Diversifying Gardens with Heirloom Vegetables; Cooperative Extension Provides Research, Facts, How-to Information

Cherokee Purple heirloom tomato

Cherokee Purple is an heirloom T0mato variety. The color is unusual. The taste is different and the seed can be saved. Photo: Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Some 10 years ago as a Master Gardener intern, I wanted to learn more about heirloom vegetables and share that information in a talk. At that time, it wasn’t easy to find information although I do live in the state that is home to Seed Savers Exchange,  a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds.

How times have changed
Today when I visit the Des Moines Downtown Farmer’s Market and the farmers markets in Ames, there are heirloom vegetables galore – especially tomatoes. In the past several years, I’ve been surprised … and delighted to find heirloom tomato plants for sale at Iowa greenhouses, grocers and farmers markets.

Today there are fact sheets and columns on heirloom vegetables written by land-grant university Extension horticultural specialists and faculty. There is information on how-to save open-pollinated seed. Here’s what I found online. If you know of others, please add in the comments.

Clemson Cooperative Extension fact sheet lists specific varieties and background on heirloom vegetables, directions and tips for saving seed. http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/vegetables/gardening/hgic1255.html

Great Lakes Region, 2009 Evaluation of Ten Heirloom Tomato Varieties at Nine Sites: Barker, N.Y.; Rock Springs, Penn.; Piketon, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; South Charleston, Ohio; Macomb County, Mich.; West Lafayette, Ind.; Dixon Springs, Ill. and Waseca, Minn. http://anrcom.msu.edu/news/article/colorful_tomatoes_will_hit_local_markets_this_summer

University of Florida, Okeechobee County, Heirlooms – and other Seedy Words, has seed sources and references, http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu/News%20columns/Heirloom.Vegetables.htm
Brevard County, http://brevard.ifas.ufl.edu/Forms%20and%20Publications/PDF/Heirloom%20vegetables%20trifold%206121.pdf

University of Hawaii, Heirloom vegetable varieties: a promising future for past treasures? http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/sustainag/news/articles/V6-Radovich-heirloom.pdf

University of Kentucky, lots of selected resources, http://www.uky.edu/Ag/NewCrops/introsheets/heirloom.pdf

Washington State University, Community Horticulture Fact Sheet #17, Saving Seeds from Heirloom and Other Vegetables, http://king.wsu.edu/gardening/documents/17HeirloomVegetablesandSavingSeed.pdf

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2 Responses to “Diversifying Gardens with Heirloom Vegetables; Cooperative Extension Provides Research, Facts, How-to Information”

  1. Tommie Clayton says:

    Would love to see information for southern and southwestern heirloom varieties better able to withstand hot summers, mild winters.

  2. Karen Jeannette says:

    Tommie, That is a good question. Let me see if I can find more information for you. I’ll get back to this comment as soon as I learn more.