New fruits and veggies look good, taste great

New fruits and veggies look good, taste great

Many of the newest varieties are as handy for landscaping as they are in the kitchen.

By Valerie Easton for The Seattle Times

FROM A CURIOUS new Italian green touted by chef Jamie Oliver to a zucchini diminutive enough to grow in a pot, today’s vegetables aren’t your grandma’s beans and corn.

Many of the newest varieties are as handy for landscaping as they are in the kitchen. How about pink pumpkins, or lettuces sufficiently ruffled and variously colored to star in beds and borders as well as salad bowls? If you plant plentifully, you can have your garden and eat it, too.

Agretti 'Roscana'

• The long, slim foliage of Agretti ‘Roscana’ is popular in Italy for its slightly bitter taste. The bush itself, which you’d never guess is related to beets and spinach, looks like a big bunch of chives. Cut the green tops and they’ll regrow to cut again. Eaten raw, agretti is crunchy and salty. You can braise these greens in olive oil and garlic, or steam before tossing with lemon and olive oil. Jamie Oliver says on his website that the taste is “spinachy and minerally” — in a good way.

• Cross a pumpkin and a butternut squash and what do you get? A squashkin, of course (S. ‘Autumn Crown’), which is shaped like a pumpkin and has a sweet melon scent. It produces early and bears heavily; the fruit stores well, too. Also new this spring is a very small and rare winter squash from France called ‘Potimarron’ with flesh that tastes strongly like chestnuts.

• You’d expect a pink pumpkin to look very, very wrong, but ‘Porcelain Doll’ is as pretty as its name. Inside, this exotic fruit is a deep orange, sweet-flavored, and ideal for pies and soup.

'Berkeley Tie Dye' Tomato

• Nothing is as tempting in spring as tomatoes, and two new ones are sure to stir summer fever. ‘Berkeley Tie Dye’ is an indeterminate type (meaning, the vine kind that continues to grow through the season) that grows 4 to 6 feet and needs a sturdy cage or trellis. The texture is creamy, the flavor sweet-tart with hints of spice; 80 to 90 days from transplant.

• The ebony-splashed tomato ‘Indigo Rose,’ also an indeterminate type, is a powerhouse of antioxidants. Bred at Oregon State University, it performs well in our climate. The fruits are only 2 to 3 inches and look as rich as a plum when sliced open. ‘Indigo Rose’ is tasty in salads, but also good for snacking and canning (75 days from transplant).

• If you’re more into growing from seed than transplants, new varieties from Renee’s Garden Seeds tantalize with the tagline “Set the Table from Your Garden.” The edible landscape lettuce ‘Stardom Mix’ is as useful in the garden as it is tasty on the table. It features two oakleaf lettuces, one bright emerald green, one deep burgundy, with crispy-sweet leaves that are fast-growing and heat-tolerant. ‘Stardust’ is as effective and easy-to-grow in borders as it is in raised beds or vegetable gardens.

• “Renee’s Beet and Chard Braising Mix” is nutrient-dense, yet the green-and-red-leafed beets, mixed with silver- and gold-leaf chards, are robustly pretty. Cut the leaves young and tender for salad, or let them bulk up for braising or sautéing.

• No more baseball-bat-sized zucchinis with the new French bush variety of summer squash. The vines don’t ramble because ‘Astia’ was bred for small gardens and containers. The fruits grow at the base of the plant where they’re easy to harvest; pick them when they’re about 5 inches long and the plant will keep bearing.

The squashes, tomatoes, pumpkin and agretti are produced by Log House Plants in Cottage Grove, Ore., and can be found as starts in area nurseries; the seeds are available in nurseries and by mail order from Renee’s Garden

Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of “petal & twig.” Check out her blog at

Full article with additional pictures at