Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Heirloom Varieties 2013

Unusual and Heirloom Varieties for 2013:

We ordered seeds on Monday for the farm! We ordered all organic seeds and many heirloom varieties. What are heirloom varieties, you ask? While the exact definition is contested, I consider heirloom varieties to be a plant variety that originated before the industrialization of agriculture (which most consider pre-1951) and are open pollinated. Open-pollination is pollination by insect, bird, wind or other natural mechanism. The best description of the importance of heirlooms that I've found is from Seed Savers Exchange:

"Each Open Pollinated generation produces offspring true to the generation before, a characteristic that distinguishes OPs from hybrids. (Hybrids do not remain true in generations after the initial cross between two parent plants.) Heirlooms and OPs are usually well adapted to their region, making them especially valuable to farmers and gardeners. Each variety is genetically distinct, having evolved within its own ecological niche over thousands of years. Plant breeders use heirlooms and OPs to breed insect, disease, and drought tolerance into modern crops. When a plant variety disappears, its potential to aid us in the future is lost forever. "

But if you ask me, growing heirlooms or eating heirlooms, it's an experience in itself. A remember of the convoluted pathways that evolution can take, to make a fractal broccoli head, or a lobed pumpkin right out of Cinderella. More importantly,  they are a genetic resource and history from which we can draw, to shield ourselves against whatever nature can throw at us.

We've selected a couple varieties that do especially well in Michigan's northern climate as well as some more unusual varieties I've been dying to try. I'm new to many of these, since they didn't grow as well in Colorado, and am very excited to try them! Don't worry, we've ordered a couple varieties for most crops, so you won't be eating fractal broccoli all season!

Heirloom Varieties for the 2013 Season

Broccoli Romanesco-"Produces a stunning apple-green whorled head with better taste and texture than most of the finest broccolis. Widely grown and prized in Italy. Grows exceptionally well in cool northern areas."-Seed Savers Exchange. 

Wapsipinicon tomato- This is a "peach" variety of tomato that produces peach-like fruit, 2" round fuzzy yellow fruits that are sweet and juicy and won Seed Savers Exchange's 2006 Heirloom Tomato Tasting! 

"It originated with Elbert S. Carman in 1890 under the name White Peach. This strain came from Dennis Schlicht and is named for the Wapsipinicon River in northeast Iowa."-Seed Saver's Exchange.

Kellogg's Breakfast Tomato-We're excited to try this West Virginia heirloom, obtained from Darrell Kellogg of Redford, Michigan! It produces large orange beefsteak fruits that weight 1-2 lbs!

Cream Saskatchewon Watermelon-This'll be a great treat at the end of the season. Brought to Saskatchewan by Russian immigrants, this watermelon does well in cool, northern climates. Round fruits with pale green skin row up to 10" in diameter, about 4-10 lbs. Inside is sweet, white flesh, said to have exceptional flavor. But these watermelon's are also very delicate and must be handled with care!

Calypso Dry Beans-We're excited to try this Yin Yang-like dry beans that originated from the Caribbean. It can be used in baking and soups. 

Chioggia Gaurdsmark Beets-We're trying white beets as well as these cool Guardsmark beets, which rather than red-fleshed are more like bulls-eye targets! 

Charentais Melon-This one I've grown twice before and is a personal favorite of mine. 

"A true French cantaloupe that originated in the Poitou-Charentes region circa 1920. Considered by many to be the most divine and flavorful melon in the world. Smooth round melons mature to a creamy gray with faint ribs. Sweet, juicy, orange flesh with a heavenly fragrance. Typically the size of a grapefruit and weighing 2 pounds—perfect for two people."-Seed Saver's Exchange

Musque de Provence Pumpkin-Also called Fairytale pumpkins in the United States, this pumpkin is from southern France, and averages 8-15 lbs. 

"Thick, deep orange, and moderately sweet flesh. In France, cut wedges are sold in supermarkets and farmers' markets for cooking."-Johnny's Seeds

Oaxacan Green Dent Corn-Originally from Southern Mexico, this dent corn (pronounced wä hä' kän), is normally used for decorative uses. As a dent type corn though, it should be palatable for our pigs and chickens. We're trying a small plot of it this year, and if they like it we'll save seed and grow it for feed next year. 

Patisson Panache, Juane et Vert Summer Squash-Who doesn't like squash shaped like flying saucers? Also called "Scallop" shaped, these squash are great for grilling, roasting and frying. This is a newer French variety with green stripes. Can also be grown to maturity, where the fruit will become rock-hard, like winter squashes, and the fruit can be used for decorative purposes. 

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