There are plenty of new edibles to tempt us this spring. Only time will tell which will live up to the hype.
THIS SPRING’S NEW fruits and vegetables come with promises of unexpected flavors, smaller-scale plants, unusual colors and ease of cultivation. We won’t know for at least a season which of these will live up to the hype, let alone suit our tastes and cooking style. Experimentation is half the fun of gardening, and when it comes to edibles, you have the added pleasure of picking and eating fresh organic food you’ve grown in your own backyard.
If a seed source isn’t given, expect plants to be available in nurseries this spring:
• Let’s cut right to the chase with new tomatoes. ‘Virginia Sweet’ is an heirloom variety with fat fruits that can weigh up to 2 pounds each. Their flavor is rich and sweet, and the yellow-gold, ruby-marbled fruit is pretty in the garden and on the plate.
• Cherry tomatoes really are the candy of the garden, perfect to pop into your mouth straight off the vine. The new ‘Candyland Red’ has very small sweet fruits, and the vines don’t take over the garden. These currant-type tomatoes ripen early and produce over a long season.
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• Eggplant ‘Meatball’ is shaped like a beanbag, and bred for high moisture content and fewer seeds. It’s advertised as sweeter, denser and heavier than other varieties, and so moist you easily can shape it into meatballs. Although I don’t know why you’d want to. (Burpee Seeds).
• Gourmet beets ‘Five Color Rainbow’ are a visual feast in shades from white through yellow, pink and burgundy. You can pick and eat them as tender baby beets, or leave them to grow larger before harvesting. (Renee’s Garden Seeds).
• Greens, especially arugula, are so easy to grow in our climate. ‘Olive Leaf’ arugula has smooth spear-shaped leaves in pale green. Its flavor is intense, yet more subtle than the wilder varieties. It’s perennial, cold-hardy and resistant to bolting. Arugula ‘Wasabi’ has a hotter, horseradish-like taste. It grows year-round in our climate and can be eaten fresh, braised or sauteed, or made into a mean pesto.
• Or, if you prefer a crispy head of lettuce, check out the frilly rosettes of heat-tolerant ‘Queen of Crunch’, which grows quickly from seed. (Renee’s Garden Seeds).
• What’s a summer garden without pumpkins? ‘Bunch of Warts’ is dark orange with green bumps. It’s more easily carved than most of the “warties,” and sure to be a conversation piece. ‘Hooligan’ is a mini-pumpkin for smaller gardens, with a nutty taste and white and orange mottled skin that shows up well on the vines.
• Strawberries are the quintessential flavor of early summer, and the new ‘Delizz’ is a compact cultivar with an especially sweet taste. It fruits over a long season and is small enough to produce well in containers and hanging baskets.
• ‘Nocturne’ is a rabbiteye-type blueberry, marketed as adaptive and vigorous. It’s notable for showy berries that are bright orange before ripening, then turn dusky black when ready to pick. (Burpee Seeds).
• The ultimate in downsizing must be Pixie Grapes, with clusters of tiny fruits on vines so diminutive that the plant can live in a container for years. Grow one of the ‘Pixie’ varieties in a pot next to your outdoor table so that on a warm evening you can reach right over and pick a handful of dessert. I’m assured these appealing little grape vines will be in plentiful supply in nurseries this spring — as we hope will be true with all these tempting new edibles.