Extension Nursery and Greenhouse Crops Specialist University of Vermont
When filling out your seed orders this winter, you may want to include some of the new vegetable varieties for 2002. This year five vegetables–two pumpkins, a winter squash, a slicing cucumber, and a sweet basil–were chosen as All-America Selections (AAS) winners.
These varieties, along with hundreds of others, were grown in test gardens all over the country. Throughout the growing season, horticultural experts took notes on how well each did, especially compared to similar varieties on the market. Those that were judged superior, or exhibited significant improvements over existing varieties, were named AAS winners for 2002.
Both pumpkins that made the list this year were bred as Halloween pumpkins. The first, Pumpkin ‘Orange Smoothie,’ is ideal for children as it weighs only four to seven pounds and has a sturdy stem for carrying. Its smooth skin makes it well suited for painting although it is easy to carve and can be used as either an outdoor or indoor decoration.
This six-inch pumpkin is medium to dark orange in color. Its compact growth habit makes it perfect for small gardens. Although seeds can be sown directly in the garden, northern New England gardeners will have better results by planting seeds indoors in small pots, then transplanting once all danger of frost has passed. Allow about four to four and one-half feet between plants.
Pumpkin ‘Sorcerer’ weighs in at 15 to 22 pounds. This large, dark orange pumpkin can be carved or painted as a jack-o-lantern or used for pies. One of the reasons it was selected as a 2002 AAS winner is because it requires less space to grow than other full-size pumpkins, making it an ideal choice for a smaller garden.
Like ‘Orange Smoothie,’ it should be started indoors a few weeks before the last frost date. Plant six to eight feet apart in the garden. Pumpkins mature in 100 days from time of sowing.
Winter Squash ‘Cornell’s Bush Delicata’ is the first delicata-type squash with a semi-bush habit. It is an ornamental winter squash, white to cream in color with colorful green stripes and flecks and a hard rind. Fruits, which mature in 85 to 100 days, are about seven to nine inches long, three to four inches wide, and can weigh up to two pounds. In northern climates seeds should be started indoors.
The judges were impressed with its strong tolerance to powdery mildew, high potential yield, long storage life, and sweet, nutty flavor. Although a delicious winter squash for the table, it also can be used as a seasonal decoration.
Cucumber ‘Diva’ is a smooth-skinned, semi-glossy cucumber with an exceptional flavor. It is sweet–not bitter like many cucumbers–crunchy, and seedless making it a good snack, especially for children.
This high yielding plant, which should be started from seed indoors, produces an abundance of four-inch fruit in about 55 to 60 days. The vines can be trained to grow up a trellis, saving space in the garden and making it easier to harvest the fruit. ‘Diva’ has shown strong tolerance to powdery and downy mildew, two diseases that often strike cucumbers, and will continue to produce even at the end of the growing season.
Basil ‘Magical Michael’ is an ornamental, edible herb with a uniform plant habit. Unlike most sweet basils, which are variable in plant shape and height, this one was bred for uniformity. Although grown for its rich, aromatic flavor, its dark green foliage and tiny purple flowers (inflorescences) make it an attractive and fragrant addition to the garden.
Plants grow to about 15 inches. Leaves are ready to harvest in 50 to 60 days, the inflorescences for salad or entrée garnishes around 80 days. ‘Magical Michael’ can be started from seed or purchased as plants from many garden centers.
To learn more about these AAS winners and the eight flowers that earned this designation for 2002, visit the AAS Website at www.all-americaselections.org