How to Choose Vegetable Varieties That Really Perform

Learn how to check for early ripening varieties, high yield, disease resistance, size and heat and cold tolerance in vegetable varieties.

| May/June 1977

Anyone who's ever skimmed the pages of a seed catalog knows how frustrating it can be to choose the "best" variety of corn, squash, carrots, or tomatoes ... when so many varieties carry such descriptions as "Most productive)," "Bears early!," "Delicious taste!," etc. And yet, the selection of high-performance vegetable varieties doesn't have to be an irksome and perplexing task ... as Derek Fell (MOTHER's gardening expert) explains below.

In my last article "Best Tasting Vegetable Varieties," I talked about vegetable varieties noted for spectacular flavor, since tastiness seems to be the single quality home gardeners desire most in a vegetable. Other worthwhile — sometimes essential — traits can, however, be bred into vegetables ... which is why seed catalogs and store displays offer such a bewildering array of tomatoes, lettuce, corn, carrots, squash, and other crops (often as many as 80 different varieties of a single vegetable).

Right now, then, I'd like to examine some of these other special qualities, and talk about how they may affect your garden's overall performance.


Before you buy any vegetable it's imperative that you check the "average number of days to maturity" printed on the seed package or listed at the beginning of the catalog description. A difference of just a few days in this figure can — for many gardeners — mean the difference between a bountiful harvest of tender, juicy edibles ... and no harvest at all.

Take cauliflower, for instance. Over much of the U.S., this crop simply can't be grown in spring without some risk of the plants bolting to seed during their final days of ripening. By contrast, an early-variety cauliflower — such as Snow Crown Hybrid (which matures ten days earlier than some standard varieties) — has a good chance of forming quality heads before the onset of hot weather, and thus can be grown successfully in areas where other types of cauliflower would fail to produce.

It's the same story with Green Comet broccoli (which heads up a full ten days before other varieties) and Little Finger carrots (which are ready to eat as much as two weeks ahead of Imperator, Gold Pak, and other long, tapering types).

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