University of Illinois Extension

Hot, Sweet and New

There is something sweet and something hot for your garden, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulturist.

"There is a new melon and pepper from All- America Selections," said Greg Stack.

"All-America Selections (AAS) looks at and tests numerous new introductions in both the flower and vegetable category. Those that are chosen AAS winners do so because they were found to be superior to similar varieties currently on the market. For 2010 there are two AAS vegetable winners that you will want to save room for in your garden."

For the culinary-focused gardener there is a new hot pepper, 'Cajun Belle'. The fruit of this pepper is slightly elongated with three to four lobes and looks like a small green pepper.

"However, there is a hint of heat and Cajun flavor waiting for the cook," he noted. "The peppers are both sweet and mildly hot. The fruit starts out green, turns scarlet and ends up a deep red. It is great for visual culinary presentations."

These plants are vigorous and well-branched. It is not uncommon for a single plant to set up to 50 or more peppers. It also is of a size that makes it good for small space gardens and even works well in containers as a very attractive ornamental edible. The plants are disease tolerant. An added bonus of the fruit is that it stays fresh for several weeks even without refrigeration.

For gardeners with a little more space and a taste for watermelon, check out 'Shiny Boy' watermelon.

"This red fleshed watermelon has a sweet tropical flavor and crisp texture," said Stack. "It is globe-shaped and can weigh up to 20 pounds.

"The plants are vigorous growing up to 12 feet, so space is needed. While it is an art form to determine when melons are ripe, plan to check the plants about 75 days after transplanting for mature fruit. 'Shiny Boy' is earlier than other varieties."