Saving heirloom vegetables… right in your own garden!

Defend heirloom varieties

Join in on the fight to secure ancient heirloom vegetables: plant them in your vegetable patch!

A great way to introduce more taste in a world that blandly steamrolls any differences across chain stores, and give your garden a touch of something special.

Let your squash and pumpkins run free

Squash vegetables that reach back to ancient lineageGive the amazing Cucurbitaceae family the place it deserves in your garden, and plant moschata squash, butternut, Hungarian Blue, kuri, bright red Etampes, spaghetti squash… Set these up at the foot of your compost to provide it with shade or use it as ground cover between your pole beans or to fill up an empty spot. If you lack surface area, tether them loosely to well-affixed wire trappings up an upright wall.

Sow your seeds in holes filled with compost mid-May, as soon as the soil has warmed up. Watch out for mice who love nibbling squash seeds.

Heirloom cucurbitaceaePlant completely different Cucurbitaceae species, first of all because the diversity will be highly appealing, and secondly because species don’t cross-pollinate as varieties within a single species would. The strands will thus remain pure-bred.

As the fruits start shaping up, snip off the tips of fruit-bearing stems. Harvest them before the frost spells hit, and keep them in a room or spot that stays at around 50°F (10°C). All winter long, you can prepare soups, cheese bake them, mince them in pie, and even sweeten them up in jam!

Diversify your root vegetables

Rediscover white, pink and yellow turnips and rutabaga which are an ancient hybrid of turnips and kale. These delicately-flavored veggies will weasel their way into all your meals, sometimes raw, sometimes cooked… a welcome new guest in the dinner plate! Sow in spring for early varieties, and between July and August to ensure you have enough to last you deep into winter. Avoid planting them near plants of the same family such as radish and cabbage.

Root vegetables are vulnerable to variety driftParsnip was actually a prominent crop that was phased out by its cousin the carrot. This is quite surprising, considering that this high-yield crop presents edible roots that are much larger than carrots.

Sow the seeds directly in the ground from March to June in loosened, light and not so chalky soil. Parsnip is a crop that requires a hefty amount of compost. Try to protect them from voles that will try to savor them before you can get your harvest out! Harvest in November and proceed in the exact same manner as you would for carrots. The texture of this root is more mealy, but its taste is far more soft and delicate.

Salsify, which is either white or black, is a strange root to grow: it produces a long, fleshy taproot that is almost cylindrical in shape. Sow these roots in spring directly in the ground and harvest your salsify from October to March. You can simply leave your black salsify in the ground all winter long, just pull them out when you need them. And if you leave them be, and they start bolting and going to seed, sit back and admire the show: the flowers are magnificent.

An abundance of lettuce and greens

Common ice plant which has such a surprising taste, crunchy tangy sugarloaf witloof, firm and fleshy puntarelle, are all surprising varieties of chicory, but there’s also mildly spicy buck’s-horn plantain, variegated escarole, colored endive, red-leafed lettuce… Blend colors and shapes and turn your garden into a work of art with these many varieties of leaf greens.

Romanesco cabbage is an heirloom varietyPrepare mesclun from it, and add tender young leaves from your root vegetables, too. Spice the mix up with arugula which you can sow every fortnight all year long. Water often if you find it too spicy, the intensity increases when the plant is stressed.

Rediscover the extensive cabbage family and sow on well manured soil from April to July its many cultivars: green or red head cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, Romanesco cauliflower and giant white kohlrabi which gourmets always find so enticing.

M.-C. H.

Images: dreamstime: Catalina Zharescu Tiensuu; Pixabay: Bernadette Wurzinger, Albrecht Fietz, Hans Braxmeier, Redbud Patriot