Forgotten heirloom vegetables… rediscover the tastes of old!

Parsnip at the market and other heirloom vegetables

In the age before industrial agriculture, there were over 1000 varieties of vegetables in people’s gardens… an incredible heritage which has now been forgotten!

Today, at best, only 60+ different vegetables are grown overall! If you want to do your part in saving ancient heirloom vegetables before they disappear completely, set them up in your garden!

Support biodiversity

Rediscovered root vegetables, a heirloom of the pastGrowing these rare, forgotten vegetable varieties will help boost biodiversity and you’ll also be rediscovering delicious savors in your meals.

Rest assured of one thing: poor culinary value isn’t why these were forgotten, because they taste delicious!

Nutrition and taste is back on the table

Actually, these are very often the plants in the vegetable patch that contain the highest amounts of vitamins and trace elements.

  • For instance, parsnip, one of the root-crop vegetables, has incredibly high amounts of vitamin C.
  • Another example is turnip-rooted chervil which has lots of fiber, starch, and natural sugars.
  • Scorzonera root actually has twice the natural sugar content than salsify has, its more well-known relative.
  • Crambe maritima shares a two-fold advantage: it has low levels of nitrates, and high levels of fiber.

If you start looking at leaf vegetables, one of your first joys will be the discovery of perennial kale, the Scorzonera clumpDaubenton kale: it’s a type of cabbage that stays productive all year long, for years on end. Some forgotten varieties were unfairly considered “weeds”, prime examples being stinging nettle and white goosefoot: a pity, since they’re loaded with protein and vitamins!

Still others were simply set aside because they reminded people of darker times, like the war-era Jerusalem artichoke. This particular tuber has a very low glycemic index: it’s perfect to replace high-starch potato for people who have diabetes.

One last significant advantage: since these old-timer vegetables are much more resilient against diseases, they require much less treatments in the garden.

Sumptuous recipes

Nettle soupThose with a special spot for great food will love working heirloom vegetables into new, original and extremely tasty culinary recipes. For example, toss up a salad with sea kale or crystalline ice plant, and bake a delicious cheese-lathered dish of crosnes. Surprise your friends with stunningly ink-purple vitelotte mashed potato, or the oyster-tasting roots of Mertensia.

All these ancient heirloom vegetables are often easy to find in good horticulture stores, and you can also easily order them online.

Pierrick Le Jardinier

Images: CC BY 2.0: Pauline Mak, Andy Roberts, Leslie Seaton, CC BY-SA 2.0: Beatrice Murch