NEW VEGETABLES TO GROW IN 2018
Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor Emeritus
University of Vermont
Each year the best of the new annual flowers and vegetables are judged nationwide, and the winners are given the All-America Selections (AAS) designation. To be an AAS winner, plants must show improvements over any similar existing cultivars (cultivated varieties). This year’s eight vegetable winners include a corn, pak choi, three peppers, and three tomatoes.
Sweet American Dream corn has large ears with bicolor kernels
that are super sweet and tender. In addition to being eaten
fresh, this variety is good roasted, grilled, canned or
frozen. Plants grow six to seven feet tall, and ears mature
about 77 days after sowing the seeds in the garden. Thin
seedlings to about eight inches apart in rows.
Asian Delight Pak Choi (or Bok Choy) is a Chinese cabbage with yields twice or more than other varieties. This is due to the fact that it is much later to bolt (produce flower stalks and stop growing). The small to mid-sized heads (five to seven inches high and across) have a tasty and tender white rib which contrasts nicely to the dark green leaves. When planting out seedlings or sowing directly to the garden, space plants eight to ten inches apart. Figure on 30 to 50 days from sowing seeds to harvest, or 25 to 40 days to harvest from setting out transplants.
The first of the three pepper winners is the cayenne Red Ember. It is earlier to mature than many varieties, making it a good choice for us in cooler climates with shorter growing seasons. It produces many thick-walled fruits with rounded ends, about four inches long and an inch wide, and bright red when mature. It is described as spicy but tastier than the traditional cayenne. Plants are compact, under two feet high, and bear 25 to 50 or more fruits. Plants should be spaced 12 to 18 inches apart in rows. Since it needs about 130 days from sowing until fully ripe, with our short and sometimes cool summers it might be better to start them indoors and then set out transplants. If doing this, figure on about 75 days to fully ripe from transplanting.
Roulette is the next pepper winner—a habanero type that resembles one in all respects, except it has no heat. Instead it has a tasty citrusy habanero flavor. A plant will produce about 10 fruits at a time, and up to 100 total for the season. The bright red fruit (when ripe) are acorn shaped, three inches long and a bit over an inch wide. Plants are bushy, growing up to three feet high, so space them about two feet apart in the garden. Once again it may be best to start these indoors, then transplant out. For this, figure on 85 days from planting to fully ripe, or 120 days from direct sowing in the garden.
Mexican Sunrise is a Hungarian pepper and the third AAS pepper winner this year. In the AAS trials, it performed best in the Southeast and Southwest regions. Fruit are attractive in various colors, conical to six or so inches long, and hanging on bushy plants about 20 inches high. They can be used ornamentally as well as for eating or pickling. Fruits turn from lime green to yellow, then orange and finally red when ripe. The thick-walled fruit can be eaten, though, at any stage and are semi-hot. When planting, space about 12 to 15 inches apart. Figure on 80 days or more to fully ripe from sowing directly, or 60 days or so from transplanting young plants into the garden.
Chef’s Choice Red tomato is the fifth member of the Chef’s Choice series, and is a red beefsteak type tomato. What makes it special is its firm flesh, good balance of acidity to sweetness, many fruits (30 or more, a half-pound each) on strong plants (five feet tall and indeterminate), and some disease resistance. Space plants about 18 to 24 inches apart, and figure on about 80 days to bearing from transplanting young plants into the garden.
The second winning tomato this year is a cocktail type, Red
Racer, which has resistance to several common diseases.
Fruits mature in clusters, about a week earlier than similar
varieties, are a uniform size, and are slightly larger than cherry
tomatoes (about two ounces). They have a good balance of
acidity to sweetness. Space plants about two feet
apart. They’re determinate and will grow about three feet
high. Figure on about 57 days from transplanting young
plants out until they start bearing.
Valentine is the last tomato winner, a deep red grape tomato
which is very sweet, and can last quite well on the vine without
cracking or losing flavor. It has some resistance to early blight
disease. Indeterminate plants are vining, growing to six
feet high and so needing staking, and produce fruit earlier (about
55 days from transplanting) than similar grape tomatoes. You
may get 100 or more fruit per plant. Space plants about two
feet apart in the garden.
Since most of these new varieties won’t be at garden stores,
you’ll need to buy seeds (either locally or from catalogs) and
start them yourself. You can find out more details and
photos on these and other past AAS winners, both vegetables and
flowers, from the AAS website (all-americaselections.org).
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