The Best Vegetable Varieties
January 28th, 2010
Lots of newbies got into vegetable gardening last year… some 7 million first-timers nationwide if the stats from the National Gardening Association are close to accurate.
What remains to be seen this season are how many of those stick with it.
Growing your own vegetables is not easy.
A lot can — and does — go wrong.
I’m sure most of those 7 million new veggie gardeners found that out in 2009 thanks to lousy soil, weather vagaries, rabbit and groundhog attacks, assorted bugs and diseases and one really important and really under-rated issue – inferior varieties.
As any veteran veggiemeister will tell you, just any old red beet or carrot won’t do.
There’s a huge difference from one variety to the next, and that alone can make all the difference between a veteran’s success and a rookie’s dismal failure.
Veterans know that some varieties grow bigger, better, earlier and/or with fewer pest problems than those cheapie varieties that sell for as little as 10 cents a pack on the bargain racks.
Don’t believe it? Then take a trip to any vegetable-trial garden where different varieties are growing side by side. Penn State’s Steve Bogash does this at publicly displayed sites at the Franklin County Extension office in Chambersburg and at Penn State’s Trial Gardens near Landisville, Lancaster County.
You’ll see obvious differences and wonder why anyone would ever want to plant sad-looking Variety A when Variety B is thriving under the same conditions right next to it.
If you’re new to vegetable gardening or haven’t had much success in the past, don’t overlook this advantage.
Cornell University has done some excellent work on vegetable trials in order to steer home gardeners toward the best-performing varieties.
The results apply to our climate. So whether you’re catalog-shopping or planning to buy seed packets or plants at the garden center, the list below is what Cornell recommends.
Asparagus: Jersey Giant, Jersey King, Jersey Knight.
Beans: Bronco, Charon, Derby, Jade, Provider, Roma II, Tendergreen Improved (bush); Blue Lake, Fortex, Kentucky Blue, Kentucky Wonder (pole); Golden Butterwax, Golden Rod, Rocdor (yellow wax); Burpee Improved Bush, Fordhook 242, Henderson (bush lima); King of the Garden (pole lima).
Beets: Crosby Green Top, Detroit Dark Red, Early Wonder, Formanova, Golden, Long Season, Lutz Green, Red Ace, Red Cloud, Ruby Queen, Warrior.
Broccoli: Baccus, Goliath, Liberty, Packman, Premium Crop.
Cabbage: Farao, Jersey Wakefield, Heads Up, Pacifica, Tastie (early); Chieftain Savoy, Lennox, Market Prize, Ruby Perfection, Savoy Ace, Savoy King (midseason); Huron (late).
Carrots: Bolero, Cosmic Purple, Healthmaster, Kinko, Purple Haze, Royal Chantenay, Rumba, White Satin, Yellowstone.
Cauliflower: Alert, Amazing, Candid Charm, Cheddar, Early White, Self Blanche, Snow Crown, Graffiti.
Corn: Fleet, Geronimo, Jester, Seneca Spring, Sundance, Sugar Buns, Temptation, Trinity (early); Jubilee, Precious Gem, Silverado, Tuxedo (midseason); Bodacious, Delectable, Sensor, Silver Queen, Sugar Ace (late); Northern Extra Sweet (super-sweet).
Cucumber: Burpless Hybrid, Diva, Greensleeves, Marketmore 76, Marketmore 86, Orient Express, Raider, Spacemaster, Sweet Slice (slicing); National, Regal (pickling).
Eggplant: Calliope, Dusky, Ichiban, Little Fingers, Black Beauty, Classic, Ghostbuster, Neon.
Lettuce: Great Lakes, Ithaca, Summertime, Tom Thumb (crisphead); Buttercrunch, Esmerelda, Four Seasons, Sangria, Winter Density (butterhead); Black Seeded Simpson, Green Ice, Ibis, Lollo Rossa, New Red Fire, Oak Leaf, Prizehead, Red Sails, Ruby, Salad Bowl, Slobolt (looseleaf); Cosmo Savoy, Green Towers, Little Gem, Parris Island (romaine).
Melon: Ambrosia, Gold Star, Athena, Burpee Hybrid, Fastbreak, Halona, Hannah’s Choice, Harper Hybrid, Iroquois, Pulsar, Superstar, Early Dew, Passport, Charantais, Edonis, Galia, Eel River, Jenny Lind, Rocky Ford, Schoon’s Hard Shell.
Onions: Ailsa Craig, Bennie’s Red, Candy, Red Sweet Spanish, Walla Walla, White Sweet Spanish (for fresh use); Copra, Duration, Fortress, Mars, Redwing (for long-term storage); Stuttgarter (from sets).
Peas: Knight, Little Marvel, Maestro, Novella II, Olympia, Progress No. 9, Sparkle (early); Bolero, Frosty, Green Arrow, Lincoln, Mr. Big, Wando (late); Dwarf Gray Sugar, Little Sweetie, Mammoth Melting Sugar, Oregon Sugar Pod II (snow pea); Early Snap, Sugar Snap, Super Sugar Mel (snap pea).
Peppers: Ace, Apple, Carmen, Golden Bell, Gypsy, Lipstick, New Ace, Redstart (early); Boynton Bell, Golden Bell Yellow, King Arthur, Lady Bell, Sweet Banana, Sweet Chocolate, Yellow Belle II (main crop); Biscayne, Cayenne Long, Hungarian Yellow Wax, Mucho Nacho, Numex Joe E Parker, Serrano, Super Chili (hot); Cubanelle, Italian Sweet (frying types).
Potatoes: Dark Red Norland, Superior (early); Chieftain, Reba, Salem, Yukon Gold (midseason); Elba, Katahdin (late).
Pumpkins: Autumn Gold, Baby Bear, Baby Pam, Gladiator, Gold Rush, Howden, Howdy Doody, Jackpot, Lil’ Ironsides, Lumina, Magic Lantern, Racer, Rocket, Small Gugar, Snackjack, Spooktacular, Tom Fox (main); Baby Boo, Jack-Be-Little, Munchkin (minis); Atlantic Giant, Big Max, Prizewinner (giants).
Radish: Champion, Cherry Belle, French Breakfast, Icicle, Scarlet Knight, Sparkler.
Spinach: America, Bloomsdale Dark Green, Bloomsdale Long-Standing, Indian Summer, Melody, Space, Tyee.
Summer squash: Early Prolific Straightneck, Fortune, Seneca, Sunburst, Sundance, Yellow Crookneck, Zephyr (yellow); Eight Ball, Gold Rush, Golden Burpee, Midnight Zucchini, Multipik, Revenue (zucchini).
Winter squash: Bugle, Harris Betternut, Ponca Baby, Waltham Butternut, Zenith (butternut); Autumn Delight, Sweet Dumpling, Table Ace, Table King Bush, Table Queen, Tuffy (acorn); Blue Ballet, Hubbard, Red Kuri (hubbard); Carnival, Cornell Bush Delicata, Gold Nugget, Harlequin, Vegetable Spaghetti (other).
Tomato: Fruity Orange, Sarah’s Goldstar Cherry, Sungold, Sunsugar, Sweet 100, Super Sweet 100 (cherry); Jubilee, Smarty, Sugar, Juliet (grape); Cosmonaut Volkove, Currant Daybreak, Early Cascade, Gold Rush, Cascade, Early Girl, Gold Dust, Lemon Boy, Sunrise, Taxi (early); Basket Vee, Better Boy, Big Beef, Big Boy, Celebrity, Jet Star, Moneymaker, Mountain Fresh, Mountain Spring, Palisade, Sunbeam, Sunrise, Supersonic, Ultra Sweet (main); Amish Paste, Classica, La Roma, La Rosa, Nova, Plum Dandy, Roma, Viva Italia (paste); Yellow Pear (pear); Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Rainbow, Black from Tula, Black Krim, Black Prince, Box Car Willie, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Garden Peach, Golden Queen, Green Zebra, Moskvich, Mr. Stripey, Striped German, Striped Roman, Tappy’s Heritage.
Turnips: Gilfeather, Hakurei, Purple Top White Globe, Tokyo Cross.
Watermelon: Crimson Sweet, Moon and Stars, Sorbet Swirl, Sunshine, Yellow Baby, Yellow Doll (seeded); Tri-X-Sunrise, Solitaire, Farmer Wonderful (seedless).
For even more crops, see Cornell’s web page at www.gardening.cornell.edu/vegetables/vegvar.pdf.