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New veggie varieties popping up

Though I have many favorite heirloom vegetable varieties I wouldn’t dare go without, I do enjoy trying a handful of new-to-me selections every gardening season. I spend a few days each winter perusing many seed catalogs, looking for the varieties I think are the most likely to be home runs. Here are some of the veggie varieties I plan to try for the first time this season.

“Resistafly” carrot: While I think the name could be better, it is certainly indicative of what this carrot was bred for. The foliage of “Resistafly” carrots contains relatively low amounts of chlorogenic acid, a compound that root fly maggots need for their development. This trait, combined with a high amount of carotene in the root, makes this hybrid resistant to carrot root fly maggots. These pests create wiggly tunnels throughout carrot roots and distort their growth. “Resistafly” reaches 6 inches in length with a rounded tip and a sweet, crisp flavor. It is a great variety for mid- and late-season plantings.

“Silver Slicer” cucumber: Maturing in about 52 days, this hybrid cucumber was bred at Cornell University and is known for its incredible resistance to powdery mildew. But the most intriguing feature of this cuke is its fruit color. Reaching 5 to 6 inches in length, the creamy-white fruit is smooth and bitter-free. There are no spines on the skin and the flavor is mild and juicy. They can be used for both fresh eating and pickling.

“Northeaster” butter beans: I’ve taken to growing mostly pole-type beans in the past few years because hours of bending at the waist to harvest bush types are not as much fun as they used to be! This pole variety bears inch-wide, flattened Romano-type beans that reach a good 8 inches in length before getting stringy. A short-season variety, maturing in just 65 days, “Northeaster” requires a fence, arbor or trellis to climb as the vines can reach a good 10 feet in height.

“Desert” zucchini: Bred for extreme resistance to powdery mildew and several different mosaic viruses, “Desert” may become my new favorite summer squash. Not only is it one tough customer when it comes to fighting off diseases, but it also is more upright in growth, allowing you to easily see the developing fruits and harvest them well before they reach baseball-bat proportions. The smooth, dark-green fruits set well even in very hot weather, and in a Vermont-based trial, “Desert” continued to thrive even as other varieties were wiped out by powdery mildew.

“Feher Ozon” sweet pepper: This delightful little pepper is said to be a real star. I can’t wait to give it a try. A Hungarian variety, “Feher Ozon” reaches 18 to 24 inches in height and requires no staking, even when heavily laden with fruit. The peppers are sweet and crisp and delicious for eating fresh, stuffed, or dried and ground into paprika. The young peppers are white, but as they mature, they progress to yellow, orange and, eventually, red. A multitude of colors can appear on any given plant at any time because each plant bears several dozen fruits at once. Peppers measure 4 inches in length and taper to a smooth, rounded point.

Seeds of these varieties can be found at some local nurseries, as well as through many catalog retailers, including High Mowing Seeds (www.highmowingseeds.com) and Seed Saver’s Exchange (www.seedsavers.org), among many others.

Next week, I’ll share some of my favorite up-and-coming ornamentals, including a few roses, annuals, perennials and even a shrub or two.

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden.”

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to [email protected] or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.


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