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Vegetable growing 1987; the new, the unheard of, the crazy.

Vegetable growing 1987

The big news in vegetables in the '80s isdiversity. Almost any vegetable you can think of is now available in more sizes, shapes, and colors than most of us knew existed.

But is the difference more than skin deep?The answer is yes. Most of these vegetables taste as different as they look. But at first bite, the changes can seem subtle. When tasters sampled a radish here, a pepper there, they tended to describe most as tasting normal. But when the same people tasted a collection of many varieties of a vegetable at the same sitting, the excitement crept in--there are more variations in flavor and texture than you can imagine until you taste them yourself. Where can you get these new vegetables? In urban areas, you'll find some in specialty markets, in restaurants, even in supermarkets. But for the widest selection, you'll need to grow them yourself. Even if you've never grown vegetables before, these varieties provide a good reason to try.

On page 117, we list five innovative mail-orderseed companies who scour the world for choice new crops. Together, these companies list more than 30 kinds of lettuce and 40 kinds of tomatoes, as well as large numbers of other vegetables. What we show on these pages is only a small sampling.

For many, the stimulation of new looksand new tastes alone is reason enough to try a new crop. Others just want to know if any of these new-fangled vegetables are as good as their old favorites. Although they are new to most of us, many are favorities in other countries. But for cautious eaters, crops that pleased even conservative tasters in our trials are marked with an asterisk in this article's captions and photographs.

Collections help you compare

To fully experience the difference betweenvarieties, grow several kinds of the same crop. There are three ways to do it. If you have limited space or want to avoid having too much of one vegetable, choose a few new varieties each year to compare with an established favorite.

If you have plenty of space and don'tmind barrowloads of the same vegetable, grow as many varieties of one crop as you can, as Suzanne Ashworth did with eggplant and tomatoes in her Sacramento garden, shown at top left and on page 116. At season's end, you'll really know which varieties taste and perform best. Part of the fun is having a super-abundance for taste trials with friends and fellow gardeners.

Or cooperate with friends and neighborsto grow different varieties of the same vegetables, and then swap.

Edibles can go anywhere

For food gardeners with limited sunnyspace, edibles become the landscape. As you can see from the photograph on page 113, they can look as attractive as flowers. Sometimes they are flowers.

The secret is to follow the same principlesyou would in planting conventional ornamentals. Lay out the garden with interesting lines--curves or linear patterns instead of repetitive rows or rectangles. As in the garden shown, cluster each vegetable, vary textures and colors of adjacent crops, and edge beds with low, mounding plants such as signet marigolds or parsley. Place tall plants to the rear.

The easy ones. Sow where you want them to grow

Baby corn. Sow seeds a bit closer thannormal, 6 to 8 inches apart in clumps or rows. To spread out the harvest, you can plant a succession of clumps from now to early July. Choose any variety described as producing multiple ears. Pick baby ears when 3 to 4 inches long (about 2 to 4 days after silk emerges).

Winter squash and pumpkins. Sow seedsin place as soon as soil warms. In short- or cool-summer climates, speed ripening by spreading black plastic over the soil before planting, or tent the bed with a row cover (see page 86 of the February Sunset). Serving-size varieties often mature faster than mammoth ones; they also produce more squashes than big ones, but fewer pounds of edible flesh. To save space, plant between corn rows or at the edge of the garden. Don't harvest until the stem dries and skin is fully colored.

Potatoes. Start from chunks with two orthree eyes. Let the cut sides callus for several days in a cool, dry place. Then plant with the eyes up, 6 inches deep and a foot apart. Cool temperatures in spring (and fall in mild-winter areas) give best results. Pull soil or spread mulch around stems as they grow.

You can begin harvesting small potatoesin about six weeks. Pull back the mulch, gently twist off the tubers you want, and cover the rest again. Harvest the main crop when tops begin to yellow and die back. Young potatoes are so thin-skinned you can rub skin off with a brush; they won't keep more than six to eight weeks. Mature, full-size potatoes will keep several months in a cool, dark place.

Nasturtiums. These flowers grow wellwhenever weather is cool but above freezing --near the California coast that's most of the year. Plant 1/2 inch deep, about 8 inches apart in soil that's not too rich.

Argula, beets, carrots, lettuce, radishes,scallions. These small-seeded vegetables need a little extra care to keep seeds moist. Scatter the seeds evenly in rows or clumps, cover 1/4 inch deep, and water with a fine spray. Cover the seedbed with burlap, old curtains, or row covers, wet the fabric, and water through it as needed to keep soil damp until seeds sprout (about 10 to 14 days). Remove opaque covers promptly when seeds sprout.

When seedlings are 3 to 4 inches tall, thinradishes and scallions to 1 inch apart, others to 3 inches apart. You can eat young seedlings of arugula, beets, and lettuce. Harvest size and timing vary depending on the variety. For successive harvests, sow small amounts of different varieties every three to four weeks.

From simple to challenging--start in small pots, then transplant

To avoid transplanting seedlings morethan once, sow into separate pots about 2 inches across, placing two or three seeds in each one. After the first true leaves expand, pinch out all but the strongest seedling in each pot. Before moving them out permanently, acclimate them to outdoor conditions by putting them out where they get a half-day's sun each day for several days.

Lettuce. You can sow lettuce in theground or in containers. When seedlings are 3 to 4 inches tall, transplant 8 inches apart (5 inches for baby lettuce). Harvest leaf lettuces a few leaves at a time as you need them. Other kinds often reach peak flavor and tenderness as they form heads. All grow best in cool weather. (In warm climates, sow in fall or early spring, or choose varieties that tolerate some heat and plant where they will get afternoon shade.)

Radicchio. Grow like lettuce. In cool-summerclimates, the two kinds shown can be sown now for fall harvest. Sow most kinds in summer, cut to the ground in fall, harvest heads in winter and spring. Smaller heads grow after you cut off the main crop.

Broccoli. Sow five to seven weeks beforeplanting outdoors. Plants need cool weather to mature. You can sow now near the coast; wait until late summer or early fall inland. When seedlings are a few inches tall, transplant 1 1/2 to 2 feet apart. Harvest heads while flowerets are still tight. After harvesting the main head, "Romanesco' takes a rest, then produces many smaller side shoots.

Eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos.Sow seeds indoors six to eight weeks before outdoor planting time--the sooner the better. Tomatoes and tomatillos are easy. They germinate in a week or less with a little bottom heat from a water heater or refrigerator top.

Eggplant and peppers are fussier. Forgood germination, you need a heating cable to warm soil to 80| to 85|.

Once leaves show, a greenhouse, skylight,or fluorescent lamp kept only a few inches above the plants helps keep them sturdy.

After nights are consistently warm (55|or above), transplant outdoors, 18 to 24 inches apart. In cool areas, they often grow best in large pots. Fabric row covers also help these heat-loving crops mature faster. Remove them when flowers form.

Support most tomatoes with wire cylindersor fences. Where days are long and warm, peppers also sometimes need 3- to 4-foot cages or stakes.

Harvest eggplant when fruit is coloredfully for its variety, and still shiny. You can pick peppers as soon as they are good-size and firm. To encourage heavier production, harvest the first pepper while it's green. For sweeter flavor, let others ripen to yellow or red, depending on the variety.

Pick tomatillos when full size for the variety(the bottom end gets round, and the husk dries from green to tan).

Buy seedlings and transplant

In rare cases, you may find some shownhere available as nursery seedlings. Two of the edible flowers are commonly sold this way.

Anise hyssop (licorice mint) is usually inthe herb section. One plant should be ample. It spreads about 4 feet tall and wide. Both leaves and flowers are edible.

Signet marigolds are sold with other annualflowers. Space plants 6 to 8 inches apart. Petals have a bold flavor.

Photo: Baby corn*

Sweet and tender rawor cooked, including kernels, cob, even stem. Some favor supersweet varieties; others prefer corn flavor of baby Asian kinds

Photo: 'All-Blue'potatoes

Robust flavor,dry, fluffy texture. Bake or steam to hold bright violet color of skin and flesh

Photo: Six peppers

"Quadrato d'Oro'

Mild and meaty

"Red Marconi'

Easy to stuff


Pepper perfection


Fullflavor, thin flesh

"Yellow Cheese'

Sweet crunch


Fiery good looks

Photo: "Red Beard' scallions*

Mild and sweet. For reddest color,plant in early spring and in fall

Photo: Tomatillos

Large green

Mild flavor,easy to handle

Small purples

Sharper flavormakes more potent sauce

Photo: Twotomatoes

Red currant tomato

Small in size, big in flavor

"CostolutoGenovese' tomato

Fragile texture, flower-shapedslices. Cool-climate gardeners extol its flavor

Photo: "Romanesco'broccoli

Milder than regularbroccoli, richer than cauliflower

* Outstanding even to conservative tastes

Photo: A different look in kitchen andgarden: Above, edible flowers (signet marigolds), dense planting, and curved beds make the vegetable garden a showplace. Left, white Belgian carrots and mammoth "Navet' radishes give a new face to familiar flavors

Photo: Eggplant--beyond the purple

Striped "Lastada de Gandia'* and roundlilac "Rosa Bianca'* are eggplant favorites. These light-skinned kinds and round "Applegreen', cylindrical white "Casper' and "Thai Green' taste milder than dark purple ones such as "New York Improved' (top) and "Purple Pickling' (left and center). Yellows are overmature "White Beauty' and "Thai Egg' she's saving for seeds

Photo: Single-servingto crowd-size squash

Mini-pumpkins "Munchkin'* and "Jack BeLittle'* are smooth and sinfully sweet; calico "Sweet Dumpling' is close behind. Crowd feeders are blue-gray "Stambolka', "Rouge d'Etampes' pumpkin, speckled "Chilacayote', tan "Magdalena Big Cheese'

Photo: Spuds that lookprebuttered

Yellow potatoes are smooth, moist, almost waxycompared to the familiar mealy white baking potato at right edge. "Bintje' is largest and most productive of the yellow-fleshed kinds, yielding about 10 pounds (a third of a bushel basket) from a 3- by 5-foot plot

Photo: Butterhead lettuce

"Merveille des Quatre Saisons'*

Favorite of tasters and chefs

Photo: "RedGrenobloise'

Photo: "Lollo Rosso'

Photo: "Lollo Bianco'

Photo: Babylettuces

Smooth, tender crunchor frilly textures

Photo: "Little Gem'*

Photo: "Black SeededSimpson'

Photo: Edibleflowers




Sweet hintof licorice

Photo: Radicchio

Mildly bitter



Photo: Today's salads--light, refreshing, endlessly diverse

For smooth texture and delicate flavor, choose bibb or butterhead;to tickle the tongue, add frilled looseleaf lettuces. For an eye-opener, try pungent radicchio, edible flowers, or sesame-flavored arugula (shown left). You can let argula self-sow to make a little lawn; pick from 2-inch height until leaves become tough

Photo: Not just red, not just round

The tiniest of these tomatoes packs the biggestflavor--marble-size red currant. Like most gold tomatoes, "Yellow Marble', yellow pear, and "Persimmon' are mild, with less acid than their red counterparts. Tennis ball--size red "Ponderheart' is sweet and meaty. Curved "Super Italian Paste' dries well and makes good sauce. Small-fruited kinds like these usually ripen earlier than big kinds, making them reliable choices for cool or short-season climates. A mixture of sizes and colors makes a festive platter
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes mail-order seed companies's catalogs
Article Type:Directory
Date:Apr 1, 1987
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