The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

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Vegetable Winners for Soups and Salads

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Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator

Few things give me as much joy as a new garden catalog in February. I drool over each picture of voluptuous vegetables and bodacious blooms. Catalogs are part reunion and part Broadway premiere. We can revisit our beloved plant friends and salivate over seductively new plant stars.

A great deal of toil, trouble and time goes in to getting new plants into those catalogs. The plants must survive the producer's quality check then on to independent growers for their critique. Even heirlooms must go through the rigors of catalog stardom.

To help us wade through the jungle of plant choices groups such as All America Selections (AAS) announce their winners each year. AAS, a not-for-profit organization of seed developers and producers, helps to entice gardeners to try new cultivars of flowers, vegetables and herbs.

AAS winners are tested at trial gardens across North America including the Hartley Gardens at University of Illinois Arboretum. Each winner must show superior qualities or traits that distinguish them from similar varieties in side-by-side trials.

2016 AAS Winners' circle includes Cabbage 'Katarina', Kale 'Prizm', Mizuna 'Red Kingdom' and Kolhrabi 'Konan' and celebrates new vegetable varieties with color, cooking and containers in mind. As F1 hybrids they show off their hybrid seed vigor as cool season vegetables.

Cabbage 'Katarina' – I adore colossal craniums of cabbage. However, the big boys are a bit of a challenge with their propensity to crack from uneven watering and their magnetism toward caterpillar munching. Lets' face it. Most of us have to scramble to use mammoth cabbage heads anyway. Cabbage 'Katarina' bears an easy to grow, more usable head size at about 4 inches. Their compact size and shape work well in containers on patios and decks or in raised beds. In trials 'Katarina' matured as much as 1-3 weeks earlier than the other cabbage varieties. As with most cabbage once the main head is harvested, plants continue to grow small side heads. The sweeter, less bitter taste of Cabbage 'Katarina' also lends itself to easier cuisine concealment in the food of self-professed cabbage haters.

Kolhrabi 'Konan' – Kohlrabi looks more like a UFO than a vegetable in the cabbage family. Its leaves with long petioles erupt from the enlarged stem like a turnip having a bad hair day. Generally kohlrabi flavor and texture is best when stems are harvested at no bigger than 3 inches, but Kohlrabi 'Konan' is reportedly good up to 6 inches in diameter. Kohlrabi offers a mild turnip flavor with a colossal crunch in salads and stir fry.

Kale 'Prizm' – Kale may be the poster child for superfoods, but perhaps you aren't convinced to give it space in your garden. Kale 'Prizm' is cute and compact, perfect for tucking into containers as well as flower or vegetable gardens. The short, tight, ruffle-edged leaves make 'Prizm' perfectly pretty produce. The almost stemless stalks are quick to re-leaf so harvest is early and often throughout the season. The excellent flavored leaves are tender enough to enjoy in fresh salads, but also hold up well when cooked. 'Prizm' is a foodie gardener's dream come true!

Mizuna 'Red Kingdom' – You may not know mizuna, but you probably have already eaten the red or green leaves in salad mixes. Mizuna, also known as Japanese mustard, has a mild peppery flavor that enlivens soups and salads. Mizuna 'Red Kingdom' leaves are a vibrant reddish-purple all through the season making them perfect as an edimental (edible ornamental) in containers or in the landscape. In trials this variety did not bolt (produce flowers) as easily as other mizunas and produced a much higher yield throughout the season, standing up to mid-season heat.

Vow to try something new in 2016. Thank you to All America Selections for information and pictures. Check out their website for more winners and for seed sources.

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