New fruits, vegetables are All-Americans

Gardeners always want to know what’s new. Well here are the All-American Selections for 2014 and a short description about them as reported by the National Garden Bureau. These vegetables have been tested across America, including the Southwest. It is always fun to try something new, but hang on to the old varieties until you have proved these.

But first some background, each year vegetable breeders and hybridizers introduce hundreds of new varieties to the public. They enter their top introductions in these trials. Each plant must be an improvement over its closest varieties and deserving of these prestigious awards. This year six vegetables made it into the winners’ circle. Ask your nursery to order these All-Americans or Google them and have them sent to you, but order early as supplies go fast.

Chef’s Choice Orange tomato is derived from the popular heirloom Amana Orange tomato. It takes 75 days from transplant to your dinner table. Now you can experience the wonderful flavor of an orange heirloom tomato. It has a wonderful bright, almost neon, internal orange with superior taste and good texture. Excellent for soups and sauces because the intense color does not discolor when cooked. That is why home chefs love it in their cooking as well as eating it fresh.

Fantastico tomato is a must for any home gardener looking for an early maturing, high-yielding grape tomato. Bred for small gardens, Fantastico will work great in hanging baskets and container gardens. Long clusters of sweet tasty fruits are held toward the outside of the plant, making them easy to harvest. Judges found that if you can’t keep up with the harvest, these little beauties resist cracking when compared with others in the trials. It’s definitely a high-yielder, producing up to 12 pounds of fruit per plant. It did best when grown in cages to provide some plant support, but you can also grow in large patio containers or hanging baskets.

Mama Mia Giallo pepper rated high with judges because of the huge yield, uniform shape and smooth skin of the long tapered fruits with beautiful yellow/gold color when mature. It has a nice sweet flavor that is excellent either fresh, grilled or roasted. Expect to be harvesting ripe fruit about 85 days after transplanting. An added bonus: The somewhat compacted 24-inch-high plant takes up little space, so it fits well in containers and/or small gardens.

Cinderella’s Carriage pumpkin is a dream come true of any princess-loving child who wants to grow their own fairy tale-type pumpkin. This bright colored pumpkin is the first Cinderella-type pumpkin that is a high-yielder, bringing with it powdery mildew resistance, which is a rarity. Robust and vigorous vines produce large fruit ranging from 25 to 35 pounds. The magical pink-red colored fruit is shaped like a pumpkin carriage. Some lucky gardeners might experience pale blue pumpkins. Large trailing vines set up to seven fruit per plant. It’s well suited for fall decorations and baking. The flesh is yellow, sweet and has a nutty flavor.

Mascotte bean is a compact variety perfect for today’s small gardens. It’s a bush-type bean producing long, slender pods that stay above the foliage for easy harvesting. This bush also has white showy flowers for ornamental value when blooming. The beans are real crunchy and produce until heat sets in. It’s ideal for containers and performs well in the garden, too. That means you can raise delicious beans in any outside space. French Mascotte (like its English translation “mascot”) is a symbol of good luck and was chosen for the variety’s gardener-friendly habit.

Pick a Bushel cucumber has excellent heat tolerance suggesting it will produce longer into the heat. It’s a pickling cucumber, which can be picked at the gherkin stage and even processed. Because of its large yields, you can also enjoy them fresh or in salads or slaws. This semibush plant also does great in patio containers.

Harvest Moon watermelon was a 2013 winner but I couldn’t leave it out. It was the first medium-sized, seedless watermelon to land in the winner’s circle. It’s similar to the heirloom variety Moon and Stars because they have dark green rinds with yellow dots. It’s a high yielder with sweet, pinkish-red flesh that is scrumptious. You’ll be slicing it in about 80 days, so plan ahead. Seedless watermelons do struggle during the germinating process in cool soils so wait until April to plant it.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at or call him at 702-526-1495.