The Best of the Test Garden: 2010

These 10 plants proved outstanding in our variety trials.

By Doug Hall

Photography by Christa Neu


test garden circle bedsAt a couple of bucks a packet, seeds are an amazing bargain.

The array of choices you’ll find in any seed catalog, from brand-new hybrids to time-tested favorites, makes every growing season a new adventure. But that same abundance of choices poses a dilemma: Which new varieties are really worthy of garden space?

To help you navigate that decision, Organic Gardening trialed nearly 50 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers in 2010. Most were varieties recently introduced to gardeners; a few were heirlooms that haven’t been widely available in the past. We grew them at the Rodale family farm near our editorial offices in Pennsylvania, and our far-flung crew of 14 test gardeners planted them in diverse climates and soil conditions. If you follow our “From the Test Gardens” blog, you’ve gotten a glimpse of the process and read some of our preliminary impressions, both positive and negative, of the trial varieties.

In the end, nearly every variety revealed at least one commendable quality, whether it was regional adaptability, special culinary uses, or unique beauty. Some were good enough to challenge the standard varieties we’ve grown for years. What you see on the pages that follow are the best—our 10 favorite plants from the 2010 trials, with comments from our test gardeners.

‘Cavili’ Zucchini
Source: John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds
cavili zucchini

Ghostly ‘Cavili’, shown on pages 42 and 43, is notable for its creamy texture, mild flavor, and small seeds. The fruits hold well after harvest. ‘Cavili’ is parthenocarpic, which means its female blossoms develop into fruit without having been pollinated. This trait is handy in greenhouse culture, where no pollinators are present, or under floating row covers in regions where insect pests destroy squash.

“The kids loved the huge size of this zucchini (we always have a contest for the biggest), and I loved the flavor and productivity.” —Michelle Zettel, Challis, Idaho

‘Beananza’ Green Bean
Source: W. Atlee Burpee & Co.
beananza green<br />

Although it’s a bush bean, ‘Beananza’ showed the sort of summerlong stamina you’d expect from a pole bean. The harvest lasted about 10 weeks with consistent quality. ‘Beananza’ is a French filet-type bean with slim, stringless pods about 6 inches long and traditional bean flavor.

“Tender and flavorful. They didn’t seem to get tough as quickly as other filet beans.” —John Lewis, Newport, Rhode Island