In many parts of the country, it’s still cold, days are short and some folks are dreaming of slipping away to some tropical destination…
However, there are many of us out there planning a different type of get-a-way.
One that is just a few steps out the door of the house, perhaps on a balcony, maybe in the parent’s backyard. A little slice of heaven of our own making, and chances are we have already started planning our personal haven. I am, of course, talking about gardening, specifically vegetable gardening.
A huge part of vegetable gardening is selecting the types and varieties of plants to grow each season. There are a few staples that each of us holds dear and continue to plant every year, but there is always room for something new and exciting. After all, that is what plant breeding and gardening are all about: building on the past and looking toward the future.
So, if you are in the market for new ideas, here are a few varieties that serve up something different and unique in the garden and at the table.
These two tomatoes were introduced to the market several years apart from the same breeder. The fruits max out at around 2” long and both have striped skins. Red Torch is red with gold/orange striping while Sunset Torch is gold with red/orange striping. The two together are quite striking. They don’t only look good they are also incredibly strong garden performers. Their high yields, robust disease resistance, and exceptional flavor and texture really place these two in a class of their own.
Something a little different from the standard fare, but incredibly versatile in the kitchen, these shallots are a breeze to grow even for the most inexperienced gardener. At a mature size of 4-5” long they provide a bountiful harvest from even just a few plants. They take up very little space in the garden and can be used to separate rows of other crops or planted in corners and spaces too small for other crops. These shallots can be used raw or caramelized. With a long harvest window in late summer and fall and excellent storage characteristics, these shallots can be used over a long period of time in all your favorite dishes from salads to omelets to chilis and soups. They are very forgiving, and their flavor is distinct without being overpowering. A great little addition to any garden without taking space from other crops.
I know. It’s corn. Who has room for corn? If you do have a bit of extra room along the edge of the garden or in a small strip somewhere, you will be glad you planted some of these plants. This white and gold sweet corn has uniform ears on strong stalks. I believe it was during the evaluation of this trial that I had my first ever taste of fresh sweet corn right off the stalk, and what a way to start. The kernels are incredibly crisp and sweet, but what I remember most about this variety is the lack of silks stuck to the ear after shucking. Most of us have experienced ending up with a mouthful of corn strings after going to town on some corn-on-the-cob. I was amazed to find this variety shed nearly all its silks along with the husk. That minor characteristic alone makes this one worth having around, not to mention all its other impressive attributes. If you are feeling a little crazy and want to give corn a chance in the home garden, you cannot go wrong with this variety.
I know this one is a little older, but it holds a special place in my heart from a personal standpoint and I could go without mentioning it. As a habanero-type pepper, I know many people would shy away because habaneros are notorious for being eye-watering hot. That’s what is so special about this pepper: there is no heat. Yet, somehow, it still retains all the smoky pepper flavor that habaneros are so sought out for. If you have never had the pleasure of tasting the unique flavor habaneros bring to a dish because the heat was so overwhelming, I urge you to give this one a try. The plants themselves are easy to grow, produce a tremendous number of fruits, and can be harvested from very light yellow/orange all the way through a deep orange/red. I remember trying to imagine why anyone would want a habanero with no heat. After all, that is the whole point of a hot pepper, isn’t it? To be hot? That is until I tasted the mature fruit. Well, this skeptic was turned. If there are any others out there like me, please give this one a shot, you may be pleasantly surprised.
The colors on this tomato are absolutely stunning. The purple/red fruits with green stripes makes a great pattern. The striping on the fruit is well-defined and the pattern is clean and distinct. Other varieties with this pattern tend to look muddy or dirty. This one looks incredible, and you almost feel bad cutting it apart, that is until you taste it. The flavor and texture of the fruit are superb. Sweet and crisp with just the right amount of that tomato acidity that you’d expect from a medium slicer, this variety ticks all the right boxes. Even the interior color of the fruit is attractive. The dark red interior against the green seed mass makes for a striking color combination. The plant produces large numbers of 3-4oz fruits which works out quite well for home gardening. Rather than having a few extraordinarily large tomatoes ripen all within a narrow timeframe, you have an abundance of fruit ripening over quite a long harvest window. If you happen to miss a couple of fruits at the peak of ripeness, no worries, there will be any number of new fruits coming along.
“This post is provided as an education/inspirational service of All-America Selections. Please credit and link to All-America Selections when using all or parts of this article.”