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BONNIE'S GARDEN--Heirloom Vegetables

HEIRLOOM VEGETABLES Why is it getting harder and harder to find a tomato that tastes like the ones I remember eating at Grandma’s house? You remember those sandwiches—white bread with a little mayonnaise and fresh tomato slices out of the garden. If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so hard to find a tomato that tastes like the ones you remember from Grandma’s, it’s probably because we’re not planting and eating the same varieties of tomatoes that Grandma grew. An Heirloom vegetable is one that was grown at least one generation ago and is open-pollinated—that is that the seeds can be saved and will breed true to the parent. Hybrids either produce seeds that are not viable or seeds that may not be true to type. Some definitions say that it must be a vegetable grown extensively before 1951 when new hybridization techniques began. And an Heirloom is never, ever, genetically modified. Open-pollinated vegetables were bred back when breeding was done for flavor and disease resistance—not for thick skins that held up in shipping or for vegetables that would stand up to mechanical harvesting. To quote Southern Exposure Seed Exchange “Open-pollinated varieties…ensure a genetic reservoir of disease-resistant varieties, regionally adapted varieties, and varieties which are diverse in flavor, color, and culinary uses.” Heirloom varieties were bred by backyard gardeners who were breeding for plants that performed well under a wide-variety of conditions so may be hardier under stressful conditions than modern hybrids. If you want a tomato that tastes like the ones you remember, some varieties to look for are: Arkansas Traveler, Abraham Lincoln, Green Zebra, Striped Roman, Brandywine, German Johnson, Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter, Bloody Butcher, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Mr. Stripey, Old Virginia, Rutgers, Marglobe, Oxheart, Sun Gold, and Aunt Ruby’s Green. There are many other varieties, as well. Be adventurous this year and plant a vegetable or a variety you’ve never grown before. I discovered my personal favorite tomato, Cherokee Purple, this way. One year I just decided to plant something different and I struck gold—or rather I struck Purple!

Posted: 3/30/2014 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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