Heirloom varieties of summer vegetables

by Ginny Clayton

I am delighted to say that many of the old vegetable varieties can still be found today.

October is the month to get ready for planting your summer vegetables. Get the ground prepared, but be wary of planting too early, as there is inevitably that cold wet spell of winter that catches us out. It is interesting to note that plants planted out later when the ground is warmed up will produce more quickly.

Celeriac is an old vegetable that Europeans love – it is also known as Turnip Rooted Celery, and is fascinating to grow. It develops a large bulbous stem at soil level, and this is what is grated and used in salads, sauces etc.

Port Albert cucumber

Courgettes are very popular today, and a fascinating one to grow is Cocozelle. This one is great because if you cannot pick the fruit quickly enough as courgettes, the larger ones taste great too- not mushy like some varieties of courgettes that go black as they age. The other one we like is called Ronde De Nice- an old French heirloom with a slightly nutty flavour; this one produces round fruit, ideal for stuffing.

Cucumbers always cause a great debate, but I have never had one create more excitement than Port Albert! This variety produces 60-80 fruit per plant of torpedo shaped white to yellow fruit, and is named for the settlers who arrived in Port Albert with the seed of this cucumber.

If you like eating eggplant, or even just want to grow something spectacular, try the old Italian Listada de Gandia eggplant. This bush Italian heirloom is regarded by many Europeans as the only eggplant, always at the top of any taste tests. The fruit is white, delicately striped with purple, with very little seed and one bush produces heaps of fruit.

Listada eggplant

Last year I grew Jingle Belles sweet pepper-these bushes provided us with hundreds of small bite size peppers, ideal for salads, or lunch boxes and they made the most wonderful pepper pickle as well!

Our other favourite pepper is the hot Friars Hat – this has a green to red bell shaped fruit and is worth growing just for the look of it; it does make a great chilli sauce too!

One of our favourite tomatoes is Red Fig, which produces hundreds of delicious small pear shaped fruits. Grown with the other old mini variety Yellow Pear you have a great combination for salads and to eat as you wander past them in the garden- my little terrier is also fond of helping herself to the yellow variety! These 2 varieties will fruit well into autumn if grown in a sunny spot.

Hungarian heart tomatoes

Hungarian Heart is a tasty larger tomato; great for preserving, sauce etc, as are the other old varieties Potentate and Black Krim-this last variety has a lovely tang to it.

I have also found the old big sweet yellow tomato, which many of you have been looking for. It is called Golden Queen, and we loved it when we trialled it last year. Yellow tomatoes tend to be watery and tasteless, but I recommend this one.

Let’s hope we have a great growing season this spring!


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