Recently I started thinking about the vegetable garden as I was pulling the last of the tomato plants out of the ground, deciding what to plant this upcoming season… and I knew I wanted to stay true to heirloom varieties as much as possible and buy organic seeds if they were available. With the money and especially the time going into maintaining a micro farm, I wanted to avoid planting anything that I could easily find at the supermarket, or even the farmer’s market.
Not to mention I have an affinity for the oddity: black tomatoes, purple beans, white beets, yellow carrots, orange eggplants, anything in an unconventional color or misshapen or looking like it belonged in the Mad Hatter’s kitchen. Somehow, it just tastes better.
Heirloom vegetables are heritage varieties whose seeds have been saved and passed down through generations of families. Most heirlooms are open-pollinated, not available in industrialized agriculture, and have generally been cultivated for over 50 years. Some heirlooms from Europe, Africa and Asia are even centuries old. I want to be able to preserve these varieties, share a piece of history in my kitchen, and support the biodiversity of our food in a world where all commercial tomatoes are perfectly round, red, and bland-tasting.
I also feel that growing heirlooms organically harkens back to the old days of slow food and traditional gardening, which has become such a novelty in our modern lifestyle. It’s not as “convenient,” but I become more connected to the past and more in tune with the earth — something I appreciate moreso these days. And while all of that may sound like a cliche, I don’t think a skeptic would truly understand it unless s/he was a gardener as well.
Some of the goodies going in the ground this fall are Gigante d’Inverno spinach and French Breakfast radishes from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds; Tonda Di Parigi carrots and Chioggia beets from Botanical Interests; and Red Beard bunching onions and Mizuna mustard from Kitazawa Seed Company.
I was stoked to come across Kitazawa online as they exclusively carry seeds for Asian vegetables, many of which I remember from my childhood but have a hard time finding in local Asian markets. My parents will especially be excited when they visit in the winter!