The first one arrived in mid-November. My mailbox still overflows daily with garden catalogs.
I love this season of excess and dreams. Snow covers the ground, my toes are cold and I snuggle next to the fire with a cup of Earl Grey tea (and a cookie or four) to leaf through the new plants and ideas. Warmer days and a fantastic garden are coming, I know, as I peruse plants and seeds.
Many new plants featured in catalogs are ones I’ve seen in the last year at trade shows, conventions and breeder previews. Some were sent to me in spring 2012 to trial. Here are the gems worth a try in my opinion. I’ll start with edibles and next week’s blog will cover flowering plants.
Indigo Rose is spectacular! I received seeds from the breeder three years ago and have grown the salad-size deep purple and red tomatoes for two seasons. It’s a long-season (80 days) indeterminate that is best started from seed early or bought as a transplant. Fruit is set in clusters, so the plant is productive. As it matures, tomatoes turn a deep purple that it almost black. Areas of the fruit not exposed to the sun turn red. Flesh is red, too, and full-bodied in flavor. There are also nuances of chocolate and lemon.
Indigo Rose tomatoes are packed with flavor and anti-oxidents. The deep purple skin is a storehouse of disease-preventing compounds. These are some I grew last year.
Grafted tomatoes and other vegetables such as peppers and eggplant have been on the market for a couple of years. However, 2013 has unleashed a myriad of varieties on grafted rootstock, including numerous heirlooms. I’ve grown grafted tomatoes for the last two seasons and rave about them, especially last year when my area experienced extreme drought conditions. Plants grow larger, bushier (more leaves and flowers and fruit) and the rootstock gives the plant plenty of disease and drought resistance. Try a grafted tomato this year. You’ll love it!
Johnny’s Selected Seeds is known for developing vegetables that become classics. Their Diva cucumber is a mainstay in my garden due to its crisp taste, small seed cavity and productivity. Salanova, Johnny’s new star, is the result of 20 years of breeding. It grows like head lettuce, but is harvested as leaf lettuce.
Look how huge this Salanova green butter lettuce head is compared to other butterhead lettuces! Photo courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds.
The huge heads are about 40 percent larger than normal; leaves are thicker and grow more upright. Salad greens are easier to wash and keep longer in the refrigerator, up to a month. The seed mix includes multi-leaf versions of Green Butter, Red Butter, Green Oakleaf and Red Oakleaf lettuces. A specially-designed cutter to harvest heads for maximum leaf production is included.
Fancy Cabbage & Beans
I love Kitchen Garden Seeds new baby savoy cabbage, Alcosa, because the average cabbage head is too big for my small family. I want only enough to make cole slaw or to roast with corned beef, not a huge head that will feed ten teenage boys. Savoyed or crinkled leaves are milder than flat cabbage leaves, and they hold dressing or butter better. Alcosa Baby Savoy is also pretty, dusky blue outer leaves and a six-inch lime-green head with a yellow core.
Another pretty newcomer from Kitchen Garden Seeds is Amethyst Purple Filet beans. I have always loved bush beans, since I was a toddler and ate baby beans from the plant in my Dad’s garden. The juicy, crisp flavor rates in the top ten of foods, in my opinion. I favor filet beans for these reasons. You have to pick them young, at about five inches in length, to get the best bean. The new Amethyst Purple adds a beautiful color to the bean patch with its violet color. Blossoms are purple, too. Plants are compact, productive and do well in containers.
Next week, look for the prettiest flowers new this year.
Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.