I’m a huge proponent of heirloom and open pollinated (OP) seeds. The difference between them and F1 hybrid seeds is that heirlooms and OP seeds can be saved each year and the offspring will be consistent with the parent plants. F1 hybrids cannot produce similar offspring the following year. Heirloom and OP seeds help keep genetic diversity. If a disease or pest comes through, the OPs and Heirlooms have a chance to survive, while F1’s don’t have that ability. Not to mention that there are just so many different Heirlooms and OPs out there. You can get tomatoes in every color of the rainbow, purple beans, beets that look like targets when cut open, white eggplants, broccoli that looks like fractals, white watermelons, and an endless array of flavors, colors and textures.
I’m always trying new varieties, but so far here are some of my favorites:
Empress Beans – Bush type green bean. One of the most flavorful beans I’ve ever tasted. Good producer, though they get tough if you don’t pick them young enough.
Kentucky Wonder Pole (Old Homestead) – Pole type green bean. Very productive, with good tasting beans. Beans stay tender for a long time.
Cherokee Trail of Tears – long slender pods that can be eaten in the green stage or left to dry having shiny black beans. Pole Habit
Anasazi – Great dry bean with long pods filled with beans. Makes a great soup. Pole habit.
Speckled Cranberry – Very productive dry bean. Pole habit.
|Bloody Butcher Corn|
Bloody Butcher – We LOVE this corn. When the ears are young they can be eaten fresh off the cob. If left to mature they produce these beautiful deep red ears that make a nice purple flour. This is the corn I use for my tortillas. We haven’t had nearly as much success with other varieties compared to Bloody Butcher.
Japanese Climbing – A very nice slicing cucumber.
Double Yield – An extremely prolific producer of pickling cucumbers.
White Wonder – Definitely a novelty cuke. Nice white cucumbers for pickling or slicing.
Ping Tung – A long slender eggplant with a nice mild flavor.
Rosa Bianca – The beautiful white with lavender stripes fruit is a prolific producer of softball sized eggplants. Now our go-to eggplant.
Boule d’Or – Sweet, fragrant green flesh with a hard yellow rind. Does not slip (release from the vine)
Delice de Table – Fragrant, orange flesh. A true cantaloupe. Slips when ripe.
Prescott Fond – Incredibly fragrant. When ripe you can smell its fragrance when passing by. Rock melon with sweet orange flesh
Jalapeno – Very popular. Ranges greatly in heat though.
Poblano (Ancho) – One of our favorites. Great for stews and soups.
Black Hungarian – Purple jalapeno type but not as hot.
Numex Joe E. Parker – This is my go-to roasting chili. The skins easily slide off and they are so flavorful!
Marconi Red – Sweet long pepper. Very tasty.
California Wonder – Great green bell pepper.
Orange Bell – One of our favorites. Very sweet.
Purple Beauty – Interesting dark purple bells.
|Giant Pink Banana Squash from 1 plant|
Marina di Chioggia – The most amazing, sweet, dry winter squash we have ever eaten. Great for making gnocchi with.
Muscade de Provence – Not only absolutely gorgeous, but good quality flesh.
Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash – Similar to the common butternut squashes, except these have incredibly long necks, some reaching 2′ long. This squash makes amazing pies. Don’t plant too many unless you REALLY like squash.
Ghost Rider Pumpkin – I love these pumpkins. Like most jack-o-lantern pumpkins, these aren’t good for eating. They do produce the most consistent shaped pumpkins with a bright orange skin.
Howden – If you want big fruits (without all the work to grow giant pumpkins) this is the one to grow! We had one plant last year produce five pumpkins over 60lbs plus lots of smaller pumpkins.
Giant Pink Banana – These were hugely productive for us last year. One plant gave us a ridiculous amount of 20+ lb fruits. They are great keepers – we still have quite a few that are perfectly good for eating.
Black Beauty Zucchini – The go-to zucchini. Tender and a great producer.
Ronde de Nice – Like a small green pumpkin. Great for stuffing or just sauteed with some butter.
Green Husk – Large prolific plants of sweet green fruits. Great for salsas and stews.
Amish Paste – Great tomato for canning.
Black from Tula – Gorgeous black tomato. Tasty flesh is good for fresh slicing and canning.
Brandywine – Large meaty tomatoes that are fantastic on sandwiches.
Hillbilly Potato Leaf – Prolific producer of huge, tasty yellow and orange fruit.
Italian Heirloom – One of the best producers of giant fruits. Great for canning and has little waste.
Martino’s Roma – Great canning tomato.
Power’s Heirloom – Oxheart shaped bright yellow fruit. Great for canning.
Principe Borghese – The standard for sun drying. Prolific small roma type fruits.
Roman Candle – Another bright yellow tomato. Great for salsas and canning.
Orangeglo – Large fruits with bright orange flesh. Very sweet with a distinct flavor that you just can’t buy in stores anymore.
White Wonder – A definite rare find. Small icebox size melons with translucent white flesh. Sweet, but not overly so. Has an incredible, unique flavor.
Chioggia – A really interesting beet. When cut open it looks like a target with red and white alternating rings.
Golden – These are hands-down my favorite beets. I’ve never been a huge fan of beets until I started growing these. They are incredibly sweet and perfect raw in salads, roasted or pickled.
Calabrese – Our go-to broccoli. Very productive.
I haven’t found a good variety that works for us yet.
|January King cabbage|
Mammoth Red Rock – Standard Purple Cabbage
Early Jersey Wakefield – A nice early variety.
January King – If anything, this is the most gorgeous cabbage I’ve ever seen. Surprisingly it grows well here. It is difficult to find though – we got our seeds in when we were in the UK.
Scarlet Nantes – Our most consistent producer of tender, sweet carrots about 8-12″ long.
Green Arrow – Prolific producer of long pods. A shelling pea.
Blue podded – A very ornamental variety that produces good dry peas for use in soups and stews.
Amish Snap – Delicious pea with an edible pod.
Bogatyr – Large hardneck variety that stores really well.
Czech Broadleaf – Softneck variety that is VERY hot when raw, but mild when cooked.
Shvelisi or Chesnok Red – Great for roasting and baking.
Tochliavri or Red Toch – One of the BEST garlics out there. Very hard to find as it’s very popular and sells out quickly.
Giant Musselburgh – Consistent winner in our garden. Good sized leeks with a great flavor. Esp. good in soups.
Cimarron – A red, romaine type with thick, spicy leaves. Seems to be frost tolerant.
Forellenschuss – Tender, mild Romaine type with speckled leaves. Seems to be frost tolerant.
Yugoslavian Red – A tender butterhead type lettuce. Not as frost tolerant as the other too, but well worth growing.
Ailsa Craig – Very large yellow onion. Up to 2lbs.
|Five Color Silverbeet Chard|
Long Red Florence – The torpedo shaped red onion seen at Farmers Markets. Great raw and cooked.
Yellow of Parma – Best storage onion we’ve found so far. Good quality.
Gigante d’ Inverno – Great producer and a large plant.
Five Color Silverbeet – Our favorite. Comes in a rainbow of colors from yellow to white to red.
Seed Savers Exchange A great resource. They are a non-profit organization whose mission is to save the world’s crop diversity. Become a member for $35/year and get 10% off of every order, quarterly magazines and the huge yearbook containing thousands of rare varieties offered by other members. One year there was 85 letter size pages of tomato varieties alone.
Baker Creek Heirlooms Another great resource. Located in Missouri, they also have a storefront in Petaluma, CA. The offer a large catalog.
Territorial Seed Company While they carry a lot of F1 hybrids, they do offer some great heirlooms.
Sustainable Seed CompanyA new company specializing in Heirloom, organic and non-GMO seeds based in Sonoma County, CA.