Best Heirloom Varieties

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AN HEIRLOOM REFERS to an old variety that predates the hybrids being bred in the 1940s. Heirlooms include plants developed by seed companies and market gardeners in the past; beloved backyard mongrels that have emerged from home gardens and been carefully saved and passed along through families but that have never been in circulation as commercial varieties; and nonhybrid varieties that are coming into this country from Europe, South America, Southeast Asia, and Russia.

Heirlooms have endured because people cared enough about their flavor and/or their disease resistance or growing habit to keep planting them and saving their seeds from one season to the next. Unlike hybrids, bred to grow anywhere, ripen uniformly, ship well, and keep longer, heirlooms have maintained their intrinsic personalities.

(Days to maturity are listed in parentheses.)

BEANS (BUSH)

‘Black Valentine’ (50)

‘Brittle Wax’ (50)

‘Burpee’s Stringless Green Pod’ (48)

‘Fowler’ (51)

‘Triomphe de Farcy’ (48)

BEANS (POLE)

‘Kentucky Wonder’ (65)

‘Oregon Giant Snap’ (58)

‘Potomac’ (67)

BEETS

‘Bull’s Blood’ (55)

‘Chioggia’ (52)

‘Early Blood Turnip’ (60)

BROCCOLI

‘Calabrese’ (58)

‘De Cicco’ (49)

CANTALOUPE

‘Collective Farm Woman’ (80)

‘Jenny Lind’ (70)

‘Minnesota Midget’ (60)

CARROTS

‘Danvers Half Long’ (75)

‘Red Cored Chantenay’ (65)

‘Scarlet Nantes’ (65)

‘St. Valery’ (70)

‘Touchon’ (65)

CORN

‘Ashworth’ (69)

‘Golden Bantam’ (78)

‘Utah King’ (50)

CUCUMBERS

‘Bushy’ (46)

‘Double Yield’ (55)

‘Straight Eight’ (58)

‘White Wonder’ (58)

EGGPLANT

‘Diamond’ (65)

‘Ping Tung Long’ (65)

LETTUCE

any heirloom variety

PEAS

any heirloom variety

PEPPERS (HOT)

‘Black Hungarian’ (70)

‘Hot Lemon’ (70)

‘Hot Portugal’ (65)

PEPPERS (SWEET)

‘Bull Nose’ (58)

‘Healthy’ (70)

‘Klari Baby Cheese’ (65)

RADISHES

any heirloom variety

SPINACH

any heirloom variety

SQUASH (SUMMER)

‘Black Zucchini’ (45)

‘Nimba’ (45)

‘Yellow Crookneck’ (55)

SQUASH (WINTER)

‘Table Queen’ (60)

‘Waltham Butternut’ (85)

SWEET POTATOES

‘Carver’ (90)

‘Georgia Jet’ (90)

‘Ivis White Cream’ (90)

‘Jumbo’ (90)

TOMATOES

‘Black Prince’ (68)

‘Black Sea Man’ (75)

‘Clear Pink Early’ (58)

‘Czech’s Bush’ (70)

‘Silvery Fir Tree’ (58)

‘Sophie’s Choice’ (55)

‘Stupice’ (55)

‘Yellow Pear’ (75)

WATERMELON

‘Blacktail Mountain’ (76)

‘Cream of Saskatchewan’ (80)

‘Sweet Siberian’ (80)

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