Heirloom Vegetables

Want to grow some heirloom vegetables and protect them being lost forever? Growing just a few in your own backyard can make a big difference. Here are some suggestions from two gardeners I follow on Twitter.

ASPARAGUS: Mary Washington, Jersey. LETTUCE:  Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce, Grandpa Admirer’s, Speckled, Black Seeded Simpson.  PEPPERS: Datil, Fish, Giant Szegedi, Wenk’s Yellow Hot. SQUASH: Black Futsu, Long of Naples, Neck Pumpkin Butternut, Japanese Pie, Marine di Chiogga. SWEET POTATO: Beaugard. TOMATO:  Casaba, Aunt Ruby’s German Green Tomato, Djena Lee’s Golden Girl, German Pink, Orange Oxheart, Big Zebra, Black Prince, Copia, Dr. Wyche’s Yellow, Valencia, Chalk’s Early Jewel, Cherokee Purple, Black Krim, Green Zebra, Moskvich, Dad’s Sunset, Costoluto, Cherokee Purple.

These are from the Green City Market Heritage and Heirloom Preservation
Project. The list was provided to me by @SaraGasbarra. About the Green
City Market Heirloom Preservation Project:

Green City Market is
working with our Market vendors to help preserve and promote heirloom
varieties of vegetables and fruits and heritage breeds of animals – the
foods our ancestors enjoyed for centuries. Over decades these products
have adapted to local environmental conditions and are often better
able to withstand disease and harsh environmental conditions than their
genetically engineered relations. Preserving them preserves the
biodiversity of our food supply.

@C_Vanderlinden, a garden blogger/writer pointed me in the direction of the Slow Food USA Art of Taste. The second page of this .PDF has a good-sized list of heirloom vegetables. About the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste:

The US Ark of Taste is a catalog of over 200 delicious foods in danger of extinction. By promoting and eating Ark products we help ensure they remain in production and on our plates.

You can find more by conducting an internet search for “heirloom vegetables” or “heirloom seeds.” Something to keep in mind during your searches: you may end up discovering that the same plant(s) may have one or more different names, depending on what part of the country it was/is being grown in.  


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  • Of the 13 heirloom tomato varieties I planted (at random in the sense that I was given all the seeds and didn't pick the varieties myself), my favorite by far was Olga's round yellow chick egg, and Ukrainian Heart was good, too. :) I also liked some heirloom lettuce mixes, but I don't have the name at hand. Am converted to try all organic veggies next year.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    My tomatoes were a bust this year. The heirlooms and the non-heirloom varieties. I think I'm going to stick to beans and cukes. They did pretty well.

  • I've only ever grown heirloom tomatoes. Some of the other veggies I've grown were heirlooms too. This year most of what I grew was heirloom. I enjoyed it all, except I wasn't crazy about that pretty red French lettuce - too bitter. It's better as an ornamental than for eating. It was bitter in the summer, so I tried it again in fall's cooler weather, but it was just as bitter then. Even in summer it didn't bolt, but so what - it was inedible! Black Seeded Simpson is slow to bolt even during the summer, produces heavily, and never turns bitter in my garden. I've grown it for years. I tried a few herloom lettuce mixes, and all were delicious, and pretty.

    Overall I'm a big fan of heirloom veggies, and have never had any disease problems in my veggie gardens except mildew on cucumber plants after they're mostly spent anyway.

  • In reply to ssgardengirl:

    I think I got that same red lettuce you did and I didn't get a chance to plant it. Thanks, if you thought it too bitter I may end up giving the seeds away instead of planting them.

  • I find myself interested in ... parsnips! And wonder if they're grown much in the U.S.,
    and if there are heirloom varieties; they're on my list for 2010.
    I can't stop thinking about combining them with roasted potatoes ;-)

  • In reply to AliceJoyce:

    Hmmm, not sure how popular parsnips are. I'll have to do some Googling now that you've peaked my curiosity. I could have sworn someone was giving away a bunch of older seed recently on Twitter, too.

  • In reply to AliceJoyce:

    In my tomato growing days I liked Mrs. Benson and a tomato called Mong among many others. The Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse plant sale is my recommended source for heirloom vegetables. By the way MBT, this was a sucky year for tomatoes because it never got hot enough for them. Don't give up on them yet.

  • In reply to Sydney:

    Hi Sydney,

    I won't give up on them completely...I know what you mean about this season for tomatoes. The ones I planted for Chicago TomatoFest in the garden did nothing. The extra plants I had that I planted in an empty lot thrived, go figure.

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