2010 Trials

The best varieties of 2010 from the Organic Gardening test gardens

January 4, 2011

Of the 50-some varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers in the Organic Gardening 2010 variety trials, we chose our 10 favorites to feature in the magazine. But many of the other varieties revealed at least one commendable quality, whether it was regional adaptability, special culinary uses, or unique beauty. Here are 25 more plants from the 2010 trials, with comments from our test gardeners.



‘Fresh Pick’ snap bean
Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds

This prolific bush bean gave us plump, tasty pods for a good 2 months.

“Bean ‘Fresh Pick’ has good heat tolerance, which is a must in Dallas. It also has a long yield time with tender, flavorful beans.” —Leslie Halleck, Dallas, Texas


‘Purple Dove’ snap bean
Source: Seeds of Change

Round purple pods with old-time flavor appear prolifically over a long season. The bushy plants are slightly vining in habit but need no support.

“I was still picking these after all the other beans I planted had given up.” —John Lewis, Newport, Rhode Island


‘Turkey Craw’ shelling bean
Source: Seed Savers Exchange

An old heirloom, ‘Turkey Craw’ showed us why it has remained popular for generations: The beans were abundant and delicious.

“This dry bean produced well, lots of pretty smallish beans, beige colored with darker brown around the hilum.” —Linda Crago, Wellandsport, Ontario


‘Apollo’ broccoli
Source: Territorial Seed Co.

‘Apollo’ is quick to produce an early crop, followed by a continuing harvest of long-stemmed side shoots.

“Produces small heads quickly and continuously in spring and fall. Overall production is small in comparison to other varieties, but it’s nice to harvest some broccoli while waiting for the larger varieties to fill out.” —Debbie Leung, Olympia, Washington


‘Strawberry Blonde’ calendula
Source: High Mowing Seeds

Unlike the usual brilliant orange and yellow of most calendulas, ‘Strawberry Blonde’ blooms in subtle pastels—a pretty, mild-mannered flower.

“This one is gorgeous! The flowers are big for a calendula. I’ve been cutting them to admire inside even though they last only a few days.” —Debbie Leung, Olympia, Washington


‘Dawn Star’ morning glory
Source: Renee’s Garden

A small morning glory with pale blooms, ‘Dawn Star’ twined to the top of a 12-foot vine pole in the center of the test garden.

“It took a long time to bloom, but when it did, the flowers didn’t close up in the afternoon, which made it well worth the wait.” —Barbara Miller, Boulder, Colorado


‘Cajun Belle’ pepper
All-America Selections winner; widely available

When young, ‘Cajun Belle’ fruits look like small green peppers and carry a mild kick. They gain heat as they mature and redden.

“Pop-in-your-mouth good.” —Nan Sterman, Encinitas, California


‘Sweetie Baby Romaine’ lettuce
Source: Renee’s Garden

(photo courtesy of Renee's Garden)

Although the heads top out at 8 inches, this variety has all the crunch and flavor of full-sized romaine lettuces.

“ ‘Sweetie Baby Romaine’ showed very good heat tolerance and was quick to germinate. The plants were petite and compact, and leaves had a nice sweet flavor.” —Leslie Halleck, Dallas, Texas

‘Gusto Purple’ pepper
Source: Territorial Seed Co.

Scads of small, hot peppers adorn compact plants that are small enough for container culture and attractive enough to use as ornamentals.

“I can feel a lot of heat in the pepper at any color: green, red, and purple. This is a beautiful plant, taller than the 12 inches of its catalog description.” —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada


‘Spanish Padron’ pepper
Source: Renee’s Garden

Selected for use in tapas, or traditional Spanish appetizers, these mildly hot peppers can be harvested green or red.

“‘Spanish Padron’ produced early and bountifully. I liked the mild heat very much. Cooked some as recommended on the packet in a bit of olive oil—they were delicious.” —Linda Crago, Wellandsport, Ontario


‘Million Suns’ sanvitalia
Introduced by Benary, a wholesaler; available at garden centers

Sanvitalia is a compact annual flower that produces an abundance of tiny yellow daisies in full sun and heat.

“Pretty yellow-flowered groundcover that bloomed nonstop. There was absolutely no need to deadhead. That’s my kind of plant!” —Barbara Miller, Boulder, Colorado


‘Kumi Kumi’ squash
Source: Nichols Garden Nursery

Eat this dual-purpose vegetable young, green, and tender, like a summer squash; or let it mature to orange and develop a hard rind, like a winter squash.

“Awesome! They looked great hanging on the vine, and when we put them out for Halloween, we got many comments about the ‘cool pumpkins.’” —Nan Sterman, Encinitas, California

‘Magnolia Blossom’ snap pea
Source: Seeds of Change (available in 2012)

Pink-flowered ‘Magnolia Blossom’ relies on a thicket of tendrils to nimbly climb to 8 feet. We were still picking the crisp and tender pods in July.

“Quick off the mark, this edible-pod pea has attractive flowers (though I wouldn’t suggest it as an edible ornamental—the flowers are pretty but not spectacular) and lots of tasty pods.” —Don Boekelheide, Charlotte, North Carolina




‘Strawberry Crown’ squash
Source: Seed Savers Exchange

Our testers disagreed on the flavor of this pumpkinlike winter squash. Some found it moist, sweet, and delicious; others, bland.

“Much too pretty to cook! I’m using them everywhere as fall decorations.” —Jackie Smith, Belle Plaine, Minnesota


‘San Marzano Gigante 3’ tomato
Source: Territorial Seed Co.


In true underdog fashion, this homely, open-pollinated paste tomato came out on top in our taste tests. Tasters described the nearly seedless flesh as sweet, smoky, and mild. Indeterminate.

“I got very good production—lots of tomatoes. This was very good for sauce, nicely flavored and meaty.” —Linda Crago, Wellandsport, Ontario


‘Blush’ tomato
Source: Seeds of Change

This torpedo-shaped tomato, yellow with a red blush, scored second place in our office taste test. Tasters noted its sweet and fruity flavor. Indeterminate.

“‘Blush’ is beautiful and sweet when fully ripe. The fruits did crack badly when the rains started.” —Debbie Leung, Olympia, Washington


‘Cherokee Green’ tomato
Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Superb flavor made up for this heirloom’s lack of disease resistance and its relatively restrained production. Indeterminate.

“‘Cherokee Green’ tomato got high points for taste with our family and looked great in raw dishes mixed with red tomatoes. However, the plants quit producing sooner than our other varieties.” —Kathy Shaw, Neenah, Wisconsin


‘Finale’ fennel
Source: High Mowing Seeds (available in 2012)

The flattish bulbs of this open-pollinated variety are crisp, large, and mild.

“The bulbs sized up a week or so before other varieties and lasted in the garden longer before bolting, which gave us a longer harvest period. In our future gardens we plan to grow this as a substitute for celery, which doesn’t grow as well in our climate.” —Kathy Shaw, Neenah, Wisconsin

‘Tye-Dye’ tomato
Source: Burpee

The most beautiful tomato in the 2010 trials, ‘Tye-Dye’ produced smooth, crack-free fruits with marbled interiors. Indeterminate.

“I gave a lot of these to a friend who ate them like apples. I wouldn’t go that far, but they were good in insalata caprese.” —John Lewis, Newport, Rhode Island



‘Double Zahara Cherry’ zinnia
All-America Selections winner; widely available

Given full sun and regular water, this compact zinnia bears tousled blossoms without pause. A sibling of orange-flowered ‘Double Zahara Fire’.

“The two zinnias are definite winters. They bloom like gangbusters—no deadheading required—and are self-branching. —Andres Mejides, Homestead, Florida

‘Yellow Honey’ melon
Source: Fedco Seeds

(photo courtesy of Leslie Doyle)

A hybrid honeydew, ‘Yellow Honey’ is sweetest at the height of summer. The wonderfully aromatic flesh is crisp and pale green.

“Sweet and juicy and HUGE. Most of these grew between 13 and 15 pounds. One is enough for a party. Shortcomings: very long vines. Lock your doors at night.” —Leslie Doyle, Las Vegas, Nevada


‘Midnight Lightning’ zucchini
Source: High Mowing Seeds

(photo coutesy of High Mowing Seeds)

One space-saving hill of ‘Midnight Lightning’ yielded two or three perfectly formed fruits a week, all summer long.

“Dark green, very slender zucchinis were popular for their traditional appearance and flavor.” —Bill Nunes, Gustine, California


‘Lime Crisp’ cucumber
Source: Territorial Seed Co.

Slender with a narrow seed cavity, this hybrid cuke stays crunchy at any size—but harvest it small for the finest quality.

“The pale green skin didn’t need to be peeled, and the cucumbers were crisp and tasty for fresh use. For really straight fruit, the vines needed to be trellised—a small price to pay for this very productive cucumber.” —Jackie Smith, Belle Plaine, Minnesota


‘Midnight Ruffles’ lettuce
Source: John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds

‘Midnight Ruffles’ leaf lettuce complements other salad greens with its dark color, frilly texture, and mild flavor.

“This is an excellent red lettuce that sized up well in both our spring and fall gardens, outperforming ‘Lolla Rossa’. We enjoyed the taste and crunch of the ribs as well as its productivity.” —Kathy Shaw, Neenah, Wisconsin


‘Okame’ spinach
Source: Nichols Garden Nursery

Although spring sowings of ‘Okame’ bolted sooner than other varieties of spinach, fall sowings held up well. Long leaf stems make harvesting easier.

“Good flavor in the nice big flat leaves, which are easy to clean.” —Leslie Halleck, Dallas, Texas