Saturday, November 28, 2009

Doing it the old-fashioned way…

I was talking to a friend in a flurry of email messages the other evening, and of course, the state of our economy and our country came up. She is a city girl, and lives in an apartment, but she has a little rooftop vegetable garden. We don't have a lot of acreage here, but we do have enough to have a nice little vegetable garden.

I have been thinking that perhaps I should be growing heirloom varieties, so that I could save those seeds with assurance that we could eat what we produced with them. Some of those hybrids produce produce that isn't very tasty. Anyway, I remember my Mother and Dad talking about the Great Depression, and how they were actually hungry. At least, if you garden, you should be able to stave off starvation.

In my research about heirloom varieties of vegetables and flowers, I was surprised to find that many of the seeds we buy on the seed racks are heirloom varieties. According to the heirloom seed companies, a variety is an heirloom if it was developed before 1940 and is open pollinated. It will reproduce itself.

This is a few of the varieties I have found so far.

Beans- Kentucky Wonder pole, Asparagus beans (yard long beans), Scarlet Runner Beans.
Tomatoes- Beefsteak, Roma, Rutgers, Brandywine
Lettuce- Black Seeded Simpson, Parris Island Cos (Romaine)
Okra-Clemson Spineless, Emerald
Squash- Early Prolific Straight neck
Zucchini-Black Beauty, Gray
Swiss chard- Bright Lights (who knew?!)

I was surprised by these, but relieved too. Glad to know they are easily found, and of course, there are dozens of others. These are just a few that I have found.


tina said...

Good to know~!

azplantlady said...

With the recent popularity of Heirloom tomatoes, this is extremely useful information.

Wendy said...

I use primarily heirloom seeds. I love that the taste is supposedly what these veggies tasted like before farmers started modifying for looks and protection from being bumped around on planes and trucks. I love the historical aspect of heirloom veggies and I've often thought about where the seed of a veggie has come from, and how it got to me. My favorite supplier is Baker Creek Seed Company. I think the website is

Rosey Pollen said...

Hello Janie,
New info for me! I had no idea that the black beauty squash was heirloom, same goes for bright lights chard. Good info for everybody who has a vegetable garden.

Mary Delle said...

Great information to share. There are seed companies that sell only heirloom varieties. Thanks for your research.

Thomas said...

I plan on growing mostly heirloom varieties next year but will make room for a few hybrids as well. And although you have to buy the seed each year, it's hard to deny the tastiness of a sungold tomato.

What concerns me more is the source of the seed and who owns the patent to a particular variety. I'd rather support a small family enterprise than a company like Monsanto.

sanddune said...

I always learn something new from your posts. Great job.
P.S. please stop by my blog and give your opinion in the," whats it to ya poll". Texas needs some representation here.

Anonymous said...

I grow 2 heirloom tomato varieties. I don’t know the names, but they are ones that have been grown by my neighbors for generations. I have also tried some other seeds, but the taste can’t be compared. Heirlooms have suffered from blight more, that’s true, but next year I will grow some more so I will compensate on what I lose to blight.

villager said...

Great post Janie! I've found most of the heirloom veggie varieties have outstanding taste. Detroit Dark Red beets have been around over 100 years and are still a favorite. There's lots of heirloom lettuces out there - I enjoy Australian Yellow Leaf and Radichetta to name two. I think everyone should give the heirloom varieties a try.

gld said...

I love old-fashioned everything!
The simpler flower blooms always appeal to me the most....not those filly, triple weird colored things.

Re: Saving heirloom seeds. Be sure they are varieties that don't cross within the species or you won't end up with the true thing you started with.
I didn't realize how little I knew about this until I bought Suzannn Ashworth's book 'Seed to Seed'.

Anonymous said...

Hi Di~~ Nichols Garden Nursery and Territorial Seed are two PNW seed houses. I don't think they're exclusively open-pollinated but offer some varieties. I'll be interested to see how your garden grows next summer.

Kanak Hagjer said...

Hi Janie...this is about something totally different. Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I just did a post on 'where I live' and linked back to you. I didn't stress on the gardening part but about the city as described in a poem by a well-known writer of my region.

Thank you...if hadn't commented on my blog I'd never have got around to doing it. I'm so glad you stopped by.
Happy gardening...and blogging!!

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Janie, I have a couple of awards for you on my blog. There is no pressure to participate though. I know some people do not have the time or just do not accept awards.
Congratulations you deserve them!

Carla said...

Tried and true:) I have most of these also. I try to only get heirloom because I want to save seeds if I like it. During the depression, my family didn't know any different. They were poor before, poor during, and poor afterwards. But they had plenty to eat.

LeSan said...

Oh doggone it! I'm going to starve. I just knew it.
Well at least I'll have flowers for my funeral.

Sylvana said...

I just saw "Food, Inc." What an eye-opener! I didn't realize that many seed producers have actually gotten laws passed that outlaw seed collecting by farmers. I thought of this movie when reading your post because there was a farmer in the documentary that had a seed cleaning business for farmers trying to grow heirloom seeds and the big seed company ruined him by draining him in legal fees. It is sad, and a little more than scary.

Randy Emmitt said...

I thought that Swiss chard- Bright Lights was a new variety, guess i just learned something. I'm with grace Territorial Seeds is a great place to get seeds and they don't buy seeds from someone else like a lot of seed sellers that actually grow their own seeds.

Glimmer said...

What a great post! We really need to do this, the gardener types. I have so many friends in the D.C. area who have no idea how to grow anything. I mean, zero. I shared a community garden space with one neighbor who had me teach her from the beginning. I was stunned. I had to start from: "Okay, first, since we got actual plants from the nursery, we dig a little hole. Then we insert the plant in it by the root ball." She did not know how to even begin. That did not even begin to address things like soil amending, which we also needed to do over the years. Weeding regularly, watering, etc.

So saving heirloom seeds is like the doctorate of gardening. Great work!