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Time to try new varieties of veggies

Experimenting with different flavors, colors can pay off

‘Variety is the spice of life.” That old adage is certainly applicable to my vegetable garden where I enjoy trying new varieties.

Over the years, I’ve tested new offerings against the tried-and-true vegetables. The results haven’t always been successful, but it helps me find varieties that are best suited for growing in the Inland Northwest.

For example, I’ve grown Early Girl tomatoes for years because they’re a reliable standard for this area. But after growing other varieties for fun, I found even better cultivars such as Italian Pompeii and Early Goliath.

Seed companies roll out new varieties every year. I’m always on the lookout for interesting colors, outstanding flavor, compact growth and vegetables that mature quickly in our short growing season.

Here are some of the new veggies that look like standouts to me:

If you have a small garden or grow plants in containers, you might want to try Astia zucchini, which grows in a compact bush form. Pot Black eggplants also grow well in pots and are heavy producers of glossy 2- to 3-ounce fruits.

Spacemaster 80 cucumbers grow on dwarf plants with 18- to 24-inch vines and have good disease resistance. Pinnacle spaghetti squash produces smaller, personal-sized fruits on bush-type plants that can be grown closer together than regular spaghetti squash.

There are many new varieties that sound well-suited to growing in our region.

Karlo, an heirloom pepper, is touted to perform well in Northern climates. The peppers start out yellow and mature to a deep red color. Vision corn is a 75-day yellow super-sweet corn that has good germination rates in cool soil. After last year’s chilly spring, that sounds ideal.

Sunset Falls hybrid salad tomatoes would be a pretty sight in the garden with their orange and yellow stripes, but the best part is they mature in 65 days.

Another quick grower is the high-yielding Goldmine zucchini. The fruits are yellow with white stripes and they reach maturity in 50 days. Butta zucchini has smooth yellow skin, is a prolific producer and even speedier at 45 days.

Prima Rosa chard can be harvested as baby greens in a mere 25 days from planting and as mature leaves in 50 days. The leaves are deep crimson in color.

Gardeners are often looking for varieties that store well after being harvested. Why not try White Wonder acorn squash? It has creamy-white skin and can be stored up to eight months.

Rumba carrots have long roots and a sweet flavor that gets even better in storage.

Two pumpkin varieties that sound appealing are Spookie Deep Sugar, with its 6- to 10-pound fruits, and the newly available heirloom variety, New England Pie. It matures in 85 to 100 days and produces four or five pumpkins per plant.

It seems like there are more salad greens than ever to choose from. Stardom, a new edible landscape lettuce, features ruffled green and burgundy leaves that will look as pretty in garden beds as they do in salads.

Renee’s Beet and Chard Braising mix is a blend of colorful chard and red and green leaf beets. There are also beet collections available that include seeds for red, gold and candy-striped beets. Wouldn’t they look pretty in a salad or on a dinner plate?

So be adventurous this year and try something new. You just might be pleasantly surprised. The above varieties can be found at local garden centers and farmers markets or online.

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at her blog at for more gardening information, tips and events.