I am sure you have heard about or have seen Heirloom vegetables. So, what are they? Some would describe them as a “party in your mouth”, they are truly that much better than hybridized varieties. A more technical definition would be: a vegetable that is an old and primarily open-pollinated variety, one which has been passed down from generation to generation while preserving the original quality of the plant. They are either grown from
seed or propagated vegetatively but, in either case, the new plants are always true to their parent in appearance and flavor. Their intense and distinct flavors have not been “washed away” through hybridization or hydroponic growing methods. We, as average consumers, have become accustomed to the tomatoes we buy at our neighborhood grocery store chain. The fruits are available in about 3-4 different sizes and they ALL have the same appearance and taste. It is no wonder that the tomato has dropped in popularity…it is boring. Let’s all say “NO”
I digress a little, several “natural” food stores are stocking select heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruits (such as the tomato) and you can also find them at your local Farmer’s Market seasonally, but you will have much more satisfaction growing your own. You can simply step into your yard and collect what you need for the day.
This is also a FANTASTIC project for kids because these tough plants require very little care or attention until harvest time. A peek at them every so often and a little supplemental water when necessary (too much water produces a more diluted flavor) and their strong genes will do the rest! It is also a fact that kids are much more likely to eat the produce that they, themselves, have tended and nurtured. This would be a great learning experience, as well as, a life lesson. Quite possibly they could even turn it into a summer business selling their harvest overflow to friends and neighbors. Who needs a lemonade stand? Set up an Heirloom stand!
Each year, Suburban Lawn & Garden stocks MANY different heirloom varieties of plants for your garden. I, myself, try a couple of new (to me) tomatoes per year. There are so many to consider, and the options change every year.
Imagine carrots in nearly every color of the rainbow! What a treat! In actuality, these vegetables aren’t simply different in appearance and taste, they also contain different nutrients. Dark purple pigment indicates the presence of anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidents
and are not found in a great number of “readily available” items in our produce section. Anthocyanins are linked to immune support, heart health, cancer prevention, and even weight loss. The darker the better when it comes to purple veggies.
We are very familiar with purple/blue fruits such as plums, blueberries or grapes, but the following vegetables and fruits also have black/purple varieties: eggplant, bell peppers, potatoes, corn, cauliflower, kale, asparagus, onions, tomatoes, beans/legumes, rice and wheat. The list is actually much longer than this, but you get the idea. These fun and extraordinarily good for you foods are definitely worth growing.
So, what can you do now to prepare for growing some of these fantastic plants next spring? First, run out to your local farmer’s market and try to find some of these delicacies, you will be amazed to actually eat a tomato with flavor. The next thing you will want to do is prepare a bed in full sun. A raised bed is best for most plants and easier to harvest from and work with, too. Adding organic fertilizers such as our Summer Field Farms Organic Soil Conditioner, worm castings or composted cow manure to clay soil now will ready it for spring use. If you prepare the bed this year, it will be available to host all of your selections next year without risking procrastination of creation (so easy to do, too).
I sincerely hope you try a few of these decades, if not centuries, old varieties of veggies. You will have fun, save lots of money and be healthier, too!