Dr. Jerry Parsons, Professor Emeritus
Texas Agrilife Extension Service

Where can you get an unbiased, scientific appraisal of vegetable varieties, which perform best in this state? From the Texas Cooperative Extension horticulturists, of course! We don’t just pull these varietal recommendations out of thin air either-the Cooperative Extension horticulturists work diligently with local farmers and transplant producers to test and evaluate a wide range of new plant varieties.

Over the years major advancements have been in the area of production. Reliable, consistent yields have been made possible by new hybrid varieties of vegetables, which are not only earlier producers, but also produce more. These hybrids are disease resistant as well as vigorous growers. growers could then depend on a harvest of tomatoes every fall.

For instance, thirty years ago the tomato variety, ‘Homestead’, was the most widely planted variety in this area. It would do ok in the spring, but in the fall it was rare to harvest a ripe tomato before frost destroyed the plants loaded with green tomatoes. The Texas Cooperative Extension horticulturists introduced the hybrid ‘Spring Giant’ and ‘Spring Giant’ was being harvested before the first fruit was ever set on the Homestead plants. ‘Spring Giant’ was followed by the even more adapted varieties of ‘Surefire’, ‘Heatwave’ and ‘SunMaster’. Unfortunately, now, most of these tried-and-proven superior varieties are no longer available for home gardeners to enjoy. How and why could something like this happen?!?!

The short story is: There are only a few vegetable seed companies left in the world and they are eliminating the older, Texas-proven varieties in favor of new, “improved” hybrids. This elimination includes Texas SuperStar tomato varieties (‘Merced’ and ‘Surefire’) and ‘Green Comet’ broccoli. However, the most recent SuperStar tomato named ‘Tomato444’ can be found.

So, we recommend this spring that gardeners use the tomato varieties ‘Carnival’, ‘Celebrity’, and/or ‘Tomato444’ (‘BHN 444’). Also, for the first time, gardeners will be able to try a new heat-setting variety named ‘Sun Pride’. Heat-setting tomatoes are also cold-setting tomatoes so this variety will be the best choice for spring or summer planting. ‘Sun Pride’ is a mid-season variety, which produces large fruit and has extensive foliage to provide sun-scald protection. The fruit is very firm and is produced on a semi-determinate plant. It is somewhat crack resistant and the plant is resistant to Verticillium and Fusarium Wilt.

It can be seen and compared to other varieties at:

We have been testing broccoli for several years as seen at:


trying to find a replacement for Green Comet, which is no longer available. Notice in the 2004 spring trials that there were only two varieties with images attached. That is because these were THE ONLY TWO varieties, which made heads in the spring!

Green Magic broccoli was first put on the San Antonio market in the fall of 2004 but because of the hottest October in history, the quality of early (Aug-Oct) planted broccoli was not what we had experienced in our testing. The later planted ‘Green Magic’ broccoli was high quality and it should be wonderful this spring because broccoli performs best when it experiences cool growing conditions. ‘Green Magic’ is a hybrid, which matures in 85 days from transplanting. It is a superb early variety that produces high quality, attractive smooth dome heads with tight green beads. Heads can weigh between 350-400 gm and has good resistance to white rust. It is a hybrid selection from Calabria strains.

To go with this tomato and broccoli duo, we are offering a hot, ornamental pepper. It is Capsicum frutescensand matures fruit within 85 days of transplanting. Plants produce good yields of ¾” long by ½” wide hot, edible peppers.

Peppers grow upright in clusters, are very hot, and turn from purple, to yellow, to orange, to red when mature. Plants have green stems, green leaves, and white flowers. This ornamental pepper is suitable for growing in pots or containers. See:

To beautify a planting of these productive vegetable varieties, try some new heat-tolerant, multiflora petunias named Petunia ‘Tidal Wave Cherry’ and Petunia ‘Tidal Wave Silver’ Trailing.