Trying to decide between growing flowers or food? With these pretty choices, form and function go hand in hand. They’ll fit right in amid your garden blooms.
Gretel Eggplant (Solanum melongena ‘Gretel’) – grown as an annual. This 2009 All-America Selection produces clusters of white eggplants on 3-foot-high plants. The mild-flavored fruits can be harvested when they reach 3 to 4 inches long. The eggplant is susceptible to cold, so wait for the soil to warm and the danger of frost to pass before you plant outdoors.
Ornamental Pepper (Capsicum annuum) – annual. Unlike their kin, which hang beneath foliage, new cultivars of ornamental peppers produce upright clusters of fruit that face the sky. As peppers ripen, a single plant may sport three or four different shades, from yellow to orange, red, purple, or brown. Ornamentals may be super-hot or exceedingly pungent, so be sure to choose cultivars that suit your taste buds and growing area. Also, be sure to keep the plants out of the reach of small children or pets. These work really well in containers. The ‘Black Hawk’ variety was a 2016 All-America Selection.
Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus) – grown as an annual to zone 7. Draw in hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden with scarlet flowers on vines that grow to 20 feet. Plants bear 6- to 12-inch pods holding purple and black hued beans. Support vines with a trellis, arbor, fence, or teepee.
Purple Ruffles Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Purple Ruffles’) – annual. Frilly, flavorful purple leaves make this herb a great choice. Growing to about 18 inches high and wide, this simple-to-grow, cold-tender herb can be used in containers or mixed in a sunny perennial or annual border.
Papaya Pear Squash (Cucurbita pepo ‘Papaya’) – annual. You’ll get lightbulb-shaped yellow squash with this semi-bush plant, which was a 2003 All-America Selection. Pick the fruits when they measure 3 inches long and wide to encourage plants to set more squash so you can enjoy it all season.
Bright Lights Chard (Beta vulgaris ‘Bright Lights’) – annual. This easy-growing choice brings rainbow hues to any garden. Reaching 20 inches tall, Bright Lights produces large mild-flavored leaves on thick yellow, red, orange, and white stems. When harvesting, cut the biggest leaves about 2 inches from the crown to encourage this 1998 All-America
Selection to put out new leaves. (Note: I learned this the hard way when I grew it in a tub on the ground that was not quite tall enough to discourage the rabbits. While they ate what was there, it did grow back and I had a lovely harvest from the tub that I had moved to a higher spot!)
All-America Selections is an independent non-profit organization that tests new, never-before-sold varieties for the home gardener. After a full season of anonymous trialing by volunteer horticulture professionals, only the top garden performers are given the AAS Winner award designation for their superior performance.