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.
Good bell pepper varieties to grow are 'Ace', 'California Wonder', and 'La Bamba' (test winner in 1990). Standard sweet frying peppers are 'Gypsy' and 'Sweet Banana'. Although two standard hot pepper varieties are 'Super Chili' and 'Hungarian Hot Wax', NG testers have had many favorite hot peppers over the years. These include 'Mirasol' (1995), an attractive, flavorful, and high-yielding chili with 3-inch-long upward-facing fruits; 'Senorita' (1996) a 3-inch-long mild jalapeno; and 'Big Chili' (1997), a mild 10-inch-long chili.
'Aji Dulce': 111 days. Venezuelan heirloom habajero with added spice and sweetness and less heat. The 2-inch-long fruits are very aromatic.
'Caribbean Red': 110 days. One of the hottest habajero varieties. It grows like a traditional haba-ero but is more productive, has more uniform fruit size and shape, and is hotter. Not for the faint of heart.
'Charleston Belle': 67 days. This compact bell pepper, developed by the USDA Vegetable Lab in Charleston, South Carolina, is the first variety to have root-knot nematode resistance, a great boon for southern gardeners. Its growth and production are similar to 'Keystone Giant'.
'Chervena Chujski': 85 days; NG. This Bulgarian heirloom produces extremely sweet, 6-inch-long fruits that ripen to bright red. Testers liked the large, sturdy plant and the large, sweet, and fleshy peppers. However, testers in cooler areas said that the fruits matured late.
'Chile Lombak': 90 days. This Indonesian heirloom has 5-inch-long fruits that are mostly grown for drying but can also be eaten fresh. They have a unique quality: the bottom half is sweet, but the top half is pungent.
'El Chaco': 75 days. This South American variety produces 4-inch-long, slightly curled, hot, thin fruits that mature to a deep orange-red. Excellent for drying.
'Fat 'n' Sassy': 65 days; NG. Thick-walled bell pepper produced early in the season. Testers said it was big (one reported a pepper 1 foot in circumference), meaty, and prolific. The only negative aspect was that it stopped producing early.
'Figaro': 75 days; NG. This blocky 4- by 4-inch, thick-walled sweet pepper produces over a long period. Testers reported that this hybrid was a strong, bushy plant with good fruit production. However, it wasn't outstanding in any specific category.
'Golden Jubilee': 90 days. Russian heirloom yellow pimiento pepper with 1/2-inch-thick walls.
'Gold Standard': 88 days. This hybrid 5- by 5-inch, thick-walled, yellow bell pepper matures to gold earlier than other gold-skinned varieties.
'Kovinchu': 115 days. These 3 1/2-foot-tall plants produce 6-inch-long, tapered fruits that are sweet yet juicy and mildly hot.
'Mandarin': 75 days. This large, elongated high-yield hybrid bell pepper has sweet juicy flesh picked green or when matured to orange.
'Sweet Toro': 80 days; NG. 'Sweet Toro' is a hybrid version of 'Corno di Toro', but with added disease resistance and higher yields. Testers liked the sturdy, bushy plants and the large, plentiful peppers that ripened early and had sweet flavor.
Some standard varieties of bush and pole beans include 'Blue Lake', 'Kentucky Wonder', and 'Romano'. For English peas, try 'Maestro' and 'Wando'. For snap peas, try 'Super Sugar Snap' (a special NG test winner in 1996, a shorter and more mildew-tolerant version of 'Sugar Snap') and 'Sugar Ann'. For snow peas, try 'Oregon Giant'.
'Borlotto' bean: 75 days. This Italian pole bean has red-splashed pods filled with white beans. Eat them fresh or dry, or cook them in any bean dish.
'Rondo' pea: 56 days. This high-yield, main-season, sweet English pea features 10 peas per pod.
'Straight 'n' Narrow' bean: 53 days; NG. This hybrid of the classic French filet-type bush bean produces high yields of tender, thin pods that are longer than other filet varieties. Testers loved the high productivity and thin beans that stayed tender even when large. However, many felt it wasn't a major improvement over other French filet varieties.
Two standard open-pollinated sweet corn varieties are 'Golden Bantam' and 'Silver Queen'. For modern sugar-enhanced varieties (indicated as SE on packages and in catalogs), try 'Bodacious' and 'Miracle', both yellow. Testers liked 'Fancy-Full' (1992 bicolor winner), 'Early Choice' (1996 yellow winner), and 'Sir Prize' (1997 bicolor winner). For supersweet varieties, try the white 'How Sweet It Is' or yellow 'Early Xtra Sweet'.
'Jackpot': 82 days. Disease-resistant hybrid plants produce slim, bicolored se ears filled with sweet, tender kernels.
'Kandy Plus': 78 days. Yellow SE hybrid has good husk cover, flavorful kernels, and good disease resistance.
'Silver Princess': 74 days. This new SE white corn has the eating quality of 'Silver Queen' but is earlier and more disease resistant.
'Sweet Chorus': 67 days; NG. A bicolor Sh2 (a supersweet type that holds its sweetness longer after picking) corn that produces sweet ears early in the season. Testers loved this hybrid's shorter stalks and the fast growth. The ears tasted good for an early corn, but they weren't significantly better than other supersweet varieties.
Some widely adapted slicing cucumber varieties include 'Fanfare' (a productive and disease-resistant, short-vine slicer, and a test winner in 1994), 'Salad Bush', and 'Sweet Success'. For pickling cucumbers, try 'Bush Pickle' or 'National Pickle'.
'Cool Breeze': 45 days. French pickling hybrid has all-female flowers that set fruits parthenocarpically (they don't need cross-pollination). The plant produces 4-inch-long, smooth-skinned, crisp cucumbers early and under any weather condition.
'Green Sleeves': 53 days; NG. This hybrid started producing its 7-inch-long fruits early and continued all season regardless of weather conditions. Testers said it outproduced the standard 'Sweet Slice'. The flavor was mild and the texture crunchy.
'Marketmore 97': 55 days. The latest 'Marketmore' versions produced sweet 10-inch-long slicing cucumbers. The plants are more resistant to powdery mildew and cucumber mosaic virus than other 'Marketmore' varieties.
'Parade': 55 days. This Russian heirloom has 4-foot vines that produce uniform crops of 4-inch-long cucumbers.
'Stix': 57 days; NG. According to testers, this sweet 4-inch-long, nearly seedless cucumber had compact growth and produced an abundance of thin-skinned crisp, smooth fruits. The flavor wasn't outstanding, though, and some testers mentioned that the fruits didn't store well after harvest.
'Tamra': 59 days. Shiny, dark green fruits 6 inches long have thin, smooth skin and crisp flesh. This hybrid is gynoecious (it produces mostly female flowers) and very disease-resistant.
'Wautoma': 60 days. This USDA-bred open-pollinated pickling cucumber has no bitterness and is resistant to almost all the major cucumber diseases.
Standard broccoli varieties include 'Early Dividend' (an early variety with vigorous side shoots, and a 1995 test winner), 'Green Comet', 'Premium Crop', and 'Super Dome' (a widely adapted 1993 test winner with 12-inch heads). A good cauliflower to try is 'Snow Crown'. Good cabbages are 'Dynamo' (a compact variety that produces 2-pound heads, and a 1997 winner), 'Red Acre', and 'Stonehead'.
'Cape Horn' cabbage: 48t days. This yellowish green, pointy-headed cabbage is very early and holds well in the field.
'Doon Major' rutabaga: 87 days. Even in storage, this purple-topped large globe maintains its quality.
'Genji' broccoli: 59t days; NG. A hybrid that produces large dark green heads with slender, smooth stems. Testers liked the tightly budded heads and found the flavor was mild and less bitter. Some testers said the head size, especially among the secondary heads, was small compared with that of standard varieties.
'Kossack' kohlrabi: 50 days. This enormous (10-inch-diameter) kohlrabi doesn't become tough. Harvest can last many weeks, starting with small roots.
'Nutri-Bud' broccoli: 70t days. Large central-headed broccoli that produces plenty of side shoots. The heads are unusually high in glutamine, a key building block of proteins.
'Offenham III' cabbage: 125 days. Vigorous, semisavoy heirloom produces large, pointed, 8-pound dense heads.
'Red Bor' kale: 60 days. This Dutch hybrid grows into a 3-foot-tall treelike plant with purple stems and ruffled red leaves. With cool weather, the leaves turn purple, and the flavor becomes sweeter.
'Trafalgar Square' brussels sprouts: 160t days. Late-maturing medium-sized variety features less mustard-oil content and sweet flavor.
Old standards such as 'Black-Seeded Simpson' and 'Buttercrunch' grow well in any location. Some NG winners over the years are 'Rosalita' (a 1990 romaine with beautiful red color and good flavor); and 'Vanity' (1995), a butterhead-type green lettuce that grew well in adverse weather, had crisp texture, and didn't bolt. For spinach, try 'Tyee' or 'Hector' (a flat-leaved 1997 winner that was bolt-resistant in heat).
'Candystripe' Swiss chard: 60 days; NG. Large-leaved variety produced lots of leaves, according to our testers. But other than the attractive rosy pink color, it wasn't considered unique among red Swiss chards.
'Craquante d'Avignon' lettuce: 65 days. An open-hearted, green romaine-type lettuce that's slow to bolt and cold-tolerant.
'Firebird' radicchio: 74 days. This round red radicchio heads up more consistently than 'Giuilo', so it's good for gardeners who've had difficulty getting radicchio to head up.
'Forellenschluss' lettuce: 75 days. An Austrian heirloom that's similar to 'Freckles' but larger and with more scarlet splotches.
'Ovation' lettuce: 62 days. Butterhead-type lettuce produces 14-inch-diameter green heads. Slow to bolt and disease-resistant.
'Scarlet Nantes' and 'Royal Chantenay' are two old-time favorite carrots. In 1994, NG testers liked the early vigor and sweetness, as well as standard size and shape of 'Artist' and 'Presto'. For onions, a widely adapted variety is 'Sweet Sandwich'.
'Breakthru' onion: 100 days. This 1-pound yellow storage onion is high in amino acids necessary to build protein.
'Candy' onion: 85 days; NG. This yellow midday hybrid can be planted in spring in the North or South. Bulbs are mild, sweet, and large. Testers agreed that 'Candy' was easy to grow and produced sweet onions. However, size was often small, and flavor did not compare with the classic 'Vidalia'. 'Candy' seemed more popular in cooler climates.
'Pot O' Gold' carrot: 64 days. A good-looking, uniform 9-inch-long dark orange carrot with sweet flavor.
'Sweet Sunshine' carrot: 72 days. Features striking yellow skin and a mild, juicy, sweet taste.
Classic summer squashes include 'Black Zucchini', 'Early Yellow Crookneck', and the pattypan variety, 'Peter Pan'. Good winter squashes include 'Burgess Strain' buttercup, 'Table Ace' acorn, and 'Waltham' butternut. A good all-purpose pumpkin variety is 'Connecticut Field'.
'Discus Bush' winter squash: 85 days. This buttercup squash produces four 3-pound squashes per 3-foot-diameter plant. The flesh is thick and golden.
'Horn of Plenty' summer squash: 50 days. Large hybrid produces an abundance of pale yellow crooknecks with bumpy skin.
'Marina di Chiogga' winter squash: 95 days. Rambling Italian winter squash produces 5- to 10-pound warted, gray-green fruits with pale golden flesh and a small seed cavity.
'Snack 'R Jack' pumpkin: 90 days. This 2-pound, attractive, ribbed orange pumpkin produces many hull-less seeds for snacking.
'Striata d' Italia' summer squash: 50 days. Bushy early zucchini with thin skin and mottled light and dark green stripes.
Two standard varieties are 'Annie OakleyII' and 'Cajun Delight'.
'Baby Bubba': 55 days; NG. Testers liked the 2-foot-tall bushy plant and tasty pods, but the pods were often difficult to harvest. Not suitable for large-scale production.
'Burmese': 58 days. Huge-leaved, 18-inch-tall variety bears spineless 10-inch-long, tender, sweet pods.
Charlie Nardozzi is senior horticulturist at National Gardening.