New varieties of tried-and-true vegetables invite gardeners to experiment

This image provided by PanAmerican Seed shows Pepper Prism, a new plant introduction for the 2024 growing season. (PanAmerican Seed via AP)

Tomatoes, garlic, chives, basil, parsley, thyme and sage have been permanent residents in my garden for ages. But every year, I experiment with new — or new to me — crops.

Many turn out to be transient, like the Instagram-worthy Voyager tomatoes that disappointed in the flavor department, and the goji berries I couldn’t fit into my diet. But others, like 8-ball zucchini, rainbow Swiss chard and golden beets have earned permanent homes in my raised beds.

This year’s new introductions, available now in seed catalogs, are just as enticing. Four new Fruit Snacks apple trees from Plants Nouveau — Blushing Delight, Golden Treat, Tangy Green and Tasty Red – are ideal for folks like me with limited garden space. The narrow, columnar fruit trees top out between 8 and 10 feet tall and just 3 feet wide, and will even grow in pots. Plant two different varieties for cross-pollination and fruit production.

Love Gourmansun beefsteak tomatoes from Burpee are available in two new varieties, each producing 10-ounce, heart-shaped fruits on indeterminate (vining) plants. Choose Red or Sunrise (a bicolor yellow-red fruit), which have similar growth habits and taste profiles but slightly different disease resistance.

I trialed the company’s Prism Sweet Peppers last summer, and the sweet, bell-shaped fruits grew well in my garden. The productive plants also added ornamental value, as the peppers matured from light green to orange and eventually red, resulting in various multicolor fruits on the plants at once.

Quick Snack cucumbers are the newest addition to PanAm Seed’s Kitchen Minis collection. Small enough to be grown in a hanging basket or even indoors, since they don’t require pollination, the cocktail-size cucumbers are crisp and sweet.

The Pastel Duo baby turnip seed mix, introduced from Japan by Renee’s Garden, grows small, globe-shaped roots in both pink and white. Both colors have a mild, sweet flavor and thin skin that doesn’t need to be peeled away.

My Genovese basil plants tend to contract downy mildew more often than not, so I’m looking forward to growing Noga Prospera Active DMR organic basil, bred by Genesis Seeds. The plants, marketed as “highly resistant” to the disease, also are slow to bolt, or flower, which is another problem I often encounter during the height of summer’s heat.

Deep purple on the outside and bright orange on the inside, the Lila Lu Sang carrots offered by Baker Creek Rare Seeds are about as eye-catching as vegetables can get. But they’re more than just eye candy: Carrying the attributes of both purple and orange carrots, they’re sweet, tasty and nutrient-dense.


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