My 2018 Heirloom Garden Seeds Are Here! YIPPIE!14. February 2018
If you’re a gardener, you know the excitement that emerges when the glossy seed catalogs arrive in your mail. Oh what joy! What new heirloom tomato varieties came out this year? What type of beans will I plant? How am I gonna fit everything in the garden? Because there’s never enough room. At least not for ALL of the seeds you end up purchasing. Or is that just me? I’m guessing not.
Yes, like most gardeners, I get excited to try new things. And yes, I tend to go overboard when selecting new varieties to try. It’s quite difficult to narrow down the wish list of heirloom varieties. Yeah, I’m talking about those Instagram-worthy heirloom tomatoes! This year I committed myself to only select a few new tomato varieties to try. In the past I would get carried away choosing “pretty” or “unique novelty” varieties. So ultimately, I would end up with some photogenic tomatoes that just weren’t that tasty. Nowadays, I stick to my tried and true favorites and only plant a few newbies. I'll plant my favorite Black Krim and Sungold Cherry Tomatoes again this year.
All of my new seeds this year are from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. This seed company has been around since the late 90s. They have close to 2,000 varieties of seeds that originate from over 100 countries. They are always on the lookout for plants that are rare or endangered. Their passion is preserving seeds free from corporations, patents, and GMOs. This keeps them in the hands of the people where they belong. They have a safe seed pledge that they don’t knowingly buy or sell genetically modified plants or seeds. Their goal is to provide education about a better and safer agricultural system and pass knowledge to future generations. So yeah, they're kind of awesome!
So here are the NEW seed varieties I purchased that I may or may not have enough room to plant!
My 2018 Heirloom Beans:
Rattlesnake Pole Beans An easy to grow bean that is great in hot, humid areas. Pods have purple streaks and the beans are red and speckled. A favorite in soups.
Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans (Old Homestead) This bean dates back to at least 1864 (that is when it was first mentioned The Country Gentleman magazine). It has approx. 12 ft vines and the bean pods are about 6”- 8”.
Purple Podded Pole Beans As the name suggests, a pole bean with distinctive bright purple pods. First discovered in Ozark Mountains in the 1930s. Plants grow to 6’ and have high yields.
I'm pretty stoked that this will be the first year I'll plant pole beans. In the past I’ve only planted bush beans. The difference between pole and bush beans is how they grow. Bush beans are more compact plants that grow up to 2 feet tall. Planting rows next to each other makes them self supporting. Pole beans are vines, often trained around a trellis or teepee, that average 6 feet tall. So since pole beans grow vertically, they are easier to pick and produce more beans in less space. Since I have a small raised bed, I’m excited to free up a lot of space that bush beans normally take up. I’m especially looking forward to not bending over and getting a face full of mosquitos when I pick beans. I’m convinced that I won't regret this decision. The only thing I’m a little nervous about is the amount of beans I’ll harvest each day. Bush beans are prolific growers, so I would often harvest a full pot each day. I’ve read that pole beans produce less each day. But the upside is that pole beans keep producing until late in the season.
My 2018 Heirloom Tomatoes:
Goldman’s Italian-American Tomato A huge, intensely red and very flavorful tomato. Has a unique profile: squatty, pear-shaped, ribbed and/or pleated. A true heirloom look.
Dark Galaxy Tomato A flattened, red and orange striped tomato, covered in a purple hue, with a “galaxy” of white flecks on top of that. Starry, starry night… in fruit form!
White Tomesol Tomato A plant that produces large yields and heavy fruits. The tomatoes have an all white or cream colored complexion and a delicious, rich flavor.
I’ve grown red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, black, and multi-color tomatoes so far. The only tomato I thought I was missing was a green tomato (yes, they have varieties of tomatoes that are green when ripe, go figure). But then I saw Tomesol tomatoes. I had never seen or heard of a WHITE tomato before. Sure, there are cream and light yellow tomatoes. According to some reviews, this is a pure white tomato, even though some photos show a creamy-looking tomato.
Dark Galaxy will surely produce some interesting tomatoes. I did read one review of this tomato claiming it was mealy tasting. The only thing worse than a mealy tomato is a tomato half-eaten by a groundhog!!
So what tomatoes got bumped off of my wish list? Reisetomate is probably the biggest novelty tomato I’ve ever seen. It looks funky like a bunch of grapes fused together. Or perhaps a little brain. It’s also referred to as Traveler Tomato. Natives would take it on trips and tear off pieces without having to use a knife. Well, that’s neat, but I’m not going backpacking with it. And it looks hard to clean, harrumph. Ultimately it got bumped off my list because some reviews stated they tasted sour. So while it would produce lots of interesting photos for my Instagram feed, what’s the point if it doesn’t taste good?
Another variety that didn’t make the final cut was Brad’s Atomic Grape Tomato. Man, this looks like one sexy tomato plant. But I’m rather smitten with Sungold cherry tomatoes now. I expect to have at least 500 volunteer cherry tomato plants in my garden this spring. So I doubt I need another cherry tomato to compete with. Maybe next year Brad!
My 2018 Heirloom Carrots:
Cosmic Purple Carrot The flesh is the traditional orange and yellow, but the outer skin is a bright purple hue. Has a spicy and sweet flavor.
Black Nebula Carrot A black carrot! It is extremely high in anthocyanins (like blueberries), and can be used as a natural dye. When juiced, if you squeeze in some fresh lemon, the dark purple juice becomes bright pink!
I told myself I wasn’t planting carrots this year. It would be the first time in 12 seasons that I wouldn’t grow them. But then I saw Black Nebula carrots. Dangit! I had to have this. No big deal really, just bump around the old garden chart that’s been rejiggered ten times already. And I can't wait to get my husband to eat this carrot :D
By the way, the history of carrot colors is interesting! Some folks assume that all these red, yellow, purple, and black carrots are new-fangled veggies. But the opposite is actually true. The orange carrot is a much newer variety that was the likely result of a mutation or from cross breeding yellow and red carrots. I've planted rainbow color mixes in the past that had purple, red, yellow, white, and orange carrots. But the mix I ended up with was probably 90% orange still. That's a little disappointing when you want new colors! So my solution this year is to only grow red and black carrots. I'll get the orange ones at the store!
My 2018 Heirloom Lettuce:
Red Wing Lettuce Mix, Salad Blend A mix of loose-leaf varieties that contains bright red and red-splashed lettuces. Requires cooler temperatures to thrive.
Ice Queen Lettuce A French heirloom (aka Reine des Glaces) that is an iceberg type with frilled outer leaves. Holds up well to cold conditions and will even tolerate hot spells.
Devil’s Ear Lettuce Spreading, loose-leaf heads with big, pointed leaves. Heads grow very large with a burgundy highlights. Quite heat tolerant.
Lettuce, swiss chard, and other greens are a staple in our garden. Lettuce has been one of the easiest plants for me to grow. But it dawned on me that I’ve NEVER grown a head lettuce before. I have only planted leafy and bibb varieties before. And while variegated leaf varieties make the prettiest salads, there’s still something great about iceberg lettuce. It’s the crunch for sure! Granted, I don’t usually eat ONLY iceberg lettuce in a salad. That would be weird and possibly bland. But every once in a while I like to add iceberg to the salad mix. The great thing about planting loose leaf varieties is that you can pick the outer leaves as they grow. They’ll keep regrowing for a continual harvest. I may be too impatient waiting for a whole head lettuce to form before harvesting.
My 2018 Heirloom Squash & Flowers:
Tornado Red Cockscomb Extremely vibrant red color and massive (up to a foot tall) combs. Blooms from late spring until first frost of fall.
Kakai Squash Smallish pumpkin variety with yellow-orange coloration, mottled with greens that are very dark to black. Plants grow compact.
Squash. Well this is a plant I usually suck at growing. At least as far as zucchini goes. Dang you Squash Vine Borers!!! But I did once successfully grow pumpkins. They were volunteer pumpkins of course. So perhaps if I tried to grow them they would’ve failed. I’m specifically growing pumpkins this year to harvest pepitas (hulless pumpkin seeds). You know, those little green gems of goodness! I didn't realize until recently that there were specific pumpkins that had pepitas. Hulless pumpkins varieties have seeds without the hard outer shell. They aren’t known for having the best tasting flesh though. Supposedly Kakai has better than average tasting flesh as far as hulless pumpkins go. I read that each pumpkin may yield up to 2 cups of pepitas. Will it be worth it to grow an overwhelming, vining plant just to eat the seeds (and possibly poor-tasting flesh)? We shall see!
As a kid my grandpa planted a giant variety of Cockscomb that we always called Rooster Heads. It looks very similar to Tornado Red. But they look like brains. And that’s pretty much why I’m growing them.
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What are you planting in your garden this year? Do you like choosing new heirloom varieties to try each season? Let us know your go-to varieties you plant each year in the comments below.