Best New Herbs and Vegetables for 2021

The large-fruited ‘Orange Accordion’ is uniquely beautiful and delicious. (Image thanks to Baker Creek Seeds)

2020 was quite a year–with more downs than ups for most of us. One bright spot was the big boost in gardening nationwide. New gardeners arose from every corner of the country, trying their hand at raising their own vegetables, flowers, herbs, and house plants. It’s equally bright that this year offers no shortage of new and exciting herbs and vegetables. Promising new introductions, for both novice and seasoned gardeners, are diverse and many.

New 2021 Herb Introductions

The golden leaves of Drop of Jupiter have a delicate oregano flavor that is best suited for fresh eating in salads, soups, and sandwiches. (Image thanks to Proven Winners)

Herbs with improved performance and ornamental traits are always welcome in the garden. Here are my favorite picks from the wealth of new herbs offered by top seed vendors and online nurseries. (Click here for tips about how to grow different herbs.)

Several new and improved basils are offered this year, and two are on my to-get list. One that will be new to my garden, is the disease-resistant Amazel Basil® sweet Italian basil from Proven Winners®. The tasty variety has large leaves and is sterile, so it never flowers and stays sweet. Another is the highly disease-resistant ‘Rutgers Passion’, a new Italian basil available at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. The classic, large-leafed plants have notably sweet, aromatic leaves and are slow to bolt.

Amazel Basil® is sterile, so it always stays sweet and leafy. (Image by Proven Winners®)

The unusually ferny cilantro ‘Confetti’ is a tasty new variety from Johnny’s Selected Seeds that is fast growing and ideal for baby greens. It yields herbal greens in just 30-35 days from seed! If you prefer more traditional cilantro then grow ‘Marino‘, a new introduction from Park Seed. It has large, lush leaves and the vigorous plants are very slow to  flower, which means more cilantro for longer.

Proven Winner’s ‘Drops of Jupiter’ ornamental oregano is both attractive and delicious, with mild oregano flavor. Its chartreuse leaves look extra pretty when the numerous purplish-pink flowers appear in midsummer. The beautiful flowers are also edible and attract bees and butterflies.

New 2021 Vegetable Introductions

‘Green Light’ cucumber is a high-yielding, sweet, seedless cucumber that’s a 2020 AAS winner. (Image by All America Selections)

There are so many new vegetables on the market, it was hard to know where to start when choosing the best picks to present and try in my own garden, but I managed.

I jar pickles, so I always grow cucumbers. That’s why I could not pass up the 2020 AAS award-winning Beit-Alpha-type cucumber ‘Green Light‘. It has small, crisp, sweet, seedless cucumbers that yield early. Each compact vine can produce up to 40 cucumbers, and fruits may begin to appear as fast as 42 days from seed!

Edamame soybeans are making their way into American vegetable gardens where they are grown just like string beans. (Click here to learn how to grow string beans.) The new, prolific, early-yielding edamame ‘BeSweet‘ bears lots of flavorful beans excellent for steaming and eating from the pod.

Okra lovers can plant fewer plants and get all the okra they need with ‘Heavy Hitter‘. The new offering from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds produces huge yields of tender, green okra pods over a long period of time. Harvest pods regularly to keep production booming.

‘Orange Accordion’ tomato is juicy, flavorful, huge, and ornate. (Image thanks to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds)

Flavorful slicing tomatoes are my favorite, and the super disease-resistant heirloom-type tomato ‘GinFiz‘ from Johnny’s Selected Seeds is on the top of my list. It has the five traits that I look for in a tomato: sweet full flavor, beauty, vigor, excellent disease resistance, and good yields. Another impressive slicer I’ve chosen is Baker Creek’s large-fruited ‘Orange Accordion‘. It is reportedly very delicious and uniquely beautiful with its deeply lobed, accordion-shaped fruits of bright orange. Pot and patio gardeners will want to try Proven Winners® miniature Tempting Tomatoes® Patio Sunshine Cherry Tomato. The tiny tomato plants become covered with so many fruits that they start crowding the foliage. (Click here to learn how to grow tomatoes from seed to harvest.)

Tempting Tomatoes® Patio Sunshine Cherry Tomato is tiny but a productive powerhouse. (Image by Proven Winners)

Bell-pepper lovers should try the new disease-resistant, high-yielding ‘Karisma‘ bell from Park Seed. The blocky, thick-walled sweet peppers produce continuously throughout the season and turn from green to bright red. For even blockier sweet red bells borne in high quantities on larger plants, try ‘Double Up’–just be sure to cage the plants for needed stability. Small-space gardeners can try the new, compact Pot-a-Peño jalapeño pepper, which is ideal for container gardens. This variety also happens to be 2021 AAS award winner, which means it is sure to perform well. (Click here to learn how to grow your own peppers.)

Pot-a-Peño jalapeño is a 2021 AAS winner. (Image from All America Selections)

The deep-purple Asian eggplant ‘Shikou’ is a very early producer of tender, long, flavorful eggplants that produce one week earlier than many other varieties of its kind. It is remarkably heat-tolerant and will also withstand limited drought.

Summer and winter squash are not in short supply when it comes to new offerings. The perfect little golden patty pan ‘Lemon Sun‘ produces lots of little uniform squashes. It’s a good choice for baby vegetable growers. Winter squash lovers will swoon over ‘Harvest Moon‘, a long-keeping, blue-skinned winter squash with a pumpkin shape and bright orange flesh. The Burpee exclusive has heirloom looks, sweet flavor, and keeping power of up to a year. Those with less space can try ‘Goldilocks‘ acorn squash. The 2021 AAS winner displays lots of orange, sweet, and nutty acorn squashes on bush-type plants.

‘Harvest Moon’ is a new winter squash from Burpee with heirloom looks and great flavor. (Image by W. Atlee Burpee & Co.)

My fall vegetable garden will certainly contain the dusty purple, mini ‘Bonarda‘ broccoli. It looks beautiful, tastes delicious, and winters over well, from fall to winter, like a perennial. If planted in mid-fall, its small, colorful broccoli florets will be produced the following spring above white and green leaves.

Now’s the time to purchase seeds for these vegetables, if you are inclined to grow your own from seed (click here to learn how). Vegetable gardening is still hot, so hot that seeds are selling out at record speed, so now is the time to buy. You may also want to pick up a bag of OMRI Listed Black Gold Seedling Mix while you are at it.