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Picking New Veggie Varieties For Spring

A Genovese basil seedling in a pot
Genovese basil, pictured, can be used for pesto. Charlie Nardozzi suggests growing a mildew-resistant variety of the plant come spring.

Each week, gardening expert Charlie Nardozzi shares his vast knowledge of plants, veggies, gardening and growing things. This week, we embrace the great winter pasttime of poring over new seed catalogs for different vegetable and herb plants, and dreaming of what we'll plant come spring.

New Veggie and Herb Varieties To Try

Here are a few varieties of plants that Charlie is looking to give a go:

Prospera Genovese Basil: Try a mildew-resistant variety of this basil plant, which is great for use in pestos. The herb can grow in gardens, but it also comes in a compact variety that works great in container gardens, too.

Song Loose-Curd Cauliflower: This type of crucerifous veggie is often found in Asia but grows very well here. Cauliflower will usually grow with a compact dome head and, come harvest time, you have to harvest the whole head — however this particular variety, known as a "loose curd," is more open in the head and you can harvest individual pieces. The green stems are also sweet and can be eaten, too.

Badger Flame Sweet Yellow Beets: This yellow beet variety is similar to the heirloom one known as 'Coggio,' as it has the similar red rings inside. The Badger Flame beet is more cylindrical, and it's sweet and mild-tasting (rather than having that distinct and earthy beet taste).

Pie-Pita Pumpkin: This two- to- three-pound pumpkin grows with hull-less seeds. That makes it easier to grow and easier to eat the seeds when roasted. The flesh is also very sweet, and it can be baked or used in pies or roasted.

Q: "My Grammy use to grow gloxinias and I love the plants. Where can I buy gloxinias for my home so I can grow them and remember my Grammy?" — Leah, in Greensboro

Gloxinias are beautiful plants that are similar to African violets. They might be hard to find, but you can check for availability at florists and garden centers. Otherwise, you can purchase the rhizomes or tubers and grow them that way (plus they will last longer).

They like a warm room, bright light and well-drained soil that stays moist. The key with the rhizomes is to let the plants die back after they are done flowering. Then, put them in a cool basement for two to three months.

After their rest, bring them back up and care for them, and they will probably flower for you again next fall and winter.

A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie will answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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