As promised, I am using this post to let you in on a couple of my heirloom vegetables that I have been growing in recent years that believe to be superior in their characteristics. One is the impossible to pronounce (even if you sit down and actually try) Wapsipinicon Peach Tomato, the other is a Zucchini with an almost equally challenging name, Costata Romanesco.
What is an heirloom vegetable? As I can not bothered to take the trouble to paraphrase, I will do what all great minds do, and quote Wikipedia:
“An heirloom plant, heirloom variety, heritage fruit (Australia and New Zealand), or (especially in Ireland and the UK) heirloom vegetable is an old cultivar that is “still maintained by gardeners and farmers particularly in isolated or ethnic communities”. These may have been commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but are not used in modern large-scale agriculture.”
I think that the quote reasonably defines the term. Other characteristics which may contribute to defining the term might be:
- Open Polinated – Heirloom seeds are naturally pollinated without human intervention. One can save the seeds, which will typically produce fruit of the same characteristics
- Predate a period in time – It seems that some consider age of the variety to be of importance, pre-1950’s or pre-WW2 are a couple of examples that I have seen.
There is a number of arguments that people use to promote the benefits of heirloom vegetables. For me, I grow a mix of hybrid and heirloom crops (hybrid meaning that parents have been selectively cross pollinated in order to produce seed and subsequent fruit of a particular quality). I have found some great heirloom varieties, but also, quite enjoy the super sweet hybrid corns and have had better success with a hybrid pak choi variety over heirloom varieties that I have grown.
Now, there is something else to consider when thinking about heirloom vegetables, that consideration being, food crop diversity. This is not the segway into a hippy rant, as, since acknowledging in my early 20’s that I was never going to do anything to change the ways of the world… I have become somewhat and perhaps sadly indifferent to sick sad world (Daria reference) around me. I did however read an article in a magazine not too long ago, the topic being, the massive decrease in food crop diversity.
I do not know where the original article is in order to quote, but the below link has a great graphic derived from a 1983 study illustrating the point. According to the study, which comprises of a comparison of seed variety availability in 1903 compared to 1983, 93% of the 1903 varieties had become extinct.
I am not sure why this bothers me, but, it does.
Enough scare mongering and down to the business of profiling these two great heirlooms.
Wapsipinicon Peach Tomato
I find myself in a position that I have not previously been in… having to describe the characteristics of a tomato. There is a lot of pressure as I have built this tomato up so much, that, it may be hard for me to do it justice.
The 1st characteristic, and the one that caught my attention, is slightly furry skin on this tomato. Curiosity value only, but does add to the enigma of the “peach” tomato. Given the right conditions though, this yellow tomato will blush a peachy colour that does make it appear even more delicious. The low acidity and sweetness of the fruit make it almost more a table fruit than a tomato. I would describe the fruit as being small to medium in size, with a medium yield. Since discovering, I ensure that I have a few of these plants in each year, and everyone who tries it is very pleased with it’s flavour. Not really sure what else to say about a tomato… so below, some pics 🙂
And now the Zucchini…
Costata Romanesco Zucchini
An attractive, ribbed zucchini (I sound like I really “love” my zucchinis), Costata Romanesco really shines due to its firm, non-watery flesh. This makes it a versatile zucchini for cooking, lending itself particularly well to grilling, stir frying, frying, steaming as well as any other traditional cooking methods. I would describe the flesh as being sweetish, nutty, and, superior to other zucchini varieties I have tried. Additionally, they can be picked quite large and still retain a perfectly edible taste and texture.
If you have never grown zucchinis before, they (zucchinis in general) have a reputation and almost a disdain among gardeners as supplying far too much fruit for one’s liking. Do yourself, friends and family a favour though, and add this variety to your summer crops.
But wait… there’s more…
For those of you in Australia that I can sucker in to add a comment to this post… I have (or will have if I can’t find them), 5 lots of 10 Wapsipinicon Peach seeds to give away. Be one of the first 5 people to add an extremely friendly, positive and a maybe even a little sucky uppy (don’t mistake that for patronising though 😉 ) comment to this post score your sweet prize.