In the Garden:
Middle South
August, 2001
Regional Report

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621

A century old and still going strong, 'Moon and Stars' watermelon is almost too pretty to eat.

Growing Heirloom Vegetables

One of the best reasons to grow your own vegetables is to eat wonderful varieties that you can't find in a store. While it's true that we Southern gardeners need to grow varieties with superior disease resistance such as modern hybrids, sometimes we crave fine flavor, unique colors, and historical intrigue even more. That's why I grow heirloom vegetables.

Taste Testing

Summer is the right time for taste testing heirloom vegetables. I look for unusual varieties others have grown at farmer's markets and garden stands. Some master gardener groups hold annual tomato tastings, too, where popular old varieties such as 'Mortgage Lifter' and 'Cherokee Purple' tomatoes often take first prize.

Beyond Tomatoes

Although tomatoes have received most of the popular press, they're only the beginning for gardeners interested in heirloom varieties. There is probably no more beautiful watermelon than 'Moon and Stars', which I think is almost too pretty to eat. Bean possibilities are endless, too. In fact, my favorite bean for both productivity and flavor is 'White Half Runne'r, also called 'Mississippi Skip Bean'. It's not quite a climber, but grows best on a short trellis.

Heirlooms for Fall

With planting season for the fall garden right around the corner, check into some of my cool-weather heirloom favorites. The tenderness of sprouting broccoli such as 'DeCicco', which must be tasted to be believed. If you like turnip roots as much as the greens, put 'Amber Globe' turnip on your planting list. And, fall is the best time to grow heirloom lettuce varieties such as 'Deer Tongue' and the super hardy 'Parris Island Cos', developed at Clemson in 1952. These andmany other old-time varieties are available from seed companies that specialize in heirlooms such as Southern Exposure (www.southernexposure.com) and from the non-profit group Seed Saver's Exchange (www.seedsavers.org).


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