October 16, 2021

Survive winter searching 2009 seed catalogs

Each winter, from late November through February, this gardener survives by searching the pages of seed catalogs for something special, a new variety that must grow in Marjorie’s garden come spring or summer. This is part of my passion for the garden, its role as classroom and laboratory, always something new to learn. I already have found a few gems, including a purple cauliflower and a tiny strawberry-shaped tomato.

Cauliflower ‘Graffiti’

Paint next year’s cauliflower patch purple with this unique variation on high nutrition. Large 6- to 8-inch dome-shaped heads develop a deep purple color in full sunlight. To best display the purple heads in the garden, an open plant habit should be encouraged with lower than normal applied nitrogen during the growing season.

The intriguing color of this cauliflower is certain to attract attention both in the garden and on the table. It keeps its color after steaming, but a dash of vinegar or lemon juice should be added to the water to retain the full color when boiling. Eaten raw, ‘Graffiti’ is reported to be surprisingly sweet.

Beet ‘Chioggia Guardsmark’

‘Chioggia’ is an heirloom beet from Italy, famous for its unusual bullseye stripes of red and white, as well as for its sweet, peppery flavor. This new variety builds on that heritage by adding modern vigor, higher yields and larger fruit size. Along the way, those dark red rings have turned a neon shade of magenta.

But ‘Chioggia Guardsmark’ is not simply a beet masquerading as a red onion. Its flavor is so sweet and mild that children love it, yet its peppery taste has enough “true beet” tang to satisfy adults. Baked whole, it retains its unique red-and-white coloring.

Summer squash ‘Midnight’

This new variety of zucchini has a very compact, bushy habit that is ideal for container gardening. The stems and leaves are spine-free, allowing easy harvesting of the dark green, cylindrical, slightly speckled fruits.

New tomato varieties

There are several new tomato varieties for next year, but are they truly better than the old-time favorites?

According to Johnny’s Selected Seeds, tomato ‘First Light’ is an indeterminate tomato with outstanding taste and crisp texture. It should be harvested when the bottom one-third to two-thirds of the fruit is turning red but still with green shoulders.

‘Lola,’ another indeterminate tomato growing 6-12 feet tall, requires staking in the garden. The firm, extra large red fruits have a flat, globe shape and outstanding flavor.

‘Sweet Mojo’ is an exceptionally early maturing (60 days) grape tomato with bright red fruits ripening from top to bottom on long clusters. Yield potential is outstanding with each cluster averaging 21 uniform, firm and sweet fruits. Staking is required.

My favorite new tomato for 2009 may be ‘Tomatoberry,’ a unique strawberry-shaped tomato reported to have a firm, chewy texture, supersweet taste and rich aroma. Each 1-inch, single-bite fruit is shiny deep red with broad shoulders tapering to a blunt point at the blossom end, giving them a heart-shaped appearance. Combine all of this with high yield, and this sounds like a tomato that, once picked, will never make it as far as the kitchen.

No doubt, there will be something new under the sun next year in Marjorie’s garden.

Send queries to Gardening Questions, P.O. Box 418, Ellsworth 04605, or to reesermanley@shead.org. Include name, address and telephone number.

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