The New Year is known for more than just resolutions and watching “time-balls” drop. For gardeners like you and me, it's time to decide what we're going to grow this year. For edible landscaping groupies, more specifically, it means choosing what delicious and attractive veggies, fruits, and herbs we will try.
Every year the gardening industry offers us new varieties of our most treasured edibles. After years of gardening, I know what works in my yard, but that doesn't stop me from trialing some new varieties each year. You never know when you'll find a winner, like the 'Red Noodle' yard-long bean I discovered a few years ago. Not only does it grow beautifully in my climate, the red beans even hold their color when cooked!
I've done a little sleuthing and have come up with my top-20 picks of new varieties worth a try in your (and my) garden this summer. I've included a source for each variety with the description. See if any of these pique your interest and let me know if there are any special new varieties you're trying this year. Enjoy!
- 'Battito Hybrid' tomato — This pear-shaped, 12-ounce, red, ribbed indeterminate tomato looks and tastes like an heirloom, but produces like a hybrid. It can be eaten fresh or made into sauce, has excellent disease resistance, and matures 80 days from transplanting. Park Seed
- 'Big Golden Star' hawthorne — (Crataegus pinnatifida major) Unlike the common hawthorne, this Chinese variety doesn't produce thorns and has 1- to 2-inch diameter edible fruits. The crabapple-sized haws are good candied or in syrups. The 20- to 30-foot tall tree has brilliant red fall foliage, making it an excellent edible landscape plant in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 9. Raintree Nursery
- 'Blondie' pea — While I usually lean toward more colorful vegetables, this new pea really caught my eye. 'Blondie' features light green leaves and pale green English pods and seeds. The flavor is sweet and succulent. This variety matures 65 days from seeding and requires trellising. Park Seed
- 'Golden Streaks' mustard — This deeply serrated mustard features citron green leaves and a mild, sweet taste. It matures 45 days after seeding. Johnny's Selected Seed
Broccoli and kale are two of my favorite vegetables. 'Purple Peacock' broccoli is a colorful combination of both.
- 'Hansel Hybrid' eggplant — NGA trialed this All America Selection winner in our test gardens last summer, and we loved it. The attractive 2-foot-tall plant produced abundant clusters of finger-sized, purple eggplants 55 days after transplanting. They were tasty roasted individually or saut�ed with other veggies. Territorial Seed
- 'Japanese Black Trifele' tomato — This potato-leaved, Russian heirloom produces 6-ounce, pear-shaped, jet-black fruits 74 days after transplanting. The meaty fruits have a complex flavor and are one of the blackest colored tomatoes available. Johnny's Selected Seed
- 'Lil Pumkemon Hybrid' pumpkin — These 1- to 2-pound mini-pumpkins mature 100 days from seeding and produce unusual cream-colored fruits with orange stripes. They can be used for decorations or stuffed and baked. Park Seed
- 'Mottistone' lettuce — This summer-crisp, Batavian-type loose-leaf lettuce features green leaves with red speckling. It's as beautiful as it is tasty and matures 55 days from seeding. Johnny's Selected Seed
- 'Pearl' cucumber — While many of the varieties I'm mentioning are more colorful than normal, this cucumber goes in the opposite direction, featuring meringue white fruits with white spines. It produces fruit 65 days from seeding and is more productive than other pale-colored cucumber varieties. Territorial Seed
- 'Pesto Perpetuo' basil — This 1- to 2-foot basil features unique variegated leaves (green fringed with white). It has the same flavor as Greek basil and is good for making pesto. Nichols Garden Nursery
- 'Pulverulenta' elderberry — (Sambucus nigra) This European variety features the same growth characteristics as the common elderberry but has mottled green leaves with white stripes. Hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9. Raintree Nursery
'Sweet Lace' grape makes a decorative container plant and also produces white table grapes in September.
- 'Purple mizuna' greens — I've grown mizuna for years and enjoy their piquant flavor and quick growth. Mizuna can mature one month after seeding. This new variety adds a little purple coloring to its already attractive leaves. Johnny's Selected Seed
- 'Purple Peacock' broccoli — This cross between 'Green Goliath' broccoli and two different kale varieties features a small, loose broccoli head on a plant that's totally edible. This variety has a purple stem and head, and produces abundant side shoots. It matures 70 days from seeding. Territorial Seed
- 'Red Popper' pepper — Peppers are naturally attractive, but this new mini-bell pepper takes the prize. The 1- to 2-inch diameter fruits are red, sweet, delicious, and early, ripening 55 days after transplanting. Plus, the fruits hang on the plants like Chinese lanterns making them beautiful, as well. Burpee Seed
- 'Red Veined' sorrel — Sorrel is one of those wild greens that has undergone a revival recently. This new variety features red veins in the traditional light green leaves. The flavor is sharp and tangy, so it's best mixed with milder greens in salads. Sorrel is ready to eat 55 days from seeding. Johnny's Selected Seed
- 'Sweet Lace' grape — This ideal patio variety has attractive, green, cut leaves all summer and produces white grapes in September. It grows well in containers and can be trellised on a fence or wall. Hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9. Stark Brothers
'Hansel' eggplant produces clusters of finger-sized fruits on beautiful 2-foot-tall plants. They're great grilled or roasted.
- 'Tom Thumb Black Velvet' nasturtium— This dwarf nasturtium features deep maroon flowers that are stunning to look at, yet still have a characteristic peppery flavor. Nichols Garden Nursery
- 'Touchstone Gold Hybrid' beet — While yellow beets are not necessarily new, this one is touted by many as the best for its bright yellow flesh, orange skin, and good production. Matures 55 days after seeding. Territorial Seed
- 'Violetta Hybrid' pak choi — Here's a new look for a standard Chinese green. 'Violetta' features the same growth habit as green pak choi, but has purple-tinged leaves instead. Not only are the purple leaves attractive, they are higher in nutrients than green varieties. Park Seed
- 'Zlata' radish — This unusual, plum-shaped radish features golden-yellow skin and sweet white flesh. It matures 30 days after seeding. Territorial Seed
For complete source information for these and other great vegetables, fruits, and herbs, go to the Edible Resource Guide.