All the holiday gifts are put away, the leftovers eaten, and the relatives gone. The festive time of the holidays is over, and now it's time for a good gardener to get to work planning for next year. One of the joys of vegetable gardening for me over the years has been trying new and unique varieties. After years of experience I have a long list of tried and true varieties that perform well for me. 'Maxibel' filet beans, 'Big Beef' tomato, and 'Red Noodle' asparagus bean are just a few of my favorites. But every year I make space for growing some new vegetables and varieties.
It's a fun process. I settle in with my seed catalogs and flip through them, looking for what's new. Then I check those varieties out on-line to find more information and spend some time surfing the net looking through on-line seed catalogs for their offerings.
Every gardener has different tastes and needs, so there are no right answers as to what to try. Some gardeners are looking for better disease resistance, while others are interested in different colors and shapes. Some gardeners just want organic seed or heirlooms. Beauty and uniqueness are traits I'm always on the lookout for. That being said, here are my top 28 vegetable varieties for 2011 based on my research. Sources for these varieties are listed after each and addresses are found in the Edible Resource Guide. Give some of these a try in your garden and see how they do and have a happy New Year!
There are always so many new hybrid and rediscovered heirloom tomato varieties to choose from each year it can be mind boggling. Here are a few I particularly liked.
'Defiant' tomato features resistance to two common tomato diseases; early and late blight.
For a cool looking small cabbage with a unique pointy top, try 'Caraflex'.
'Black Icicle' – This Ukrainian variety has similarly shaped orange, yellow, and pink colored varietal sisters. The fruits are elongated, meaty, have few seeds, and a sweet taste. They're good for eating out of hand or making sauce. (Baker Creek)
'Blush' – How about a tomato that tastes like a pineapple? 'Blush' features elongated, 2- inch long, yellow with pink blushed fruits on indeterminate plants. (Seeds of Change)
'Borsalina' – A distinct pear-shaped, pleated, red colored fruit on indeterminate, hybrid plants. (Seeds of Change)
'Cream Sausage' – Long, sausage-shaped tomatoes aren't necessarily new, but this one features a white to cream colored skin and flesh on bush plants. (Baker Creek)
'Defiant' – For gardeners that are always battling late and early blight diseases, here's a new red, medium-sized, hybrid variety with good resistance to both. (Johnny's Seeds)
'Green Doctors' – Green tomatoes may not be tops on every gardener's list, but this new green cherry tomato features sweet and tangy fruits on indeterminate plants. (Baker Creek, Victory Seed)
'Green Envy' – This indeterminate variety features small, emerald-green, 1-inch long fruits with a sweet and tangy flavor. Great for salsa making! (Burpee)
'Mega Bite' – This compact, bush plant is great grown in a container or on a patio. Its selling point is the red, 4-inch diameter, beefsteak-sized fruits on such a small plant. (Park Seed.)
'Mountain Magic' – Like 'Defiant', this red, indeterminate, crack-resistant, cherry tomato variety has good resistance to late blight disease. (Johnny's Seeds, Veseys, Burpee)
'Toronjino' – This orange, hybrid cherry tomato has the flavor of 'Sun Gold' but with added late blight disease resistance. (High Mowing Seeds)
I didn't list many of the new lettuces here because, quite frankly, there are so many varieties of various red, green, and yellow color combinations, it's hard to keep them all straight! There are a few unique bean varieties out there and, of course, some attractive basils. I threw in a cool cabbage and new broccoli/kale cross just for fun!
'Amethyst Improved' basil – A Genovese-type basil with deep purple leaves, this variety is an eye catcher in any edible or flower garden. (Johnny's Seeds)
'Apollo' brokali – A hybrid cross between a Calabrese broccoli and kale, this unusual variety has small green broccoli heads with tender stems and leaves. (Burpee, Territorial Seed). 'Purple Peacock' is a purple version. (Territorial Seed)
'Brightest Brilliant Rainbow' quinoa – This quinoa has beautiful fuchsia, burgundy, lime green, cream, orange, and yellow seed heads on 2-foot tall plants. You can eat the young, leafy greens raw in salads, steamed, or harvest the seeds for a grain. It's a beauty even if you don't eat it! (Territorial Seed)
'Caraflex' cabbage – Lots of companies are carrying this new, hybrid, green, cone-shaped mini-cabbage. It's perfect for small gardens and its shape looks like the classic hat from the SNL cone heads! (Burpee, Johnny Seeds, Veseys, Park, High Mowing, Nichols Garden Nursery)
'Christmas' basil – This 15-inch tall and wide basil plant features dark purple stems and flowers and glossy green leaves with a unique pine scent. (Nichols Garden Nursery, Johnny's Seeds, Territorial Seed)
'Garden Ferns' lettuce – This lettuce variety looks more like dandelion greens. However, unlike dandelions, this Italian heirloom has a sweet flavor and tender texture. (Renee's Garden)
'Multibond' lettuce – Okay, I know I said I wasn't going to mention many new lettuce varieties, but this loose leaf variety caught my eye for its extremely ruffled head and lime green leaves. (Harris Seeds)
'Velour' filet bean – I love filet beans, so that's why I'm really excited by 'Velour'. It's the first purple podded filet bean available. The purple color turns green when cooked. 'Concador' is a new yellow filet bean, too. (Johnny's Seeds, Park, Thompson & Morgan Seeds)
It always amazes me the uniqueness of this family of vegetables. Some border on truly weird. Take a look.
'Speckled Hound' winter squash has a unique green and orange skin with sweet and nutty flavored orange flesh.
If you like filet beans, try this purple colored version called 'Velour'.
'Black Futzu' winter squash – A Japanese heirloom variety that features 4- to 6-pound dark green with chestnut overtone-colored fruits that are also heavily warted. Bizarre to look at, but the orange flesh is delicious to eat. (High Mowing Seeds, Baker Creek)
'Lil Pump Ke Mon' pumpkin – This mini-pumpkin features 2 pound, cream white-skinned and yellow/orange striped fruits on vining plants. A real eye pleaser. (Harris Seeds, Territorial Seed)
'Red Zepplin' onion – A unique hybrid, long day, red onion that has a great spicy-sweet flavor and can be stored for up to 8 months. (Johnny's Seeds, Park Seed)
'Rich Sweetness 132' melon – A small, Russian, red-skinned with yellow streaks heirloom that has sweet white flesh. Great for a single serving. (Baker Creek)
'Salt and Pepper' cucumber – Pickling cucumbers are easy to grow and here's a unique white-skinned and fleshed one that also features powdery mildew resistance. Similar to 'Miniature White'. (Johnny's Seeds, Territorial Seed)
'Sapomeil' watermelon – This hybrid, football-shaped, Piel de Sapo-type melon has a green skin with yellow streaks and a buttery, sweet flesh. It's disease resistant, too. (Gurney's)
'Silver Edged' squash – This cool looking heirloom winter squash is grown for its silver seeds used in Latin American cooking. The pear-shaped fruits have white skin with green mottled stripes, making it attractive in the garden. (Seed Savers Exchange)
'Speckled Hound' winter squash – This unique, buttercup-like winter squash has orange skin mottled with blue-green streaks. The flesh is orange, sweet and has a nutty flavor. (Territorial Seed, Johnny's Seeds, Harris Seeds, Cook Garden)
How about a turnip to eat raw and some parsley grown as a root?
'Eagle' parsley root – Can't get enough of that parsley flavor from the parsley greens? Try growing parsley root. 'Eagle' is an heirloom variety that grows like a parsnip with roots that taste like parsley. Great for cooking. (High Mowing Seeds)
'Oasis' turnip – Most gardeners think of turnips as those mashed roots served at Thanksgiving. However, 'Oasis' is white colored, through and through, and has a sweet, juicy texture and flavor when eaten raw or shredded in salads. (Burpee, Nichols Garden Nursery, Thompson & Morgan Seeds)
Check out the Edible Resource Guide on the Edible Landscaping website for contact information of the companies listed that carry these new varieties.