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InheritedGoodnessIf you want to grow vegetables at home, consider cultivating heirloomor old heritage varieties – truly tasty vegetables of yesteryear.134 | April/May 11 | homestyle
Gardens | Heirloom VegetablesWhether you are a keen gardeneror a novice, creating a productive homevegetable garden can be very rewarding,and the range of vegetables available isenormous. Whether you choose to buyyoung seedlings from the garden centreand plant them directly or are prepared togrow them from seed.The merits of heirloom and hybridseeds is a hot topic of discussion.Seed-saving organisations, specialtyseed companies, and home gardenershave been the agents which have keptheirloom varieties in existence over time,ensuring old varieties are not lost andkept safe for future generations.So what are heirloom and heritagevarieties? They are basically open-pollinatedplants that grow true from seed. Openpollinatedseeds are a result of either naturalor human selection for specific traits thatare then re-selected in every crop.The seeds you buy at our gardencentre, even the fruit and vegetablesyou purchase from the supermarket ororganic farms are likely to be hybridvarieties. These are developed bycompanies for pest resistance, fastgrowth and uniformity. They are oftenbred for qualities related to easy machineharvesting, long distance transport andrefrigeration. Proponents of heirloomvarieties would argue hybrid varietiesdon’t taste as good as the traditionalvarieties and that heirloom varieties dohave good disease resistance and theyields are often higher than hybrids.Photography Tim Johnston and Alice LinesABOVE Seed specialists KingsSeeds have a range of heirloomvegetables for sale includinga range of pumpkins andbutternuts. Many of which can befound in the My Garden organicproduce garden in Christchurch.FAR LEFT The growers at MyGarden utilise space by growingtheir Runner Beans on an angle.LEFT Kings Seeds Jack Be LittlePumpkins. These cute minipumpkins are just 7cm across and5cm high; children are entrancedby them and may enjoy growingtheir own.homestyle | April/May 11 | 135
Gardens | Heirloom VegetablesThe heirloom seed is kept true totype through selection and isolation;the flowers of open-pollinated seedvarieties are pollinated by bees orwind. This means they are capable,of producing seeds from this seasonsplants, which will produce seedlingsthat will be just like the parent plant.This ability to reproduce a virtual clonegives heirloom vegetables the label‘true to type’. The seeds of the heirloomare then passed from generation togeneration. They all have distinctflavours and grow best in differenttypes of conditions and soil. Hybrids onthe other hand are the result of a crossbetween various varieties.To qualify as heirloom vegetables,the variety must have some historicvalue, be at least 40-50 years old and beno longer available in the commercialseed trade. If the vegetable is grownin an industrial setting, it is no longerclassified as heirloom. If you enjoysaving seed, you can choose thoseopen-pollinated heirloom varieties thatproduce great-tasting and easy-to-growharvests and save seed from their bestplants to use every season. Making themideal for home gardeners.Some common heirloom vegetablesgrown in small gardens are tomatoes,corn, beans, squash, lettuce and evenpotatoes. There is a wonderful senseof history attached to some of the oldvarieties, some even dating back fromprehistoric times. A famous heirloomtomato called Brandywine is one ofthe most well-known varieties, it hasbeen around since 1895. For sheerflavour power, Brandywine is one of themost popular of all heirloom tomatovarieties. The fruit is pink with greenshoulders and very large. The flavour isfull and well balanced – a rich blend ofsweet with tart – and the seed cavity issmall so the slices are solid and meaty.Another popular variety is the ‘MortgageLifter’, developed in the 1930s by CharlieByles of West Virginia. Charlie soldplants for $1.00 and paid off his $6000mortgage in six years! The extremelylarge, slightly flat, pink fruit can grow toaround a kilo. This variety is famous forits productivity and disease resistance.ABOVE RIGHT TO LEFT Fromartichokes to lettuces thereare a variety of everydayvegetables which have a heirloomcounterpart. Including capsicums,as seen here an alternative tothe common-day green, yellowor red varieties is the PurpleBeauty. The artichoke pictured isa Purple de Jesi and the lettuceRough dé hive. All available fromKings Seeds. BELOW Companionplanting is an important aspectof any garden. Marigolds willbring ladybirds to the gardenwhich will prevent aphids fromdestroying your crop – creatingbiodiversity in your garden.OPPOSITE PAGE Two heirloomeggplant varieties demonstratethe difference which can be foundwithin vege types. Seen here isthe Long Purple Eggplant andBlack Beauty.136 | April/May 11 | homestyle
Tips For Growing• Before planting consider sunlight, rootstocks,prevailing wind and drainage. Nature's Garden Fertilisercan be used alongside compost to aid growing.• Trees are best planted in winter as most will have havelost their leaves – so once they are in the ground they willgive all their focus to establishing their root systems.• Don't forget about the bees. Some of the trees are selffertileand are good pollinators for other trees, Duff'sEarly Jewel plums and Seckel pears for example, so thinkabout that before you choose the trees.- Romi Curl, Kaiwaka Organicshomestyle | April/May 11 | 137
Gardens | Heirloom VegetablesHeirloom vegetables are alsobecoming popular with chefs. They arechoosing heirloom varieties becausethey offer a chance to play with newcolours in dishes – they also vary intaste to the modern-day versions.A renewed interest in old or heirloomor heritage varieties has meant aninteresting range has become availablevia mail order, classified adverts ingardening magazines or bought online.Once you have chosen your heirloomseeds, the seeds can be planted muchlike any other seeds of that plant type.Simply plant, nurture and enjoy! •Sandra Batley is an award-winning landscapedesigner and owner operator of Aucklandbasedinnovative garden design companyFlourish, www.flourishgardens.co.nzTo find out more visit...ABOVE Tomatoes are easy to grow and a staple vege in many houses, hence the hugenumber of varieties available – each one with its own unique shape, colour, textureand size. Pictured here are the Black Crim, Garden Peach, Green Sausage, Tigerella,Leo Of Casino and Pink Brandy Wine varieties.www.ginnysherbs.comwww.greenurbanliving.co.nzwww.italianseedspronto.co.nzwww.kaiwakaorganics.co.nzwww.kingseeds.co.nzwww.koanga.org.nzwww.organicpathways.co.nzHeirloom in the KitchenThe intense and natural flavours found in heirloomveges will make them a favourite in the kitchen aswell as the garden.We used 14 different varieties of tomatoes forthis fresh and delicious salad, including the Leo OfCasino variety which was bought back from WorldWar Two in the cuffs of a soldiers pants! Combinedwith other local and organic flavours this simplesalad clearly demonstrates the unique colours andshapes which can be found in heirloom varieties.Simple combinations and cooking techniqueswill ensure that no matter what heirloom vege youare serving up, the flavour will be crisp, intenseand simply yummy.138 | April/May 11 | homestyle