Which heirlooms do you grow?
These are a few of the heirloom varieties we are presently growing or have grown in the past. Follow the link to view their individual history.
Asian Green: Mizuna
This slightly spicy Japanese heirloom mustard produces slender white stalks with deeply cut and fringed dark green leaves. Mizuna is great in soups, salads, stir-fries or as a wilted green served over a bed of rice.
Asian Green: Red Mustard
The large purple-tinted savoyed leaves make this mustard very decorative. They have a peppery taste that has been compared to horse radish. This heirloom is a standard ingredient in Japanese cuisine.
Beet: Chioggia (aka Candy Stripe)
This striking Italian variety has medium-height with pink-striped stems.
See Recipes: Golden Beet and Potato Salad, Scarlet Beet Brownies with Fresh Raspberries
Origin: Origin: Afghanistan (Origin of the orange carrot: Netherlands)
Carrot: Scarlet Nantes
A French variety, Scarlet Nantes was originally developed and released by Vilmoran prior to 1855. Scarlet is a coreless Nantes variety with smooth, cylindrical sides and a blunt tip. It has a rich, sweet flavor and a fine-grain texture. A high quality carrot for freezing or fresh eating, it also stores well.
Carrot: Red Cored Chantenay
According to William Woys Weaver, this heirloom originated in France around 1879 and “needs no improvement.” The 5’7” long, thick, red-orange roots have an excellent carroty flavour.
See Recipes: Organic Spelt Carrot Cake, Organic Carrot Pie, West Coast Coleslaw, Sweet Matchstick Carrots, Pioneer Grass-Fed Beef and Organic Veggie Stew, Ribollita, Grass-Fed Beef Pot Roast with Winter Vegetables
Chiles have been consumed in Mexico for more than 5,000 years. The Aztecs had at least seven different words for hot peppers and the Incas used peppers as a form of currency. In the U.S. popularity of hot peppers has increased dramatically in recent years. 25% of the continents chiles are grown in Hatch, New Mexico, the self-proclaimed Chile Capital of the world, which attracts thousands of visitors each Labor Day weekend for their annual chile festival.
Hot Pepper: Hungarian Hot Wax
These smooth waxy semi-hot peppers originated in Hungary. Perfect for making chile rellenos.
Hot Pepper: Long Red Narrow Cayenne
These wrinkled hot peppers are often curled and twisted and grow to about 5-6”. This variety of cayenne dates to the early 1800’s.
Hot Pepper: Habanero
The name means ‘from Havana’ although they really are from other parts of Cuba and the Yucatan. A Scotch Bonnet-type, Habanero is one of the most fiery peppers in cultivation, registering a blistering 200,000 – 350,000 Scoville units depending on how hot the growing season, they are 30-80 times more hot than a Jalapeno. Habaneros are a key ingredient in West Indian jerk sauce.
See Recipe: Chiles Rellenos and Chipolte Salsa Rojo, Ribollita, Farmer Stu’s Organic Kale Salad, Potato Kale Soup
Origin: Europe (probably Greece)
Kale: Nero di Tuscano or Lacinato
Also known as Dinosaur Kale and Cavolo Palmizio. Nero was described by Vilmorin-Andrieux in 1885 and traced back to the 18th century by William Woys Weaver who calls it “one of the most beautiful kales to grace any kitchen garden”. Nero is shaped like a miniature palm tree about 18” high. The very dark green wrinkled strap-like leaves appear almost black at a distance, looking minimalist compared with the more common curly-leaved kales. Delicious and nutritious, its sweet mild flavour improves after a light frost. Idrani Sen in Saveur magazine called Nero “essential for an authentic ribollita, the Tuscan soup of beans, bread and tomatoes in which kale takes center stage with its silk texture and musky flavour.”
See Recipe: Ribollita Tuscan Kale-Bean-Bread Soup, Farmer Stu’s Organic Kale Salad, West Coast Coleslaw, Sautéed Organic Kale with Garlic, Sautéed Organic Kale with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Potato Kale Soup
Lettuce: Rouge D’Hiver
This is a French heirloom dating back to the 1840’s. The true Rouge d’Hiver has black seeds and much deeper red outer leaf coloration than Brune d’Hiver with which it is sometimes confused. The inner leaves are green with deeply bronzed tips, an attractive color combination which commands attention.
See Recipe: Golden Beet and Potato Salad
Origin: Asia (though believed to have been growing on every continent)
Onions provided an important part of the diet in ancient Egypt. Seeds were found in a tomb dating from 3,200 BCE. According to Paul and Alison Wiediger of Growing for Market, Greek athletes ate pounds of onions, drank onion juice and rubbed the juice on their bodies to prepare themselves for competition.
Onion: Borrettana Cipollini
These Italian heirlooms make the quintessential boiling and braising onion. They are shaped like a button, up to 4” wide, but less than one inch thick. These flattened spheres have shiny golden skin. Their fine grained flesh has a very mild yet well-developed flavor. They are often appreciated in soups, stir-fries and shish kebabs.
See Recipe: Braised Cipollini Onions, Potato Kale Soup, Ribollita, Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Pork Chops, Native Winter Squash Stew, Potato Pancakes (Latkes), Chard and Feta Pie
Potato: Russian Banana
Russian banana is well-known as the best tasting fingerling. The small banana-shaped tubers with buff yellow skin and light yellow flesh are thought to have originated in Russia. They are sought after by chefs for their delicious flavor and “waxy” texture, as they don’t fall apart when boiled.
See Recipe: Potato Kale Soup, Ribollita, Organic Baked Potatoes Anna, Organic Rosemary Castle Potatoes, Potato Pancakes, Golden Beet and Potato Salad, Fall Vegetable Gratin, Chard and Feta Pie, Pioneer Grass-Fed Beef and Organic Veggie Stew
Origin: Central America (probably Mexico)
Pumpkin: New England Pie
The classic New England pie pumpkin is also known as Small Sugar pumpkin. It is thought to have been selected from Connecticut Field pumpkin by early white settlers. It has been the standard pie pumpkin for many generations.
See Recipe: Classic New England Pumpkin Pie, Organic Pumpkin/Squash Loaf, Native Winter Squash Stew
According to William Woys Weaver in 100 Vegetables and Where they Come From radishes were viewed in the 18th century as great relievers of the common cold, powerful fortifiers of digestion, and useful in breaking down kidney stones.
Radish: French Breakfast
French Breakfast, a favourite in Paris markets since before 1879, are traditionally dipped in butter for breakfast. “A medium sized radish, olive shaped, small top, of quick growth, very crisp and tender, of a beautiful scarlet color, except near the tip, which is pure white. A splendid variety for the table, on account of its excellent quality and its beautiful colour.” – From D.M. Ferry & Co’s Descriptive Catalog, 1902.
Radish: White Icicle
This heirloom is also widely known as Lady Finger and was listed by Fearing Burr as White Naples, White Italian, and White Transparent. The firm tender all-white roots grow to about 4-6” in length. They are mild when harvested young and slender, and remain in good eating condition longer than most radishes. In 1924 Starks asserted that Icicle was the most widely planted of all radishes and “absolutely unsurpassed in quality.”
See Recipes: Organic Radish Salsa, Warm Sautéed Radishes with Balsamic Vinegar and Herbs
Spinach is originally from Persia where it is called “aspanakh” which translates to “green hand”. It was brought from Persia to India and China by Arab traders around 650 AD and to Europe through Spain by the Moors as early as the 8th century. It was brought to the “New World” by European settlers in the early 19th century.
Bloomsdale, a treasured heirloom variety, was introduced in 1925. A classic savoyed leaf spinach, Bloomsdale has thick slightly curled leaves held on upright stems. Cool fall and spring temperatures bring out its sweet flavor.
See Recipes: Old Fashioned Creamed Spinach, Chard and Feta Pie
Tomato: Aunt Ruby’s German Green
Called by vintage tomato collector the late Chuck Wyatt “the biggest surprise I’ve ever experienced in tomatoes.” Until you try it, you won’t believe a green tomato could be this good. The fruits blush lightly yellow and develop an amber pink tinge on the blossom end when ripe. The green flesh is faintly marbled pink and the flavour sweet and tart, rich and spicy. Aunt Ruby’s is not just the best green eating tomato, it also makes a delicious basis for salsa verde. Ruby Arnold from Greenville, Tennessee got the seed from her grandfather who brought it from Germany.
Tomato: Black Krim
This heirloom hails from Krymsk on the Black Sea in Russia. They are strikingly iridescent purple on the outside, usually with dark green-black shoulders. Interiors are part black too with an unusual juicy yet meaty taste and texture, described as having a “… a smoky flavour like a good single malt scotch.”
Tomato: Black Prince
This distinctive heirloom has rich, fruity tomato flavor and unusual brown shoulders that become orange-red at the blossom end.
Tomato: Cherokee Purple
No list of the best tasting heirloom tomatoes would be complete without Cherokee Purple, an unusual variety from Tennessee, said to have originated with the Cherokee Indians. Fruits have dusky brownish-purple skin, dark green shoulders, and brick-red flesh. Their real attraction is their rich taste, which has been described as “sweet rich juicy winey” “delicious sweet,” and “rich Brandywine flavour” by some of the 27 aficionados who are maintaining it in the Seed Savers Exchange.
Tomato: Green Zebra
A most unusual beast in the tomato menagerie, this zebra starts out green with dark green stripes, softening and blushing yellow when it ripens. It might have remained a mere curiosity, but for its scrumptious sweet rich flavor. The small to medium sized fruits are emerald green inside and have the texture of a kiwi. Green Zebra was developed by Tom Wagner of Tater Mater Seeds in 1985.
Tomato: Pink Bradywine
These may very well be one of the best tomatoes you will ever taste. Brandywine’s luscious flavour has been described as “very rich, loud, and distinctively spicy.” The large fruits, often over 1 lb., have deep pink skin and smooth red flesh. There are many questions as to the origin of the Brandywine cultivar. Burpee’s reports carrying it in their catalogue as early as 1886. It reached modern popularity after being introduced via the Seed Savers Exchange in 1982 by an elderly Ohio gardener named Ben Quisenberry. He received the variety from a woman named Dorris Sudduth Hill who could trace Brandywine in her family for over 80 years. Brandywine has become one of the most popular home garden cultivars in the United States.
Tomato: Striped German
These gorgeous flat, medium to large, ribbed-shoulder tomatoes are shaded yellow and re with a marbled interior that looks beautiful sliced. They have a complex, fruity flavor and smooth texture.
Sunny orange round smooth fruits have a full tomato flavor. Their meaty interiors have few seeds. This midseason tomato is among the best for flavor and texture as they have few interior seeds.
See Recipes: Grilled Vegetable Lasagna, Vegan Eggplant Lasagna, Chiles Rellenos and Chipolte Salsa Rojo, Organic Tomato Basil Salad, Spring Pizza, Ribollita, Scallion Frittata, Organic Radish Salsa, Grilled Eggplant Sandwiches, Fried Green Tomatoes
Origin: South and Central America
Winter Squash: Burgess Buttercup
This is New England’s favourite winter squash, enjoyed for its sweet deep-orange flesh. Fruits with acorn-shaped buttons on the blossom end and flattened shoulders, average 3-4 pounds each. The original buttercup strain showed up as a chance cross between Quality and Essex Hybrid in the trial garden at North Dakota agricultural Experiment Station during the 1925 season. After further selection by famous seedsmen Albert Yaeger, Oscar H. Will of Bismarck introduced it in his 1931 catalog. Alan Kapuler has said, “If you pick only one squash to grow this is it.”
Winter Squash: Blue Hubbard
Introduced in 1909 by famous seedsman James J. H. Gregory as Symmes Blue Hubbard, in honour of S. S. Symmes, a gardener who worked for his company for many years. Gregory considered it his best introduction, praising it’s flavour, productivity, and storage qualities. In his 1917 catalog he said “close your eyes… and you would think you were eating cake.” The bright yellow orange flesh is very sweet . Each squash will feed a large family because fruits average 15-20 pounds, sometimes exceeding 30 or 40 pounds. The vines crawl all over gardens. This is a traditional New England Thanksgiving favourite. It is also prized for its large white which are delicious roasted. This is the Rainbow Heritage Garden’s preferred squash for making pumpkin pie.
Winter Squash: Red Kuri
This squash is also called Uchiki Kuri; Kuri means chestnut in Japan. It is admired for its spectacular red-oragne fruits, among the most attractive of all the squashes. The teardrop-shaped fruits average 3-4 pounds and their flavour has elicited comments like “the best winter squash”. They are also prized for the aroma of blossoms when fried.
Winter Squash: Table Queen Acorn
Introduced by the Iowa Seed Co. in Des Moines in 1913, once known as Des Moines, Queen began a trend away from monster squashes in favor of smaller fruits. A similar squash was grown by the Arikara tribe in North Dakota. Seedsman Henry Field claimed that Table Queen “makes a better pumpkin pie than a pumpkin,” but he must not have tried pies from our Blue Hubbard Squash.
Winter Squash: Walthum Butternut
These elegant 9” tan fruits weighing an average of 4-5 pounds have orange dry flesh has a sweet nutty flavour and are excellent keepers. They were bred by the Massachusetts Agricultural Extension Service by crossing New Hampshire Butternut (a 1965 Yaeger/Meader development) with a neckless moschata from Turkey and introduced by Bob Young of Waltham, MA.
See Recipes: Classics New England Pumpkin Pie, Organic Pumpkin/Squash Loaf, Native Winter Squash Stew, Fall Vegetable Gratin, Baked Winter Squash with Maple/Nut Seed Butter
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