Advertisers often use the words "new," "improved" or "better" to tempt consumers. Plant marketers are no different. They want us to buy new varieties developed by plant breeders and seed companies. It is a good approach because most of the gardeners I know like to try something different in their gardens each year. It is part of what makes gardening so much fun. Here are some new veggie and herb varieties you might want to know about.
Burpee (burpee.com) has an exclusive basil introduction that has me excited. Basil is my favorite herb but by the middle of the season it starts to flower. I then work endlessly to keep the flowers pinched off. "Bam" is touted as a basil that reaches a height of 18 to 20 inches and is very productive, flavorful and fragrant. The great thing about "Bam" is that it never flowers and it keeps producing in hot weather.
Mascotte (www.parkseed) is a new bush bean variety that is so good it has been honored with the All America Selection award for 2014 -- the first bean since 1991 to receive that honor. What makes this bush bean so great? First, it is a compact variety, which makes it ideal for the trend toward gardening with less space in raised beds and containers. The plants also produce plenty of long slender pods above the leaves, making harvesting easy. The beans are crunchy with a great taste.
Fans of beets (I'm not) will want to know that there are two new varieties to pique their interest. One is a red "Baby Beat" from Johnny's Selected Seeds (www.johnnyseeds.com). The National Garden Bureau says "Baby Beat" is a true baby or mini beet that's nicely rounded with smooth skin. The beet tops are small and attractive, which could make them a nice addition to an edible landscape or a container garden. The other new beet is "Boldor" (www.territorialseed.com) with sweet, mild, 2-inch round fruit. The flesh is a bright yellow and the skin is a dark golden color. The young tops are tender and sweet.
I do not eat a lot of eggplant, but after eating some spicy baba ganoush (sort of like humus made from grilled eggplant) last year, I'll probably eat more this year. A new All American Selection is "Eggplant Patio Baby F1" (www.jungseed.com). As its name implies, it is a compact eggplant that will work well in containers. The plants are highly productive and yields 2- to 3-inch, deep purple, egg-shaped fruit. Plus, it is a "friendly" eggplant that does not have thorns on its leaves or at the top of the fruit.
I grow most of my veggies in containers, so I am always watching for space-saving bush varieties of squash, melons and cukes. While not brand new, here are a few varieties that space conscious gardeners might want to know about. From Renee's Garden Seeds (reneesgarden.com) comes "Bush Slicer", a dwarf bush cucumber with 6- to 8-inch fruit, "Astia", a compact zucchini, and two bush winter squash. "Pic-N-Pic", a bush yellow crookneck squash, comes from Burpee.
You might find some of the varieties I have mentioned on seed racks at your local garden stores, along with other interesting varieties that may entice you, or you can order them online from the companies noted. The weather is warming, so get your seed as soon as possible and don't forget to try something new.
-- Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.