Heirloom vegetables are older open-pollinated varieties of veggies. Heirlooms, unlike hybrids, are not bred to resist diseases and pests but sometimes breeding these qualities into a variety, breeds out other better qualities. Because heirlooms often have superior flavor than the hybrid varieties, it’s worth it to give them a go in the garden. And the good news is that heirlooms will adapt to regional conditions, over time rendering them more resistant to potential threats.
Consider not only your growing region (USDA zone), but also your personal tastes when choosing heirloom varieties. Consulting with others who have grown heirlooms in your area is a great place to start. They can give you a head’s up on their successes and failures. That said, here are 10 popular heirloom varieties:
1. Mortgage Lifter tomato – For large beefsteak tomatoes, Mortgage Lifter is a winner.
2. San Marzano tomato – San Marzano is a roma tomato variety that is prized for making into sauce.
3. Kentucky Wonder bean – Kentucky Wonder beans were introduced in 1864 and are still perennial favorites.
4. Bull’s Eye beet – Also known as Chioggia, this beet heirloom has striking alternating red and white concentric rings.
5. Wakefield cabbage – Wakefield cabbage was introduced in 1892 and is wildly popular with southern cabbage lovers.
6. Little Finger carrot – Perfect for pickling or canning, Little Finger is a baby gourmet carrot.
7. Giant Musselburgh leek – Giant Musselburgh leeks can’t be beat.
8. Hubbard squash – Hubbard squash is a unique winter squash with blue-grey skin that can be stored for long periods of time.
9. Black Beauty zucchini – Black Beauty zucchini was introduced in 1902 and is adapted to the southern states, but does well in northern regions with longer growing seasons.
10. Hale’s Best melon – Hale’s Best melons are early cantaloupes with sweet salmon-orange flesh and a resistance to powdery mildew.
The above is just the tip of the iceberg. With thousands of heirlooms to choose from, there is almost no end to the options. Keep in mind your USDA zone and have fun planting these unique vegetable varietals.