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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Heirloom Vegetable Gardening

A couple weeks ago I was sent a copy of William Woys Weaver's Heirloom Vegetable Gardening from Mother Earth News. I'm always excited to get more information on a favorite subject of mine, vegetables!

The book was first published in 1997 and is now available on CD. Unfortunately you don't get the tactile sensation of reading a book on paper but if you can move beyond that and look at the great information available you will indeed learn something!

After the foreward by Peter Hatch and an introduction that displays where Mr. Weaver's passion for heirloom vegetables and seeds originated, he begins his book with a section on the kitchen garden which I believe is only becoming more and more relevant today. He talks about the history of the kitchen garden, its Mediterranean ties, and how it came to be what it is.  It's very interesting information if you have ever wondered how things evolved into the backyard gardens we have today. 

As my favorite category of vegetables is the tomato my first look at this tome of heirloom lore was to see what Mr. Weaver wrote on that subject. The amount of detailed historical information is simply astounding. Each heirloom variety has its own heading with information on the origin of the vegetable as documented from various sources. You learn things like who developed it, what possible ancestor varieties the heirlooms had, and even what variations developed from the original cultivar. Since heirloom vegetables are open pollinated there are constant changes between generations which helps to build resistance to diseases.  You also learn about the loss of varieties that you may never have known about like the 'Crimson Cluster' Tomato whose descendants are most likely the 'Tigerella' or the 'Schimmeig Stoo'.  I've heard of 'Tigerella' but not 'Schimmeig Stoo'  but it sure sounds interesting! But alas for the 'Crimson Cluster' we will never know its flavor. Skimming through all this information is making me appreciate seed saving a whole lot more.

I can only begin to tell you how much good information is in this book.  My only reservation in recommending it is that this is the type of book you want to pull off the shelf and sit down with for a spell and not the type of book I would want on a computer screen. Unfortunately Heirloom Vegetable Gardening is out of print in other forms.  Of course you could print it off chapter by chapter as you go through the book, which is just what I may have to do!

6 comments :

  1. Ah, this sounds all very interesting. I love history of gardens and plants.

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  2. Sounds like a great book. I don't like to read long pieces on the computer screen either so I just checked alibris.com; the asking price on the cheapest copy is $134.95. Ouch! Maybe somebody will reissue it in book form.

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  3. It sounds like a great book Dave. I had the same idea as Entangled, and found it available on the web used. It seems to average about $150.00! I second that ouch! CD seems to be the way to go.

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  4. My interest in heirloom tomatoes started about four years ago after a Dave's Garden friend and I started conversing about saving tomato seed. He's a top notch heirloom tomato grower, and what I consider to be an expert in the field. Several seed companies use his seed stock in their catalog. If you like, I can send you several interesting links regarding heirloom tomatoes. And I'm sure my fellow Kentuckian wouldn't mind if I gave you his name either.

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  5. Hi Dave, thanks for telling us about this book. The tomato section sounds great. Also, the green roof idea is too cool. Playhouse for the girls with one would be fabulous. And finally the cherry trees are my faves too. I hope your free one is the right kind, but am also doubtful. I guess we are both skeptics! HA
    Frances

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  6. Thanks for the recommendation, Dave!

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