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Vermont Garden Journal: Try Out These New Plant Varities This New Year

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Heirloom stem lettuce, or celtuce, is grown for its thick, edible stem. It has a sweet, nutty flavor eaten raw in salads or cooked.

After all the activity and eating around the holidays, it's time to stretch out on the couch and look at vegetable seed catalogs. Although I do most of my vegetable seed ordering on-line, I still like to leaf through the catalogs. They feel like an old friend that I invite over to my house once a year.

My garden is so packed with old standards and go-to varieties, I have to limit the amount of new varieties to try. So I try to be selective. Last year my favorite new varieties were "Dakota" black popcorn, "Tasmanian Chocolate" tomatoes, and cucamelons. Here's what I'm considering this year.

I've been growing cucumbers with different colored peels and flesh for awhile, such as the heirloom variety, titled, "Lemon" and another variety from India called, "Poona Kheera." This year, I may try to plant, "Itachi," which is a unique hybrid cucumber from Asia and produces a long and thin vegetable with a small seed cavity with no bitter taste. This plant is also parthenocarpic, meaning it doesn't need pollination to produce fruit. Another unusual variety is "Beas" kohlrabi from Northern India, which is not too far from a meditation center I visit! This plant produces kohlrabi that has a sweet, mild flavor.

I love cherry tomatoes but the plants grow too big for containers. This year I may try the new "Tidy Treats." It only grows three-feet tall and produces sweet red fruit all summer long. If you like "Yellow Pear" tomatoes, try the "Midnight Pear." It has a pear tomato shape with dark purple skin and great flavor. "Brulee" is a one-pound, mini-butternut squash that's prolific and perfect for a one serving meal.

For something unusual, I'm trying the heirloom stem lettuce or celtuce this year. This is a lettuce that's primarily grown for its thick, edible stem. It has a sweet, nutty flavor eaten raw in salads or cooked.

Now for this week's tip: cut off evergreen boughs from your holiday tree and use them as mulch over tender perennials to trap snow and insulate them for the rest of winter.

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