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MEET MR. BIG PEA AND OTHER VEGETABLES OF THE FUTURE

It's just a day away -- the beginning of the 21st century. And we have been bombarded with ads of everything "millennium --- cars, furniture, sports equipment, computers. So why not "Millennium Vegetables?

Those are the vegetables predicted to be winners in the 21st century. And even though it's winter, we can start dreaming about spring.

If you are one of those ambitious gardeners who likes to grow your own plants, be sure to check out the seed catalogs that will be filling your mailbox soon -- if not read to the very end -- and get your order in.

If you don't start your own plants, jot down the names of the newcomers we will be talking about today and in future columns and let your favorite gardening center staff know you will be looking for the plants come spring.

"Mr. Big Pea" is a 2000 All America winner and it is exactly what its name implies -- giant pod size and yield. The vines are large and vigorous. They can grow in the garden with no support but it is much easier to pick your crop if you provide a fence or trellis on which they can climb. First harvest begins about 58 days after emergence. The extra large pods can contain nine or 10 plump peas that are dark green and retain both color and sweetness for an extended time

"Mr. Big Pea" can tolerate less than ideal growing conditions, is resistant to diseases, easy to shell, very sweet and excellent for freezing.

There is a sweet corn bred specifically for home gardeners that with a single planting will give mature ears over a period of 10 days rather than concentrated over one or two days.

It's called "For Heaven's Sake."

It is a yellow corn with above average sweetness with an average maturity of 79 days, earlier than Kandy Korn, Candystick 11 and Silver Queen. Its large ears have deep, tender, extra-sweet, succulent kernels from the first harvest to the last. Shelf life is about 10 days with normal handling and refrigeration.

"Jetsetter sounds like a great name for the Year 2000 tomato especially one that is promised to mature in 64 days and have really good taste, great yield and is disease resistant.

Almost always when you breed-in early maturity, you sacrifice something: the plants don't yield much or the fruits are small or the flavor is left wanting. This hybrid gives up nothing. It matures in 64 days; fruit size is 8 ounces or larger (average); deep oblate shape, really good flavor; smooth, soft and juicy; flattened-globe shape; vigorous indeterminate plants; great yield potential and disease resistant.

It's a breed apart and I think we all really have to try it so we definitely better put the garden centers on notice that come planting time, we will be looking for the "Jetsetter.

How about an eggplant that doesn't require any salt water soaking and better yet, the flavor is not only mild, it is sweet?

It's a white as snow eggplant called "Cloud Nine.

The skin color is totally unique - pure white, not ivory like other so-called white eggplants. It begins producing the elongated oval fruits 75 days from transplant and the hybridizers say, "Once the strong plants begin, stand back.

"Cloud Nine enjoys warm weather so don't set out the plants too early. Set the plants out only when the day temperatures can be counted on to be 70 degrees or better or you might want to consider some kind of cover if you get anxious.

If you set them out too early and they get cold, the plants may become stunted and when that happens, they seldom recover to produce a normal big crop.

The plant is also happy in a large container if your growing space is limited.

This sweet bell pepper walked away with one of the coveted All-America Awards for the Year 2000.

"Blushing Beauty bears fruits that gracefully change from ivory to blush red, then to orange-red, then darker red as they mature and can be used at any of these stages. They are thick walled, sweet tasting and big (about 4 inches x 4 inches).

It is resistant to bacterial leaf spot and has a medium-early 72-day maturity. What really impressed the All-America judges was the tremendous yield potentials and outstanding fruit set.

Again, make sure it's warm when you set plants in the garden - about 60 to 70 degrees at night and 70 to 80 during the day. Pick a sunny location and add organic material to the soil in order to help hold the moisture. High phosphorus (middle number) fertilizers applied according to label directions will encourage fruit set.

Incidentally, if you are one of those rare people whose name is not on everyone's mail order list, January has been declared "National Mailorder Gardening Month.

For information about mail-order garden catalogs, visit the Mailorder Gardening Association Web site at www.mailordergardening.com or write Mailorder Gardening Association, Dept. SC-11, PO Box 2129, Columbia, M.D. 21045.

Happy gardening in 2000!

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