More versatility in seasonal production periods, wider disease resistance, plus creative uses top the appeal of new leafy greens.
Today, leading chefs, food writers and busy home cooks find that salads, sandwiches and other gourmet delights include much more than lettuce; radicchio, spinach and even some cabbages also fit the quest for convenience, taste and health benefits. Moreover, the new lettuces feature improved color and texture.
Growers enjoy the ability to harvest at numerous stages, which can often boost profitability. Also, the adaptability of many new leafy greens broadens their suitability for venues from local farmers' markets to large processors. In addition, better disease resistance reduces the need for pesticides and is a boon to organic production.
The following new or nearly new varieties were available to us by press time. Additional leafy greens appeared in the September edition.
Bred for processing, Anna is a bolt tolerant, medium dark green spinach variety well-suited for both early spring and late summer production. This Sakata/Chriseed hybrid resists downy mildew races 1 - 10. The smooth oval/round leaves are slightly savoyed.
Bred by Rijk Zwaan, 41-123 RZ is a dark green cos lettuce that can be used as a fresh whole-head lettuce as well as for processing. With high field uniformity, it also has very good standability. It has high resistance to downy mildew races 1 - 28, Fusarium wilt and lettuce leaf aphid, and intermediate resistance to lettuce mosaic virus.
An early semi-savoy spinach, 51-706 RZ has dark oval leaves with an upright growing habit. This Rijk Zwaan very uniform variety shows extremely few yellow leaves. It resists downy mildew.
A dark green oval-leafed semi-savoy spinach, Emperor is a new Sakata/Chriseed variety intended for fresh markets and baby leaf markets. This hybrid performs well on the East Coast and in Canada and resists downy mildew races 1 - 10.
Bejo Seeds reports that its Galileo is an exceptionally easy radicchio to grow. A mild, sweet Castelfranco type, it also can substitute for lettuce. This uniform spotted red-green hybrid excels for summer production.
A Treviso type radicchio, Granato demonstrates high productivity and bolt tolerance. This tall, dark red Bejo Seeds hybrid, trialed as B-2725, matures in 63 days.
Lava not only develops excellent color in cold weather, it tolerates frost. A uniform, vigorous hybrid radicchio bred by Bejo Seeds, Lava matures in 82 days. It trialed as B-2760.
Smooth, uniform Melissa can be used bunched or clipped for fresh market and/or harvested at the baby leaf stage. Developed by Sakata/Chriseed, this spinach is a sister line to its Alexandra spinach.
A semi-savoy with round-oval leaves, Reflect produces well in fall, summer and spring. Dark green and tall, this hybrid spinach can be bunched, clipped or offered in the baby leaf markets when small. Trialed as B-2759, this Bejo Seeds variety matures in 38 days. It resists downy mildew races 1 - 11.
Reginald, a slow-growing semi-savoy spinach for summer production, has dark green, thick leaves. With good bolt resistance, it excels for both clip and baby leaf markets. This Bejo Seeds hybrid matures in 55 days. Trialed as B-2797, it resists downy mildew races 1 - 7 and 11.
Rijk Zwaan's latest addition to their exceptional Salanova line, Triplex RZ, sports dark cherry red, incised leaves. This sweet, crisp frisée-type lettuce with a crunchy bite has extraordinary shelf life. Plus, it is well-suited for machine harvest. Resistances include downy mildew races 1 - 28 and lettuce leaf aphid.
Salvius RZ, bred by Rijk Zwaan for outdoor production, is a tall, fast-maturing cos lettuce with medium savoyed leaves. It has high resistance to lettuce leaf aphid and downy mildew races 1 - 26 and 28, plus intermediate resistance to corky root.
With its fresh green color, crisp texture and mild flavor, Bejo Seeds recommends its summer cabbage, Tiara, for summer salads and sandwiches in place of lettuce. Maturing in just 60 days, Tiara holds well in the field and produces uniform heads. The high vitamin C content lengthens its shelf life without browning. This hybrid trialed as B-2793.
Seeds by Bejo Seeds, Rijk Zwaan and Sakata/Chriseed are available from dealers including Harris Seeds, High Mowing Seed, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Ornamental Edibles, Rupp Seeds, Seeds of Change, Seedway, Siegers Seed, Stokes and others.
The author is a writer-researcher specializing in agriculture. She currently resides in central Pennsylvania.