Continued from <-More Heirlooms, Part 4
A bolt-resistant variety introduced to the US from Denmark in 1920, 'King of Denmark' develops into a large plant with great-tasting, dark-green leaves. Mature plants will stand up to five weeks (!) without bolting. Twenty years ago, two dozen seed companies offered it. Now, it's down to just a couple.
Note: Although some seedsmen list this as a synonym for an F-1 hybrid called 'Olympia,' the original 'King of Denmark' is a different variety.
A traditional food of the Mandan Indians, this very rare squash has large orange fruits and seeds that are big and edible.
One of the first tomatoes developed for short- or mild-summer areas, 'Earliana' is still valued for flavor. George Sparks of Salem, New Jersey developed this variety and seedsmen Johnson & Stokes introduced it in about 1900. A decade later, Buckbee's catalog it as "An extremely smooth, bright red tomato of good size and flavor. Is among the very first ready for the market. This tomato is not only remarkable for its earliness, but for its very large size, handsome shape and bright red color. Its solidity and fine qualities are quite equal to the best medium and late sorts."
Today, 'Earliana' still lives up to much of this description, though it is not as Buckbee's claimed, "very large." In fact, the 'Earliana' is medium-sized. It is larger than a cherry tomato but considerably smaller than Ponderosa types. What is true in Buckbee's write-up is that they have good flavor. In tomato taste-offs held in Seattle, Washington, the 'Earliana' consistently places in the top ten for flavor. Unfortunately, the 'Earliana' has noticeable skin, a shortcoming that is easy to overlook when the tomatoes on every other variety are not even close to ripe.
Alexander W. Livingston (1821-1898) specialized in tomatoes and introduced the first smooth, round tomatoes without ribs or gathers near the stem end. He also developed new varieties with meaty flesh and great taste, as well as others for niche markets. 'Livingston's Favorite' was one of them. He wanted the perfect canning tomato. What he came up with in 1883 was a productive, early variety that set medium-sized tomatoes with thick flesh and fine flavor. In recent years, growers have rediscovered Livingston's tomatoes. Interestingly, modern growers like this one fresh for salads or as a slicer, because of its great flavor.
In 1870, Livingston introduction this, the first big, round, smooth, red tomato. It transformed tomato growing forever. Once growers and consumers had seen these blood-red beauties, there was no going back. Well-grown plants are robust and productive, and set good crops of juicy, red fruit. Like the best Livingston introductions, this one is still known for its taste.
Not really orange and not really a jelly, what the 'Orange Jelly' Turnip really is is a round, amber-colored turnip that was introduced before 1859. More than fifty years later, Peter Henderson's 1914 catalog called it "the finest yellow-fleshed table Turnip we know, forming a handsome, small, round bulb with smooth, yellow skin. The flesh is deep yellow, and the table qualities are unsurpassed." These turnips grow to three or four inches in diameter and are sweet. The "Jelly" part of the name refers to this turnip's texture. In contrast to the typical crisp turnip, is slightly soft, like jelly.
Today, hardly anyone eats turnips, and when they do, they expect white turnips. More's the pity, since this old-timer is a dandy, and just a few seed companies offer it.
Perhaps the oldest turnip in the seed industry today, 'Snowball' is, as its name suggests, a pure white, round turnip. What is much less well known about this old-timer is its flavor. Picked young, it is sweet and mild, with crisp, tender flesh. It is also a quick-grower, ready in just 30 to 40 days from sowing. Left too long, these heirlooms turn pithy, so astute gardeners pick them young and enjoy some of the best-tasting turnips around. Nearly lost.
'Georgia Rattlesnake' is an old favorite in the South. It is named for its mottled rind, which is light green with darker stripes that reminded somebody, someplace of the pattern on a rattlesnake. These melons, which were introduced circa 1870, weigh about 25 pounds and measure a little less than two feet long. Inside, they have rosy red flesh that is crisp and sweet. In 1890, one seedsmen rated the taste "first class." More than 50 years later, another reported that this was "one of the largest and best known home garden and shipping sorts." Today, 'Georgia Rattlesnake' has nearly disappeared. It is a regional melon, one that ripens too slowly for northern gardeners. Only a few seed companies still offer it.