lettuce has thick, brilliant red leaves and upright growth. Although 'Cardinale' has good heat and bolt tolerance, some testers thought its taste was more bitter than that of other standard varieties.

'Freckles' (58 days). This pale green romaine-type lettuce flecked with wine red spots looks great in mesclun salad mixes. 'Merlot' (50 days). A shimmering red loose-leaf lettuce that produces broad, crisp, frilly leaves.

'Royalty' (45 days). This new leaf lettuce features intense red color on broad, shiny, ruffled upright leaves. Testers liked the attractive coloring, but many said the yield and growth weren't as strong as for 'Red Sails' or 'New Red Fire'.


'Early Autumn' (100 days). This 10- to 14-pound pumpkin has a "precocious orange" gene that allows the fruits to turn orange and be harvested earlier.

'Italian Gold' (70t days). This prolific hybrid determinate plant produces beautiful pear-shaped tomatoes with a unique golden orange color. They are best used in sauces.

'Mortgage Lifter-Pesta Strain' (75t to 80t days). This bicolor version of the classic 'Mortgage Lifter' has golden fruits with red-streaked interiors.

'Sub-Arctic Tiger' (45t to 55t days). Compact determinate vines with fuzzy silver leaves produce red-and-yellow-striped 1- to 4-ounce fruits.

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