A supposed hot trend in gardening is growing heirloom vegetables. While there is a great debate over the definition of “heirloom”, gardeners in the know will tell you that heirloom vegetables are some of the best tasting around. Below are some interesting details about heirloom vegetables.
Most gardeners will agree that to be considered an “heirloom” it has to have been around since before 1951. But generally speaking, these vegetables are old, open-pollinated cultivars. They are also varieties that are known to be easy to grow and of very high quality.
So what does open-pollinated cultivar mean? Let’s break it down. A cultivar is a plant or grouping of plants that has been selected for its highly desirable characteristics that can be maintained by the use of propagation. An open-pollinated cultivar is a plant that was propagated and comes back "true to type." In other words, they will look like their parent. As an example, take a Brandywine tomato that has matured, collect the seeds, process then appropriately and then store them well. When planted the next season, the seeds will grow another Brandywine tomato.
There are few problems with the term open-pollination. Many heirloom vegetables are not openly pollinated. Others crops are not even grown from seed; rather they are propagated vegetatively, such as potatoes and garlic. Still others don’t ever come back true to type and ultimately produce an off-type seedling.
The real key to an heirloom vegetable is flavor. These are true to form essences with tastes reminiscent of childhood like crisp cabbage used in grandma’s coleslaw, or juicy tomatoes that that actually shout tomato and not plastic as soon as they hit the palate. Heirloom vegetables flavors are beyond compare and well worth the time and effort put into cultivating them.
Interested in planting heirloom vegetables? Start with the following:
- Tomatoes – Yellow Brandywine or Cherokee Purple
- Peppers – Orange Sun or Sweet Chocolate
- Cucumbers – White Wonder or Parisian Pickling
- Beets – Blood Turnip or Detroit Dark Red
- Lettuce – Big Boston or Amish Deer Tongue
- Beans – Kentucky Wonder Pole or Fin de Bagnols
Heirloom vegetables may be a hot trend, but they are hardly a waste of money. Growing them is both fun and rewarding no matter the level of gardener. Just enjoy the process and reap the rewards of growing heirloom vegetables the next time they hit the dinner plate at the evening meal.
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