I'm drooling for late summer heirlooms
it's seed time!
Gear mentioned in this thread:
I've a new job, running the historic gardens at Fort Boonesboro. As of now my plans call for 20 varieties, about 16 different veggie types. However, I learned today that I'll have almost 400 square feet more than I'd planned on. So time to lay back ten and punt.
Everything will not only be an heirloom, it will be as close in time and description as we can make it to an 18th century type.
Soon as I finish the new plan I'll post my intentions.
Gardening in Texas presents some special challenges, OldPro, and tomato growing is not the least of them. You want varieties that are tolerant of heat and, more importantly, humidity. Indeed, because of the humidity you could never, for instance, get away with planting them as close together as I do.
I'll do some checking into varieties that do well in your area. But my impression is you'd do better, this year, buying bedding plants from a nursery, because seed should have been set some time ago. Most home gardeners down your way are likely putting them in the ground by now.
I'll get back to you soon as I know more.
OldPro, you're going to find that outdoor people are clannish and close-mouthed compared to heirloom growers.
F'rinstance, here, in toto, is the first response to my inquiries. I'm sure there will be others:
I have a friend in TX (near Bridgeport) who's been homesteading for at least the 8 years we've been chattering at each other. She recently started a blog:
where she lists this year's tomatoes.
Amish Paste (new)
Anna Russian (new)
Arkansas Traveler (new for me – my stepdad loves it)
Black Plum (grew last year – salad variety for eating fresh and drying)
Box Car Willie (new)
Costoluto Genovese (new)
Djena Lee’s Golden (new – free seed packet from Totally Tomatoes)
Early Wonder (free seed pack last year from TGS – loved it!)
German Orange Strawberry (grew last year – for slicing and saucing)
German Red Strawberry (ditto)
Homestead 24 (grow most years)
Hungarian Italian (new)
Juane Flamme (grew last year – chickens “sampled” most of them)
Juliet F1 (grow most years – best salad tomato I’ve ever eaten)
Kalman’s Hungarian Pink (new)
Large Red Cherry (grow most years – early, productive, good dried)
Mama Leone (new)
Martino’s Roma (grew last year – great sauce tomato)
Opalka (grew last year – one of my favorites)
Pink Ponderosa (grow most years – big, meaty slicing tomato)
Polish Linguisa (grew last year – my 2nd favorite tomato)
Porter’s (NOT improved – grow most years)
Principe Borghese (grow most years – great fresh and dried)
Purple Russian (grew last year – use fresh, it turns sauces and salsas brown)
Rose de Berne (new – I have high hopes for this one)
Royal Hillbilly (new)
Rutgers (grow some years)
Sausage (grew last year – my favorite tomato EVER for saucing!)
Sioux (new – I’m really excited about this one)
Lapadina (if you can only grow one, pick this one!)
San Marzano Redorta (grew last year – the fruits are HUGE)
Virginia Sweets (new – free seed packet from TGS)
I've referred several other Texans to her for advice. She's looking for people interested in living the way she does so I suspect she'd be happy to answer questions as best she can.
OldPro, just heard from my buddy Roger Postley with a great contact for you. Roger is one of the most experienced heirloom tomato growers I know (this year he's cutting back to only 70 varieties, for example), and has contacts all over the country. He says:
"You need to get in touch with the"Tomato Lady, Jeanette at: She gives numerous "Texas tomato workshops"'
Roger says you should use his name when you contact her.
KY - Thanks for the help. I'll be contacting the Tomato Lady, although Dallas isn't exactly next door.
On another front, we've had an excellent year for speckled trout and redfish in the Colorado River. I think I PMed you the recipe for redfish on the half shell sometime back that uses tomatoes in the recipe. It really is exceptional if you haven't tried it. I'll going to spring for the heirlooms from Whole Foods the next time I fix it, and that should be an incentive to start some of my own.
So, OK, here’s the plan for my historic gardens at Fort Boonesboro.
What I have primarily are three large raised beds, each 5 x 40 feet, surrounded by a Virginia worm fence. The deltas in the fence give me an additional total of 400 square feet more to work with.
No, this is not how it was done in the 18th century. But logistics require protecting the beds from the patter of little feet. Here’s what I intend having when everything is in:
Chives, kale, 6-week beans, Yellow Pear tomatoes surrounded by basil, parsnips, collards, cucumbers surrounded by dill, Brussels sprouts, crookneck squash, Large Red tomatoes surrounded by borage, okra, three alternating rows of lettuces, radishes, and carrots, White Boer pumpkins, fava beans, Irish potatoes, savoy cabbage, cayenne peppers, bush beans, early Dutch cabbage, Swiss chard, onions, Gourds faced by Whippoorwill cowpeas, gourds faced by sweet potatoes, gourds faced by eggplant.
These will all go in two of the raised beds and the fence deltas. The third raised bed will be half Orinoco tobacco and half corn with pole beans, to exhibit the cash crops of the time & place.
Some of these will have succession crops. For instance, the six-week beans will be followed by turnips; the favas by garlic, etc. As everything else comes to ripeness it will be followed by a cover crop---most likely cowpeas.
In addition, I’ll have string trellises against some of the cabins. On them will be Clabbard beans, Scarlet Runner beans and English peas.
Right now all the cabins have modern flowers in small beds under their windows. Little by little I’ll be tearing those out and replacing them with appropriate herbs and other plants. The foodways cabin, for instance, will have culinary herbs. Dye plants will go by the spinners and weavers cabins. And at least one cabin will have a full medicinal herb garden. All the others will have strewing herbs of various kinds, such as lavender, hyssop, rue, sweet woodruff, and rosemary.
It’s a huge undertaking to be sure, especially as I’m doing everything using appropriate 18th century tools and techniques (other than the raised beds). But this is the culmination of 20 years worth of studying historic foodways, so I’m really looking forward to it.
If any of you are in the central Kentucky area this summer, stop by and see us.
just curious...where do you get your seeds for your historic gardens? have you started planting as yet or is the ground still frozen? happy planting!!!
My ground hasn't been frozen since February, Joey. The problem for me has been rain; torrential rain, almost non-stop the past two months. So getting anything in the ground has been problematical.
I did harvest radishes yesterday, though; first crop of the season!
As to the seeds, various sources. Don't forget, I've been a card-carrying member of the heirlooms community for twenty-odd years; long before heirlooms entered the mainstream. So I have a lot of contacts. And a fairly large seed collection of my own, manyof which came from the now defunct Applachian Heirloom Seed Conservancy.
For anyone new to heirlooms, there are several seed preservation organizations. Seed Savers Exchange, in Decorah, IA, is the oldest in the U.S., and seems to be the largest in the world. But there are others as well. If you're interested in heirlooms, you'd be well served by joining.
And nowadays, if you know what you're looking for, there are many commercial sources as well; seed houses, that is, which deal strictly with heirloom varieties. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, for instance, is a great source for me because they deal in "local" varieties primarily. So it's easier to find old-time mid-South varieties from them than from, say, Victory Seeds, which is a great seed house on the West Coast.
There are many seed preservation and seed trading sites on the web, too. Heirloom Growers Garden, over at yahoogroups, for example, is a community of folks from all over the country who discuss heirlooms, seed sourcing, growing techniques, etc.
The biggest problem is that about 80% of 18th century varieties are now extinct. So what I try to do is go back as far as possible, using a variety whose description is close to the missing one. For example, Dutch Yellow turnips were popular in the 18th century. But they're gone. However, Amber Globe, which we can trace back to the 1820s, seem to resemble it. So that becomes the turnip of choice.
Sometimes, as with all heirlooms, tracking history can be a real job of detecting. F'rinstance, there is a bean variety that nowadays is called Caseknife. That name comes from the fact the pods resemble an old-fashioned butter knife (think good silver, rather than stainless). In the late 18th century that same bean was called Clabboard because they grew it up the sides of buildings---in the clapboards, as it were. Amelia Simmons, in the first American cookbook, refers to them as that. So, if you just go looking for clabboard beans, you're not likely to find them. But if you know the history, and they still exist, it becomes less difficult. FWIW, before that it was also called Dutch Scimeter and French Sabre, depending on it's source.
My caseknife/clabboard seed came from Bill Best, at the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center, in Berea, KY. Meanwhile, knowing I was looking from them, Jack Woodford, a seed saver in Virginia, sent me a brown-seeded version, which I'll also be growing.
And sometimes there are common, everyday varieties that actually are heirlooms, only not identified as such. Yellow Crookneck squash, for instance, is a pre-contact variety, grown by Native Americans.
this may not be the right place for this post, but so be it...have you heard of an opal apple? best tasting apple on the planet, bar none...i am looking for the tree vs. the seed, which won't produce true to the parent. any suggesstions of contact would be greatly, greatly appreciated...all i know that its a washington state apple, and apparently a very close guarded secret. thanks...
Joey, I'm about as far from being a fruit expert as you can get. But, fwiw, my understanding is that you do not grow apples from seed. Instead, you graft a scion from the variety you want onto root stock, which usually is a different variety altogether.
I've never had an Opal, and know nothing about them. So can't advise on the availability of grafts.
its seed time!...that's very not funny... let see, in the past 2 days we have received 26 inches of snow,(on top of the 6" we just got last week, on top of the 18" we got the week before), its still coming down with a winter storm watch through tonight and another system arriving sunday night through mid week....there is something very pathetic about shoveling off the top of your motorhome in the end of may and hoping the pipes aren't going to freeze. bringing in wood and building fires, although seems all warm and fuzzy, is not when its a neccessity to keeping warm.....and who are the naysayers of global warming! how's things in your neck of the woods? planting yet?