March 23, 2018
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New varieties for food growers

By Reeser Manley

According to All-America Selections, an organization devoted to promoting new flower and vegetable varieties with superior garden performance, there is a trend in gardening toward edibles. People are interested in growing their own food.

So it has been since the first mail-order seed house opened its doors: When times are tough, people turn to the garden, not only as a source of the most nutritious food at the lowest cost, but also as a frugal way of spending leisure time. First-time gardeners learn that the flavor of home-grown vegetables is far superior to that of “store bought” produce.

This year marks the 77th anniversary of the AAS program, now with 61 AAS judges at 48 trial garden locations across the country. Each of those 77 years, the program has introduced the best of new flower and vegetable varieties to American gardeners. Three new vegetable varieties won AAS recognition for 2009.

Eggplant ‘Gretel’

‘Gretel’ is the earliest of white eggplants. Any gardener will agree, the earlier the better, since waiting for the best-tasting, most nutritious food from our gardens is not easy. The glossy white minifruits are produced in clusters and can be harvested in about 55 days, depending upon growing conditions.

‘Gretel’ plants are relatively small, about 3 feet wide and tall, ideal for growing in containers. Large containers, about 16 inches deep, are recommended.

Like all eggplants, ‘Gretel’ grows rapidly in warm temperatures. The pure white fruits are sweet with tender skin, even if they mature beyond the ideal fruit size of 3 to 4 inches. This trait means gardeners have a longer timeline to harvest fruit.

Squash ‘Honey Bear’

This new acorn squash was bred at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, by professor J. Brent Loy. It is offered exclusively by Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

The honey in ‘Honey Bear’ refers to the sweet squash flavor when cooked. It is perfect for baking and serving in the half shell.

Bushy, compact plants will reach 2 to 3 feet tall and spread 4 to 5 feet without vining. Each plant produces 3 to 5 dark-green fruits that weigh about a pound each, the ideal size for sharing between two people. From sowing seed in the garden until the harvest of the first squash will take about 100 days.

The yield is high due to powdery mildew tolerance. While many other acorn squash varieties will succumb to the mildew before the end of the season, ‘Honey Bear’ continues to mature fruit until frost.

‘Honey Bear’ is a widely adaptable fruit that makes for an easy grow, as it has no special soil or fertility requirements. AAS vegetable growers across North America found it to be a good candidate for beginning gardeners. Overall, ‘Honey Bear’ is a great choice for residential gardeners because it is well-adapted to both small garden sites and containers.

Regardless of location, the plants are most productive when grown in full sun with ample fertility and water.

Melon ‘Lambkin’

This melon’s yellow skin with green mottling is unique, but the most important trait of ‘Lambkin’ is its sweet, aromatic, white, juicy flesh. Each oval-shaped melon weighs between 2 and 4 pounds.

Another advantage, particularly for Maine gardens, is earliness. Most other gourmet melons of this type mature much later than the 65 to 75 days of ‘Lambkin.’ Because of the early harvest, the vigorous vines can produce plenty of melons to share with close friends.

‘Lambkin’ is classified as a Christmas melon because of its long storage life. Harvested fruits should be stored in a cool place.

While AAS awarded only three vegetable awards for 2009, the National Garden Bureau has published a list of 26 new vegetables for next year. I will shine a light on some of these over the coming winter months.

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