New Seed Varieties: 1985

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Spicy Globe basil's small leaves combine the goodness of basil with a touch of the tingle of cinnamon, while the plant's form is naturally ball-shaped. 
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Resistant to powdery mildew, Sugar Daddy peas also do away with what many felt was the single flaw of the Sugar Snap pea: the string.

The cornucopia I call my mailbox is overflowing — as
usual — with catalogs from seed houses large and small. In this article, I’ll share some noteworthy new seed varieties with you.

Among the introductions from Agway, the big northeastern
cooperative that sells mainly through its local stores, are
the high-yielding Bounty bush bean, an early (50-day)
variety with 6-inch pods that are slow to develop seeds; Prominence broccoli, a strong-growing 75-day cultivar
that produces heavily; White Summer cauliflower, a
good fall cropper with self-wrapping characteristics and
excellent color and texture; Gold Dust corn, an early
(72-day) yellow with good cold tolerance and vigor; and Fiesta Hybrid ornamental corn, which bears multicolored
7- to 10-inch ears that mature in a brief (for an
ornamental) 102 days on short, sturdy stalks. Other Agway
offerings include the very early (53-day) Red Ace beet, a
hybrid with extremely high sugar content and welcome bolt
and heat resistance, as well as tolerance of Cercospera
leaf spot disease; Chinook II, a 42-day hybrid
semi-savoyed spinach that combines the best of both worlds:
It overwinters well and is slow to bolt in hot weather; and Castlette, a determinate hybrid cherry tomato that
bears abundant crops 75 days after being set out and is
resistant to verticillium and Race 1 (a prevalent type) of
fusarium.

The folks at Spring River Nurseries have called my attention to a new
“day neutral” strawberry, Brighton, that’s capable of
fruiting year-round! The result of research at the
University of California and the USDA’s facilities in
Maryland, Brighton was developed from a plant that was
found growing in the mountains of Utah. Unlike standard and
everbearing varieties — both of which fruit in response
to specific patterns of daylight — this cultivar’s
fruiting mechanism is unaffected by day length. In fact, if
you take some plants into a sunny window in the fall, you
can have fresh berries for the holidays! The only thing
that stops Brighton from bearing is temperatures over
100 degrees Fahrenheit. (I must admit that I slow up under such
conditions, too.) Since Brighton forms many runners that
are capable of fruiting without being anchored in the soil,
the plant makes a perfect indoor pot specimen.

Park Seeds has a number
of new offerings, including Red Sails lettuce, an
All-America selection for 1985. An open-head variety, the
red-leaf lettuce matures in 45 days and is more resistant
to bolting than most “greens” of similar color. With its
habit and hue, Red Sails would make a wonderful border
plant for the garden, interspersed, perhaps, with
another winner from Park: Spicy Globe basil. Its small
leaves combine the goodness of basil with a touch of the
tingle of cinnamon, while the plant’s form is naturally
ball-shaped. Other goodies from Park include the Sugar
Daddy pea, the latest miracle from Dr. Calvin Lamborn’s
breeding program. Resistant to powdery mildew, Sugar Daddy
also does away with what many felt was the single flaw of
the Sugar Snap pea: the string. This short (30-inch vines)
and early (72-day) snap pea is a genuine “gobble ’em in the
garden” delight. And for those fond of peas and carrots,
Park offers Lindoro, an early — but
large — Nantes-type root with a bright orange color,
crisp texture and a fine sweet flavor. And though it’s too
early by several months to plant it, Sweet Winter onion can
make a wonderful menu addition for 1986. You see, these
hardy globes are started in late summer and carry over
winters as cold as -20 degrees with perfect aplomb. The
sweet-flavored “tearjerkers” provide an extra-early crop
and also resist bolting.

One of our favorite seed houses, Pine Tree Garden Seeds, has a
double treat for gardeners in 1985: the Jenny Lind melon
and a wax bean named Dragon Langerie. The melon, unlike its
namesake, is of surpassing ugliness, sporting a coiffure
much like that of a turbaned squash. It’s not very big,
either: about 12 ounces, on average. But the flavor…ah,
the flavor! Dick Meiners, Pine Tree’s owner and a
state-of-Mainer who does not exaggerate, modestly asserts
that “several experts have indicated that it is the
sweetest melon they’ve ever tasted.” I believe him. The
vines run 4 to 5 feet, and the yield is excellent.

The bean with the fancy French moniker is an unusual
looker, too: long, flat, yellow and covered with purple
stripes. The stripes disappear in cooking, leaving you with
a pot of luscious-looking legumes. Dick says that the fifth
picking produces about as much as the first, and
claims that the bean is good fresh, cooked, shelled or
dried.

Folks who live in areas where warm early-autumn nights keep
their Delicious apples from coloring up might want to check
out StarkSpur UltraRed Delicious, a new introduction from
Stark Bros. And
organic growers will be especially pleased with the
performance of Stark’s new disease-resistant seedless
grape, Mars. The high-yielding vines bear fruit that is
akin to Venus and Reliance, characterized by a strong
Concord-like flavor, and it shrugs off just about all
major grape diseases.