The garden has so many different types of vegetables. But within each type is a variety. Some of these varieties have been saved, cultivated, and preserved for hundreds and in some cases even thousands of years. In this blog post, we will cover the back story of some very exotic, yet beloved heirloom vegetable varieties. Maybe consider adding some of these to your garden!
Zapotec Pleated tomato -
Tomatoes are native to western South America and were first domesticated by indigenous peoples in that region. The Zapotec people, who are indigenous to the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, likely obtained tomatoes through trade or cultural exchange with other indigenous groups in the region. The tomato has deep ribs or "pleats" and has been grown in Oaxaca for hundreds of years. Commonly roasted for making salsa, tomatoes are seen as the second most important vegetable in Mexican cuisine.
Oaxacan Green Dent Corn -
Oaxacan Green Dent Corn, also known as "cacahuazintle" is a traditional variety of corn that is native to the Oaxaca region of Mexico. It is believed to have been first domesticated by the Zapotec and Mixtec indigenous people in the region several thousand years ago. The Zapotec and Mixtec people have a long history of cultivating different varieties of corn, and Oaxacan Green Dent Corn is considered to be one of the oldest and most diverse varieties. The corn is characterized by its green color, dent or indentation on the crown of the kernels, and a unique flavor. It is used in traditional dishes such as tamales, tortillas and pozole.
Cherokee Trail Of Tears Bean -
The Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean is an heirloom bean variety that is named after the forced migration of the Cherokee Nation in the 1830s, known as the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean has been passed down through generations of Cherokee farmers and gardeners. The bean is thought to have been grown by the Cherokee people before and during the Trail of Tears, and it is considered to be a reminder of the resilience and perseverance of the Cherokee people. The beans are known for its small size, but with a rich nutty flavor and creamy texture.
Poona Kheera Cucumber -
The Poona Kheera Cucumber is a variety of cucumber originated in the Pune district of Maharashtra, India as early as 1890. The name "Kheera" means cucumber in Hindi, and "Poona" is the former name of the city of Pune. This variety of cucumber is known for its crisp texture and sweet, mild flavor. It is commonly used in Indian cuisine and is often eaten raw or pickled. This cucumber is also brown in color and not like other green cucumbers.
Black Futsu Squash -
A variety of winter squash that is known for its dark, almost black skin and its unique, sweet and nutty flavor. It is believed to have originated in Japan where it's seeds have been preserved for over 200 years. Squash have been of cultural importance to the Japanese people for centuries. These squash are covered with bumps, which indicates it is a more wild strain of squash. The smooth skin as seen on more modern day pumpkins is a long process of breeding to prioritize a smooth skin, without bumps. Wild genetics are seen as hardier and more resilient to adverse climate conditions.
Tiffen Mennonite Tomato -
Originated from the Mennonite community in the Tiffen, Ohio area of the United States. This tomato was brought over from germany by German Mennonites escaping germany in the early 1920's. When they arrived, they settled in communities all across the United States, and brought with them their seeds and extensive knowledge of farming and gardening. This tomato is used for paste, canning, juicing, and sauce, and is of high cultural significance to the Mennonite community even till today.
Mayflower Bean -
It is believed to have been brought over by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620, when they arrived to the Plymouth colony in Massachusetts. The variety is believed to have been a staple in the diet of the Pilgrims and Wampanoag people, who taught them how to cultivate the bean. Having a long shelf life once dried provided a protein source through winter when hunting was not as fruitful. Used as a drying bean, it was boiled in soups and stews, and even traded for meat from local Native American tribes.
Regardless of the variety, this is just a small sample size of all the amazing varieties that exist, and all of the heirlooms that exist have amazing back stories worth looking into. Happy gardening!