Friday, February 04, 2011

Inspiring heirloom seeds..25 easy to grow heirlooms

Recently I received a copy of "Heirloom Farm and Garden" magazine, and was re-inspired about the value of heirloom plants and seed saving.  What exactly is "heirloom"?  It seems to be a loose definition, meaning seeds that are open-pollinated, grow true to the parent plant when saved and replanted, and have a 50+ year span of being passed on from one generation to the next.  Usually these heirlooms all come with interesting stories or personal histories too!  Heirlooms also tend to have been saved because of superior or unique flavour, colour, shape, texture, tolerance for harsh growing conditions, etc.  Not to mention that seed saving is now becoming a human rights issue, in countries such as India where increasing pressures from corporate seed companies who are making seed saving illegal means that seed savers sometimes even risk their lives to save seeds for their own gardens and farms.  See Vandana Shiva's non-profit Navdanya for more information on the topic of seed sovereignity and the idea that "seed saving is sacred".

Heirloom Farm and Garden listed 10 easy to grow heirlooms and gave wonderful details about their stories - you will need to get their magazine to read more.  I have added 15 more of the favourite ones we like to grow here each year.  People often think of tomatoes when we speak of heirloom plants, and usually we know heirloom tomatoes by their fascinating names, and their indeterminate natures (i.e. they need staking or lots of space to sprawl).  However, this list gives you a whole range of vegetables so that you can fill your entire garden with a great variety of beautiful and interesting heirloom vegetables, from carrots to lettuce to squash to onions to melons...I am especially excited to grow the gorgeous "Moon and Stars Watermelon" this summer!

I was suprised how many of these seeds can be found (for local readers) at our Ontario Seed Company in uptown Waterloo on King St, but others need to be purchased from select small seed companies that provide heirloom varieties.  Of course, if possible, make sure to save them yourself for next season so you don't need to keep buying seeds, and help keep these heirlooms thriving for the next generation.  You may also want to join a seed saving organization like the Canadian Seeds of Diversity, where you get an extensive catalogue of all the varieties being saved across the country (often by backyard gardeners with small plots of land) that are available for you to plant and help maintain.  And yes, as a reader pointed out, there are the wonderful "Seedy Saturdays" all across Canada coming up in March and April, where gardeners can share/find seeds in this free seed swap!

Here's the list of 25 easy to grow heirlooms:
Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans
Chioggia Beets
Lemon Cucumbers
Listada de Gandia Eggplant
Early Jersey Wakefield Cabbage
Moon and Stars Watermelon
French Breakfast Radish
Paris White Cos Lettuce
Improved Long Green Cucumber
Hubbard Squash
Pattypan Squash
Bull Nose Pepper
White Globe Onion
Deer Tongue Lettuce
Forellenschulss Lettuce
Scarlet Nantes Carrot
Golden Bantam Corn
Early Scarlet Horn Carrot
Homesteader (Lincoln) Peas
Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach
Tomatoes - Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Striped German, Eva Purple Ball, Yellow Pear


  1. Don't forget about Seedy Saturday (or Sunday here in Toronto, Feb 13)- it's a great place to find heirloom seeds for sale and trade!

    Seeds of Diversity has a full listing of locations and dates here:

  2. We had lemon cucumber and yellow pear last year.
    Everyone loved the taste and we saved the seeds for this year.