Home Gardeners Chose Plants with Better Flavor & Interesting History
This holds true for heirloom plant varieties. Many gardeners are drawn to the stories behind the names. ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’ tomato came from radiator business owner, “Charlie,” who came up with a large, meaty and productive variety that he sold during the depression. He used the money from this side business to pay off his mortgage.
“Heirloom seeds are usually more than 50 years old and have been passed down from generation to generation,” said Kathy McFarland, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. “This means they come with fascinating stories and heritage from years past.”‘Aunt Lou’s Underground Railroad’ tomato has been traced back to Kentucky through Ripley, Ohio. The seeds were carried by an escaping slave as he traveled the Underground Railroad. The tomato is characteristic of those grown in that era.
|Aunt Lou's Underground Railroad Tomatoes (Ole Farm House)|
Heirloom varieties are open-pollinated which means that, unlike hybrids, seeds you collect from one year will produce the same plants the next year. “Using heirlooms helps preserve the gene pool and assure that resilience from pests, diseases and climate are built into the system,” said Mayer.Home gardeners, unlike commercial growers have the luxury to choose what they grow. Many choose these vegetables and flowers for taste, shape, hardiness and color not found in hybrid selections.
(Geo. Washington's Mount Vernon)
Originally from India, Bullnose Peppers (Capsicum annuum) have been in U.S. gardens since the mid-1870’s. Thomas Jefferson grew these sweet peppers and are still grown at Monticello. They ripen early, withstand bad weather and their thick skins make them ideal for pickling, stuffing and raw with dips. While 20 seed companies offered these over 25 years ago, today vendors are rare and seeds often “out of stock.”
Tomatoes are the one vegetable that has a wide range of shapes, colors, taste and growing habit. Cherry, slicer, beefsteak, or canning types are available as are pink, orange, white and striped varieties.
Pennsylvania heirloom tomatoes include Brandywine, reported to be introduced in 1885 by Amish farmers in Chester County. Other Mennonite and Amish heirlooms include Hahnstown Yellow, Amish Oxheart and Eva's Amish Stripe.
|Cup and Saucer plant (Cobaea scandens)|
|'Violetta Itallia' Cauliflower (Baker Creek)|
• Heirloom and unique varieties, most not offered at garden centers, are growing in the greenhouse. Plants such as ‘Mortgage Lifter,’ and ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes are among over 50 varieties growing. ‘Bullnose’ peppers, ‘Cup and Saucer’ flowers, ‘Violletta Itallia’ cauliflower, ‘Brunswick’ cabbage and many more vegetable and flowers will be available• In southern central Pennsylvania the last frost date is May 10. With the Greenhouse Sale on May 9 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and the Plant Sale on May 17 (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) customers can transplant with no need to hold plants until the last frost date.
• Locally grown plants, nurtured by Master Gardeners in their Franklin County home landscapes, have been divided out and potted up to sell.• Master Gardeners available to offer assistance for choosing and caring for the plants offered.
Seed Catalogs -Tomatoes 2012
Early Veggie Harvest
2011 Tomato Day Results
Time to Pick Your Tomatoes for 2014
Baker Creek Seeds
Wilson College Fulton Farm