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Master Gardener Sue Morris: Volunteer gardeners test vegetable and flower seeds, pick their faves

Master Gardeners test seeds for the University of Minnesota. You can read about their favorites here.

Daikon Radish
A daikon radish is shown in this stock photo. It is usually eaten raw, cooked or pickled.
Contributed / Shutterstock

Each year the state's Master Gardener volunteers test seeds for the University.

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Last year 233 individuals from 50 counties tested Brandywine tomatoes, large purple eggplant, burpless cucumbers, Chinese cabbage, daikon radish, dwarf sunflowers and China asters.

With the tomatoes, they found no significant difference among the six varieties of Brandywine-related tomatoes. Here is their ranking: Brandymaster Red was the winner with an abundance of fruit and good flavor, very little disease and insect damage. 61% said they would grow it again. The others tested ranked: Brandy Boy; Brandymaster; Genuwine; Big Brandy; and Brandywine.

Only 41% said they would plant Brandywine again out of the six tested. From the names of these tomatoes, I would think that they all are improvements on the original Brandywine tomato.

Burpless cucumbers tested ranked as follows: No. 1 was Tasty Green. It ranked as best tasting, and 72% said they would plant it again. The others in rank order are: Burpless 26; Tasty King; Diva; Tendergreen; Early Spring. Only 18% liked the taste on Early Spring.

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Keep reading below the related content for more of this week's column from Master Gardener Sue Morris.

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Daikon radish was tested. It is a type of radish with a large root. Looks like a large white plump carrot and is usually eaten raw, cooked or pickled. Iโ€™ve never tried growing this radish. The clear winners were Bravo and Mini Mak. The others were Shunko, Alpine, Summer Cross and Green Meat. Three-quarters of the testers would not grow Green Meat again.

Eggplants tested and their rankings were: Nigral, Night Shadow, Santana, Black Beauty, Galine and Moneymaker. There wasnโ€™t too much difference in the taste in any of these.

Chinese/Napa Cabbage plants were rated in the following order: Wawa Tsai; Suzuko; Rubicon; Rubicon Blues; Green Rocket; and Michihili in last place. Several gardeners said they would not grow this last one again as there was a lot of bolting with it.

China asters mix was an annual flower that was in the trial. There are many cultivars and colors to choose from. Flowers range in color from white to purple, including pink, red, fuchsia and lavender. Ninety gardeners planted these flowers.

Seeds were started indoors 6-8 weeks before the average frost date. Deer and rabbits loved them. Most of the varieties required staking. Flower peak is August and early September. All varieties attracted pollinators and were disease free.

The No. 1 variety was Gremlin Double Mix followed by Single Mix; Giants of California Mix; Nova Mix; Hi-No-Maru Mix. It was reported that Powder Puff Mix was a big disappointment with only 9% germination.

The test I found most interesting was dwarf sunflowers. These grow less than three feet tall but sport multiple 4-inch to 6-inch flower heads and are good space savers. They have a bloom time of 30-45 days and finish with edible seeds, they were the most popular trial in 2022.

A group of 121 Master Gardeners grew them. They were drought tolerant. This is their ranking: Firecracker, Incredible Dwarf, Dwarf Sunspot, Yellow Pygmy, Teddy Bear, Big Smile. Big Smile was a big disappointment from all reports โ€” problems with disease and insect damage. Sounds like it would be fun to grow some of these dwarf sunflowers.

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Sorry, but there was no information as to where one could purchase these seeds. Time to check the seed catalogs.

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Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing this column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.

Master Gardener Sue Morris has been writing a column since 1991 for Kandiyohi County newspapers. Morris has been certified through the University of Minnesota as a gardening and horticulture expert since 1983. She lives in Kandiyohi County.
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