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Seed Catalogues Hold Promise of New Veggies

March 07, 1993|BILL SIDNAM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Sidnam has written garden columns and features for The Times since 1975.

Although, without a doubt, the first harvest of the season is the most anticipated event for vegetable gardeners, the arrival of each year's new seed catalogues would probably rate a close second.

Each year, mail-order seed catalogues arrive chock-full of exciting new vegetable varieties for sampling in one's garden--and 1993 is no exception.

All-America Selections is a nonprofit horticultural organization that has been testing and evaluating new vegetable and flower varieties since 1933. Each year, it names a select few vegetables and flowers All-American Winners.

For 1993 there are two vegetable winners, a gold-colored tomato called Husky Gold and a mini-pumpkin named Baby Bear.

Husky Gold produces beautiful golden fruit on compact, sturdy, manageable vines. The plants are an intense dark green color and the golden fruit provides a nice ornamental contrast. They are quite pretty in flower beds and patio planters.

I grew Husky Gold in my test garden last year and found the plants to be prolific fruit producers for their size. The tomatoes are meaty with a sweet, mild flavor. The literature said the plants would reach a height of 48 inches, but mine were more than five feet tall. The plants feature a very strong, thick central stem that gives them an upright, vase-like structure that requires only a couple of short stakes to hold the plants in place.

Baby Bear mini-pumpkin produces unique, cute two-pound pumpkins that are perfect for jack-o'-lanterns and, unlike many novelty mini-pumpkins, the flesh is fine-grained and sweet, which makes it ideal for pies; its hull-less seeds can be baked for a tasty snack. The plants are quite productive, yielding up to nine fruits per vine. Although the pumpkins themselves are small, the vines are standard sized and will spread to eight feet or more.

Since these are All-American Winners, most mail-order seed companies will stock the seeds for Husky Gold and Baby Bear and they should be available at local nurseries.

In addition to the two All-American Winners, there are a number of other vegetables of merit for 1993.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes remain the No. 1 one vegetable among home gardeners and there is a cornucopia of new varieties.

Heatwave Hybrid is a good choice for gardeners in our hot inland valley and desert regions because it will set fruit when the temperature reaches as high as 96 degrees F, while most other tomato plants drop their blossoms from heat stress at temperatures in the high-80s to low-90s.

Golden Pearl cherry tomato is a prized variety that has been grown for the gourmet restaurant business in California's wine producing country for many years and it is now available to home gardeners for the first time. Tiny golden-yellow fruit are exceptionally sweet and are produced in huge clusters.

Tumbler Hybrid is a new cherry tomato designed for growing in hanging baskets. Its compact plants have a graceful, cascading form and are surprisingly productive.

Peppers: Colorful peppers, both hot and sweet, abound in the new catalogues. Pepper plants are becoming a big favorite with gardeners because the plants are easy to grow in containers and they have great ornamental value.

Chocolate Belle and Lemon Belle are two intriguing newcomers. The former produces rich chocolate-colored bell peppers and the latter bears pretty lemon-colored fruit. I grew Chocolate Belle in my test garden last spring and found it to be the most productive, sweetest bell pepper I'd ever grown.

Jingle Bells produces unique, tiny bell peppers that are just right for stuffing and placing on the hors d'oeuvre tray. The plants produce huge quantities of these miniature peppers.

Squash: There are a number of bright new stars in the squash world. Among them is Roly Poly zucchini that has a unique round fruit that can be eaten raw like an apple and is much easier to stuff than the traditional long type.

Pasta Hybrid is a new spaghetti squash with semi-compact vines, early maturity and increased yield when compared to other types. While the vines of standard varieties will spread eight to 10 feet, Pasta Hybrid vines grow to six or seven feet. The plants produce large cylindrical fruits that are 10 to 12 inches long and seven inches in diameter.

Clarimore Lebanese zucchini produces fruits that are exceptionally smooth and tender. They are a distinctive light pastel green and feature a mild, sweet flavor.

Miscellaneous veggies: Bambino is an unusual new mini-eggplant that is ideal for containers. The small one-foot plants bear clusters of shiny purple, oval one-inch fruit.

Topper bush beans are easy to pick and find as they are produced on the tops of plants; above the foliage and protected from the soil.

George's Favorite Broccoli Blend is a blend of three early-, mid- and late-season varieties that will ensure the gardener an extended harvest period.

Where to get them:

We have just scratched the surface of new vegetable varieties. Seeds for the ones discussed here are available from the following firms.

Burpee Seeds, 300 Park Ave., Warminster, Pa. 18991 (free catalogue)--Heat Wave and Tumbler Hybrid tomatoes, Roly Poly zucchini, Topper bush bean and George's Favorite Broccoli Blend.

Nichols Garden Nursery, 1190 N. Pacific Highway, Albany, Ore. 97321 (free catalogue)--Jingle Bells pepper and Pasta Hybrid spaghetti squash.

Shepherd's Garden Seeds, 6116 Highway 9, Felton, Calif. 95018 (catalogue $1)--Golden Pearl cherry tomato, Bambino eggplant and Clarimore Lebanese zucchini.

Two other mail-order seed companies that offer a large selection of new and superior vegetable seeds are Johnny's Selected Seeds, Foss Hill Road, Albion, Me. 04910 and Stokes Seeds, Box 548, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. (Both offer free catalogues.)

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