After crying and grumbling about my $3,000 hospital bill I realized there was only one (realistic) way of cheering myself up: the 2009 heirloom seed order. Up until now, I've preferred heirlooms but would occasionally buy an early girl tomato on a whim when walking through the garden center. I think those days are over, there are just too many benefits to growing heirloom seed. I usually order from heirloomseeds.com, but I saw that they have about a month turnaround time right now because they're so flooded with orders. That's fine for people in cooler climates, but I wanted to get my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants started indoors in mid-January, so this year I ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I spent several hours looking over my choices and here's what I finally decided on:
Ivory Egg Tomato
70-75 days. Sent to the United States by a seed saver in Sweden, this rare and attractive ivory-cream colored tomato is the shape and size of a chicken egg. The creamy flesh is both sweet and rich; great for making a lovely sauce, or in salads. Plants are very productive.
White Queen Tomato
70-75 days The favorite white variety of many tomato collectors, this heirloom is said to have been introduced in 1882 by A.W. Livingston, though many people question the exact date of introduction. 4-8 oz. fruit have one of the best flavors of all tomatoes, being fragrant, fruity and intensely sweet. It's creamy white in color and very attractive. A productive variety that has become very rare.
Bloody Butcher Tomato (My response to Early Girl... take that patented varieties!)
60 days. A small 3-4 oz ‘cluster’ tomato. Fruit are deep red in color and have a nice tomato flavor. Production is really good, but where this open-pollinated tomato really shines is its earliness. It ripens in only about 60 days, making it ripen about the same time as Early Girl, but this tomato is much tastier.
Roma Rio Grande Tomato
Vigorous plants produce many 4"-long, pear-shaped fruit with dry flesh, perfect for fresh use and sauces. Productive during hot, dry summers.
Yellow Pear Tomato
78 days. Very sweet, 1 1/2" yellow, pear-shaped fruit have a mild flavor, and are great for fresh eating or for making tomato preserves. Very productive plants are easy to grow.
70 days. An early light green eggplant, good yield, very tender and delicious, smooth oval-round fruit growing on small plants. Highly recommended. Developed by the late Prof. Elwyn Meader, UNH 1964.
75 days. Medium size, very attractive, smooth ivory-white fruit, that have a very mild mushroom-like flavor. Prolific plant. Fruit ripens early. An excellent variety for specialty growers and gardeners.
Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli
An English heirloom variety, bred for overwintering. Produces lots of purple broccoli sprouts in the spring. Grows slowly through the winter; very frost hardy. A great variety that is very hard to find in this country; delicious!
Boston Pickling Cucumber
50 days. An old heirloom dating back to 1880. Vigorous vines give large yields of smooth green fruit. It is excellent for pickles, very crisp and good quality. A very popular variety at the turn of the century.
West India Burr Gherkins
65 days. (Cucumis anguria) Not a true cucumber, but used much like it. Will not cross with C. sativus-Very beautiful long vines and hundreds of small tasty fruit. Yields better than any cucumber. These are becoming rare. They do great in hot humid [yeah, I know Phoenix is a far cry from humid, but we do have the hot! I thought this was worth a try anyway] weather. Introduced to the USA in 1793 from Jamaica, and used pickled or boiled by the Colonies in Jamaica.
Ground Cherry (Strawberry Husk Tomato)
Huge yield of tart-sweet berries. This is the common type, used by the Pilgrims; excellent for pies, jams, and preserves of all kinds, also delicious fresh. The fruit grows inside a paper like husk, (the same as Tomatillos.) Grow it the same as you would tomatoes.
Deliciously lemon-flavored; great in tea. A vigorous, hardy plant.
(Matricaria recutita) Beautiful, small flowers; makes a relaxing tea with a sweet, fruity fragrance; medicinal. Attractive plants.
The most amazing melon we have grown. The fruit are vibrant yellow with brilliant fire-red, zigzag stripes, (a few fruit may be solid yellow), simply beautiful! They are also the most fragrant melons we have tried, with a rich, sweet intoxicating aroma that will fill a room. The white flesh gets sweeter in dry climates. Small in size the fruits weigh up to 1 lb. - perfect for a single serving. The vigorous plants yield heavily, even in dry conditions. This heirloom came from an Armenian market located in a mountain valley. It was the most popular melon at our Garden Show last August and makes a unique specialty market variety.
Orange Bell Pepper
Super sweet, brilliant orange fruit are blocky, and good-sized thick flesh is flavorful and among the best tasting of all peppers. Plants produce large yields of this most magnificent pepper.
Red Cheese Pepper
80 days. Candy-sweet, round, flat, 3", pimento-type peppers that have thick, red flesh, great for stuffing or fresh eating. So good, they are almost addictive. Very productive plants. Once used to color cheese.
Red Malabar Spinach
70 days. This beautiful plant is not a true spinach but a different species (basella rubra). This heat-loving Asian vine has lovely red stems and delicious, succulent leaves that are great in salads and stir-frys. A delicious green that can be grown as an annual in many areas or as a perennial in sub-tropical areas. [I've seen this at the farmer's market and have known people who grow it locally and it seems to do well here, it has a flavor that's a bit too lemony-tart for my taste, but it produces greens in the summer in Phoenix, so you take what you can get :)]
PLUS a surprise seed pack! I can't wait to see what kind they'll send me. I am so excited to get these growing!!