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Monday, December 9, 2013

Heirloom Vegetables

Back when I started growing vegetables on my own I use to grow mainly hybrid vegetables.  Most of the vegetables in the hybrid seed catalogs all look the same, they all boast of great disease resistance, and quick maturing.  Now I look at these same seed catalogs and they kind of boar me.  When they get a new variety it is usually the same exact looking vegetable that they had last year except new and improved.  Do not get me wrong I still do grow some hybrids but over the years I have been slowly phasing them out.  I can even see myself in the near future just growing heirlooms entirely.  Now when I look through my heirloom seed catalogs most of the descriptions focus on taste and flavor, the best use of the particular variety, and one of the most interesting things is the history of the variety.  Many heirloom varieties come with a very interesting history, stories of the families that grew them and passed them down from generation to generation, and many varieties have been around for a very long time.  Many people believe that if it is a carrot and it is not orange it must be some weird mutation, or genetically engineered vegetable, but this is not true, in fact some of the more unusual vegetable varieties have actually been around longer or just as long as some of your more common varieties.

Starting this month (December) each month I will pick a different heirloom vegetable, one that I either grow or plan to grow and tell a little bit about its history, how to eat it, and nutrition data.  For the month of December I will be starting off with China Rose Radish.  A very old, beautiful and tasty radish.

To start thing off here is a little bit about some heirloom vegetable varieties.

The Crapaudine Beet is believed to be the oldest beet in existence, it is believed to possibly be around 1000 years old.  The common beets that we know today were only developed around 300 year ago.  I have never grown this variety, but after reading about it I will be adding it to my list of seeds to order for this coming year.  It is a dark beet with a red inside, a long carrot like shape, and a thick bark like skin, that is said to be very easy to peel. 

Some of the oldest carrots are not all orange, in fact white, yellow and purple carrots have been grown since before the 1100's.  It was not until around the 1600's that the orange carrot we know of today was first grown in Holland.

There are hundreds of different varieties of heirloom tomatoes.  They come in colors such as red, yellow, orange, purple, green, pink, brown, white, and striped.  There are many different sizes and shapes, such as cherry, plum, stuffing tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, paste, pear tomatoes, and many more.  Every color and variety also has its own unique taste and use.  Some are sweet, some are bitter, low acid, high acid, I can go on and on.  Just do a google image search for heirloom tomatoes and you will be amazed by the color and beauty all over your computer screen. 

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