Best Vegetable Varieties of 1983

Despite bad weather, the MOTHER EARTH NEWS vegetable-seed evaluator found a number of great newcomers.

| March/April 1984

If you live in almost any part of the continental United States, I probably don't have to tell you that the summer of '83 wasn't particularly kind to gardeners and farmers. After early cool-weather crops were all but wiped out by one of the coldest and wettest springs in history, drought conditions prevailed. Despite the unforgiving weather, though, my garden did manage to produce some very nice yields . . . thanks largely to many of the new varieties in my vegetable-growing trials for 1983. Here are some of the best vegetable varieties:

Lettuce, Radishes, Turnips and Greens 

I started out the season by preparing my lettuce bed in late February, and it was soon obvious that the star salad greens would be Thompson & Morgan's Wallop, which has a large, heavy head that still manages to be tender and sweet. The only other lettuce to shine in my trials was Montello from Olds Seed Company. This cultivar is ready to harvest in 75 days . . . heads well . . . is highly resistant to disease . . . and tastes great, too!

My radishes are sown at the same time as the lettuce, and the finest new variety I've found in a long time is Liberty Seed's Snow Belle, an all-white radish of unmatched quality that matures in 21 days. If, however, you like your radishes a little on the pungent side, try Agway's Red Boy. It's a good, steady producer . . . and matures only a day or so after Snow Belle.

Planting turnips is yet another spring garden tradition, and Vermont Bean Seed's Petite White is one of the most interesting ones I've ever grown. It matures almost as early as radishes (30 days) and isn't a whole lot bigger than some of them! Petite White's taste, however, is typically turnip . . . and should qualify this vegetable as a worthy addition to any garden.

Among the Swiss chard tested, the best producer was Silver Lyon from Jonathan Green and Sons Seeds. Its yield proved to be tremendous and lasted well into the summer months. Spinach, on the other hand, doesn't thrive in hot weather but is a fine early or late crop . . . and both the quality and quantity of leaves produced by Agway's Early Hybrid 30 are unrivaled. (It's especially suited for very early planting but will also do quite well in the fall.)

Peas and Cabbage 

The wet, cold weather notwithstanding, my peas managed to produce fairly well in '83. One type, Olympia from Agway, is a fine new development for home use. Its big, plump peas come eight to ten per pod and are sweet and tender, and the 18" dwarf plants mature their heavy loads in 62 days. Another pea of this type that deserves a mention is Salvo from Rogers Brothers. It's a full-season, 74-day cultivar that's downright phenomenal. The 22" plants are covered with huge crops of small pods that are chock-full of sweet, tender peas. In addition, the plants are resistant to the always dangerous common Pea Wilt, and because Salvo is excellent fresh, canned, or frozen, this cultivar deserves to be called my all-star pea for 1983!

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