Best Vegetable Seed Varieties to Grow for Your Homestead

The best new vegetable varieties to sow from a gardener who has grown them, including lettuce, radishes, turnips, spinach, greens, onions, peas, cole crops, beets, carrots, potatoes, corn, beans, and peppers.

| May/June 1986

I can't speak for gardeners across the entire country, of course, but I personally have never experienced a more fruitful growing season — thanks primarily to near-perfect weather — than that of 1985. Consequently, the new vegetable seed varieties I tested last year were provided with everything they needed to do their thing and show their stuff (or lack thereof) . . . and I've chosen the best of the batch to recommend to you for 1986.

Best Vegetable Seed Varieties to Grow for Your Homestead

I'll begin at the beginning by telling you about the vegetable seed varieties that can be sown the earliest (right now in most parts of the U.S.), then proceed according to the usual order of planting. Please keep in mind that, even though I have space to mention the outstanding qualities of only a few, all of the vegetable varieties in the following listing are there because they're exceptional in growth rate, hardiness, flavor, and even aesthetics.


This year we have some dandy lettuce varieties to choose from. Leading the list is a leaf type called Red Fire, offered by Vermont Bean Seed Company (VBS). Red Fire is resistant to both heat and cold, and the crisp and tender leaves will add vibrant color to your summer salads. VBS is also your source for one of the better new "crisphead" (or iceberg) types, dubbed Ballade. Ballade matures early (80 days) and is medium-sized, with a firm, bright green head. It can be planted closely and bears up under heat admirably. Thompson & Morgan (T&M) has an even earlier maturing crisphead (75 days) called El Toro. "The Bull" lives up to its name by withstanding extremes of cold and wet in early spring, but nonetheless it has a tender heart.

Summer Baby Bibb, one of the better new Bibb lettuces, hails from Shepherd's Seeds. Summer Baby is sweet and possibly the tastiest of the Bibbs that are able to withstand hot weather. Shepherd's also offers one of the finest new romaines, called Rouge d'Hiver. With its broad red leaves, this one really stands out in the garden-and produces massive, solid, deep-hearted heads. My final recommendation, also from Shepherd's, is a Batavian type called Bogota. Batavian lettuces have yet to really catch on in America, but if you'll give Bogota a try, I think you'll see why Europeans are so enamored of these crisp green beauties.


One of the most flamboyant — in fact, that's its name-of the new radishes is a European variety offered by Shepherd's. A half-long type, Flamboyant is a beautiful glossy white and vermilion with juicy, crisp, and only mildly pungent flesh.

Midwest Seed Company gets in on the radish act with its wonderful Fuego. Bright red and delicious, this newly developed variety matures in about 25 days. One of Fuego's strongest suits is its resistance to fusarium, a chief disease of radishes. And for a tasty red radish that's resistant not only to fusarium but to black root and root scurf as well, try Fancy Red, from Harris Seeds.

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