Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
As with many things in life, one simple definition does not seem to suffice when trying to describe what "heirlooms' or heritage plants are.
The simplest definition would be that heirlooms are 50 years old, but of course this is not always accurate. There are actually considered to be several different categories of heirlooms, just to complicate the matter.
There are heirlooms that are family treasures that have been passed down from generation to generation in a family. Consider for example that fine green beefsteak tomato named Aunt Ruby's German Green-this name was not dreamt up in a marketing session! There really was an Aunt Ruby who saved seed from her favourite tomato and handed it down to her family members. Her name was Ruby Saunders and she lived in Tennessee.
It is in my collection of tomatoes only because she did this and a fine gentleman by the name of Bill Minkey, a collector, passed it along to Seed Savers Exchange. A preserved family treasure, now safe with all tomato seed savers!
An interesting, but controversial category is the "Created Heirloom" category-are they even heirlooms? ( I offer no opinion here on this one!) There is a whole range of tomatoes that have been created by crossing two OP varieties, heirlooms, and growing out the resulting desired fruit until it is stable and OP itself, coming true to type. Perhaps best known in this category is the fabulous Green Zebra , created in 1989, by tomato-potato breeder Tom Wagner. It certainly hasn't been with us 50 years, nor does it have the family history. Fantastic- yes! An heirloom--??
By far the most important thing that heirlooms ARE is open pollinated. The means growers like you and I can save the seed and it will grow true to type ( of course taking precautions to prevent cross pollinating.) Saving seed from a hybrid is a bit of a crap-shoot. Who knows what you will get. But as a seed saver I can save my heirloom seed, and continue to pass it on- ensuring it will exist a bit longer, and another saver will carry on the tradition.
Hope this helps and thanks for asking the question!
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Every year when folks head out to Wellandport for my" Tomato Days" sale, what exactly they can expect to find is a bit of a surprise.
This year in an effort to take away a bit of that element of surprise, I'll tell you about some other things you can expect to find..and I'll add items to this blog as I plant them, so please keep checking back!
Planted and looking good are eggplants and peppers, so I will list the varieties here for you to consider-Remember, all these items are planted in much more limited quantity than tomatoes, and when they are gone, they're gone!
Pandora Striped Rose, Ping Tung Long ,Yellow Egg
Thai White Ribbed
Casper, Chinese White Sword, Diamond ,Jade Sweet
Black Beauty, Ukrainian Beauty, Blush
Thai Round Green Petch Parisa
Thai Long Purple
Lao Purple Stripe
Listadia di gandia
Thai Long green, Louisiana Long Green
When people ask for recommendations, of course I always say, they are all good! I truly only grow what I believe to be the most worthwhile. But over the years some prove to be standouts.
I love Ping Tung Long, and Slim Jim! Ping Tung Long is a gorgeous purple-white marbled fruit that is long and slim, with a very mild and delightful flavour.
Slim Jim is a shorter thin dark purple fruit that some customers always return to every year.
Slim Jim is also good for pot culture.
Yes, they all ripen to red! Last year I sold out of sweet peppers so I have cut down on the number of hot, and increased the number of sweet I am growing.
Sweet Pimento, Franks
Sweet Chocolate, Golden Treasure
Corno di Toro Red ,Wisconsin Lakes
Corno di Toro Yellow, Amish Pimento
Mini Yellow Bell, Diamond
Mini Red Bell ,Tangerine Pimento
Mini Chocolate bell, Yellow Cheese Pimento
Red Ruffles Pimento
Orange Bell *
King of the North***
Best sellers and my favourites have a star (or more) beside their names. Fabulous bells are Orange Bell, big ,sweet and King of the North, by far the best OP bell for the north, in my humble opinion. Jimmy Nardello is so GOOD for frying, luscious!
Aji Yellow (aka Aji Limo)
Hungarian Hot Wax
Chapeau de Frades
Pili Pili Ho HO
Chile de Arbol
Some of these peppers are SUPER hot, but yummy if you are a hot pepper fan. I am considering that when I have my heirloom tomato festival out here at the farm on August 22, we should try a hot pepper tasting. Of course , included would have to be the Naga Jolokia pepper, hottest in the world. People would likely need to sign a waiver!!
Keep checking back in as I update what else will be available, including cukes, zucs, brassicas, ground cherries and more!
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
If you are looking to buy seed, sadly I regret to tell you I am completely sold out of the fabulous Orange Bell sweet pepper seed! Lots of other yummy ones on the listing, but sadly, this is gone for this year!
Also sold out as of today is Dragon carrot, that yummy purple carrot with the orange interior.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Onions, leeks, eggplants and peppers!
Here in Southern Ontario It's time to get these goodies going indoors, under your grow lights preferably. These crops ideally want to be started 8-10 weeks prior to setting out, so this is it.
Use any container you can find- pots, cottage cheese tubs or flats, depending on how much you need to grow and ensure you have added drainage holes in the bottom. You don't want your delicate seedlings to become waterlogged .
Then fill your containers with a nice light seeding mix which has been slightly moistened with HOT water. Potting soil just won't cut it, it is simply too heavy. You can make your own mix too -lots of recipes can be found on the internet.
Sprinkle seed on the surface of your soil, then add more soil until seeds are covered by about 1/8-1/4 inch of soil. Water gently with nice warm water, then fashion a humidity dome over your pot.
This can be done by putting 2 sticks on either side of the pot in the soil, and placing a plastic bag over top, which the pot can sit on to close. (So high tech!)
Place your container within a few inches of your grow lights, or in a southerly facing sunny window.
Keep a close watch on your seedlings. If the humidity appears too high, open your dome up, but don't let the soil dry out- this could be disaster for sprouting seeds.
Once you see good germination, remove the dome entirely and keep as close to the light as possible. This will prevent your seedlings from becoming leggy.
When the true leaves develop, pot up into a larger container and water well with a diluted kelp solution.
In mid-May, when temperatures are mild, start exposing your plants gradually to the outdoors, a bit at a time. This is the hardening off process. Begin by putting your plants out in the shade, then little by little, expose them to more sun, until they are out in the sun all day. It is still best to bring them in at night though, we don't seem to be frost free until May 24th, and a frost would be the end of peppers and eggplants- not onions though!
My favourite onions are Cippolinis and Long Red Florence. I'm not a huge eggplant eater, but grow 28 different varieties. Does this make sense? They are SO pretty! My favourites are Slim Jim, a small plant with nice smallish slim purple eggplants and Ping Tung Long, with it's beautiful slim mauve and white fruit.
Peppers I do love! This year I am growing 45 different ones, but the favs are, for hot Aji Limon, with it's fiery citrus bite and brilliant yellow good looks and Red Cheese Pimento, so thick walled and sweet.
Bring the summer on!
Monday, March 1, 2010
I haven't taken a break this year from growing, even though the pressure is far less in the winter. Just think, no watering, no pest problems, no disease and beautiful fresh greens the winter through! Ahh- I love it!
Now, with the imminent return of spring, things are growing rapidly.
So, if you called and I was sold out of greens earlier in the season, please try again. It is also now time to get new crops in the greenhouses, so out with the winter ones and in with the spring ones-lots of greens to go.
I also have gourmet- fed chickens, who are supplying me with gorgeous eggs- thanks to The Wildflower and Inn on the Twenty for your kitchen scraps! So if eggs are in your future, consider this..my chickens eat greens year round, are true free range, not exposed to a concrete pad, or barn all day. They even have their own greenhouse for inclement weather. And when they are finished their laying career, they live out their retirement years here . That's it- we don't thank them by eating them!
So come by for a basket o' greens just in time for St Paddy's day !