Opinion: PanAmerican has been breeding new varieties of vegetables, annuals and perennials for many years.Opinion: PanAmerican has been breeding new varieties of vegetables, annuals and perennials for many years.Read MoreFeedzy

Opinion: PanAmerican has been breeding new varieties of vegetables, annuals and perennials for many years.

Pint-sized peppers are perfect for a windowsill. Photo by PanAmerican Seed /Pint-sized peppers are perfect f

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For years now in grocery and garden stores, we’ve seen potted herbs, like basil, that are ready to take home, pop on a windowsill and begin harvesting. Next spring, for the first time, a whole new series of ready-to-harvest miniature tomatoes and peppers will start appearing on store shelves.

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European breeding companies have been developing miniature food plants for some time. PanAmerican Seed Company is an innovative seed-breeding corporation, based in Chicago, that sells its seeds through associated businesses to growers around the world. PanAmerican has been breeding new varieties of vegetables, annuals and perennials for many years, including the amazing line of lettuce blends called Simply Salad. The company will be introducing its new Kitchen Minis Series next spring.

I had the chance to speak with Felicia Vandervelde, PanAmerican’s regional account manager and product development manager in Chicago, about these exciting new plants.

Vandervelde gave credit to Susanne Villemoes, a breeder in Denmark, for developing this miniseries. She said the concept is to provide folks who have no garden space with the opportunity to pick and enjoy their own fresh produce. PanAmerican is focusing on three products: tomatoes, sweet peppers and hot peppers. Because of their miniature size, these plants fit nicely on small windowsills and once fully established, they’ll provide small, flavourful fruit for about 70-to-80 days.

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Vibrant Fresh Bites peppers are sweet, thick-walled and make perfect edible décor for countertops and patio tables. Photo by PanAmerican Seed /PanAmerican Seed

Usually grown from seed in six-inch pots, the tomato varieties take about three weeks to germinate and grow to a transplant size. It takes a further 10-to-12 weeks for the plants to grow to fruiting size. All the tomatoes are determinate and will produce a continuous supply of fruit for 60-to-70 days.

Vandervelde said she tried them in her own home and found that the flavour of the tomatoes was very good. When one of the first new tomatoes, Mini Siam, was introduced a few years ago, we trialled them in our greenhouses, and what surprised me was the number of fruits on such a relatively small plant. Another miniature variety, Micro Tom, has also been on the market for a few years, and it, too, produces an overwhelming quantity of bite-sized fruits.

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The two new introductions scheduled for next spring will be Cocoa F1 and Red Velvet F1. Cocoa has uniquely sweet, burgundy fruits, and Red Velvet produces sweet, vibrant red fruits.

Vandervelde indicated that growers will be providing these tomatoes from very early to quite late in the season, and perhaps into winter. She also pointed out that these very productive small varieties can be grown in outdoor containers or even directly in gardens. In ideal conditions outside, they will perform even better.

Siam tomatoes will brighten up windowsills and provide deliciously sweet fruit. Photo by PanAmerican Seed /PanAmerican Seed

Miniature sweet peppers will also be introduced next spring. Fresh Bites (red, orange or yellow) are sweet, thick-walled, snack-sized peppers that can be eaten fresh, chopped up in salads or grilled. Peppers take a little longer to grow; from seed they take about four weeks to germinate and 15-to-17 weeks to reach fruiting size. They, too, will be grown in six-inch pots and will continue to produce fruit all summer long.

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Hot peppers are all the rage today, especially with our younger generations, and PanAmerican is introducing nine varieties of miniature hot peppers that can be grown on a sunny windowsill, on a deck or in a garden. From seed, they’re very similar to sweet peppers, taking three-to-four weeks to germinate and grow to a size ready for transplanting into a six-inch pot. From there, another 14-to-17 weeks is needed to reach fruiting size.

The Taquito variety has tiny, upright, conical, spicy fruit that ripen from green to red. They’re best eaten fresh or used in stir-fries. Tamale produces juicy, red fruit that have a mild spicy flavour ideal for tamales and enchiladas. Hot Burrito has mildly spicy, red fruit that are very useful for flavouring sauces or braised and added to any spicy dish.

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Hot Joker produces long, tapered, skinny red fruit that can be left on the plant to dry. They have a little more heat and are great for making paprika or pepper flakes. Cosmo is a variety that produces bright purple, snack-sized fruit that turn red when mature. They can be eaten fresh or cooked and used as a medium spice to any dish. Adobo has rather warm fruit that ripen to orange, red and yellow. They sweeten as they ripen, making them excellent for roasting or for stuffing with cheese.

Kitchen Minis produce a surprising amount of fruit for such small plants. Photo by PanAmerican Seed /PNG

Hot Fajita produces long, tapered, spicy red fruit that are quite fleshy. They’re ideal for use in cooking. Pinata produces long, thin-walled, spicy red fruit that are perfect for making crushed pepper flakes or chopped in a sauce. Hot Lemon, as the name implies, produces long, yellow fruit that have a punch of heat, making them a great choice for salsas and hot sauces.

If you would like to start your own miniatures, a few seed companies, like West Coast Seeds, will be carrying seed for these and similar outstanding varieties. They’ll make wonderful additions to any small space gardens or sunny windowsills. Whether you purchase miniatures as finished, ready-to-harvest plants or you start your own, you will be delighted by the number of tasty fruit on such small plants.

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