While reading a the account book owned by my great grandparents, I noted frequent entries that talked about certain varieties of berries, vegetables and fruits hat were obvious favorites in the family.
I didn’t recognize most of the names of the varieties they mentioned. I found many of them mentioned in heirloom seed catalogs. My ancestors made their living as fruit farmers thus the mention of varieties by name gave them a 5-star thumbs up in my mind.
Several years ago we planted some of the varieties in our garden. My great grandparents had good taste! In some cases we had to guess what the variety is called today and may have been wrong a time or two, but our choices were good too.
Here are a few varieties that we loved. They won’t necessarily look "pretty" like most of the engineered but they taste great!
- Striped tomatoes (Lycopersicon lycopersicum) They are large striped tomatoes with both red, yellow, orange stripes and are surprising low in acid.
- Pineapple tomatoes We chose to plant this variety just to try the taste. I don’t think they were a popular variety in the western United States but are as good as the Striped variety and even sweeter. Once again, don’t expect perfection in shape, just in tasted.
- Candy Cherry Tomatoes. We love these small flavor bombs that grow in clusters.
- Lemon Cucumbers. The name sounds like they will be bitter like the fruit but they are small round light green sweets cuke bombs. Many cucumbers become bitter in the heat of summer but Lemon Cukes have always stayed sweet. We plant them in large pots on the patio along side the Candy Cherry Tomatoes and several pots of mixed lettuce varieties. Excellent summer salads are only a few steps away.
- Purple Pole Beans. We guessed at the name of the variety today and chose Purple Podded Pole Beans. They taste great and as you’ll soon hear, follow the theme of strange shapes and colors to entice young folks to taste them.
- Rattlesnake Pole Beans. The account book mentioned "snake beans". What were snake beans? We still don’t know but found the variety "Rattlesnake Pole Beans" in one of the heirloom catalogs. Is the name something new to attract attention to the variety or is it an actual name for the variety that has existed for generations? I don’t know but the beans are great.
- Rainbow Chard. Chard wasn’t mentioned in the book but once we saw Rainbow Chard listed in seed catalogs, we knew it had to be a part of our garden. When our grandchildren come to visit, they think they’ve entered the Land of OZ when their plates are piled high with strange colored and shaped vegetables. Thanks to our descriptions of them, they actually eat them and love them. Their parents are astounded and of course we have become a bit of a cult hero in their minds. Its amazing how smart we’ve become as they grow older.
- Rainbow Carrots and Purple Carrots. They are found in many heirloom catalogs. I don’t know if they were grown by my great grandparents but the varieties grown by my parents were strange looking critters with dark skins, fat bodies and a sweet taste. Our grandchildren love the Rainbow Carrots.
- I remember thinking my parents were poisoning themselves when they picked some flowers one day and ate them. They had taught me how to find morel mushrooms and how to avoid all the poisonous varieties that grew in the woods near our home. I constantly heard about what plants were poison but never once heard that you could eat some flower blossoms. When they popped the Nasturtium blossoms in their mouth, I thought I’d soon be an orphan. Instead, they smiled and told me how good they were with their slightly peppery taste. Be very careful when you choose a wild plant to eat. Most of them have natural defenses of poison. If you don’t absolutely know what you are eating, don’t pop them in your mouth.
- President Apples. The account book and my family often refer to the President apples that were so popular on my great grandparent farm. We don’t hear of that variety now but according to the stories I’ve heard all of my life, they were great eating apples.
Order your heirloom seed catalogs now.
They will make fun reading during the long winter nights in the northern hemisphere as you plan for your summer gardens.