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Gardening in Autumn – Heirloom Vegetables

April 4, 2011
Heirloom: (noun) A valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations.
Ref: Oxford English Dictionary
An heirloom vegetable seed is exactly as the above definition states. A valuable seed, in this case which has been passed down from generation to generation. It is always Open -pollinated and therefore non-hybrid, that means that nature takes care of propagation and the process is not tampered with by humans. Time is the determining factor on whether a variety is an heirloom or not.  Some schools of thought say that the heirloom variety of seed has to be more than 100 years old, others say 50 years old, and then there are those that say varieties from before 1945.  There may be differing opinions on the time lines, however all agree that heirlooms are imperative to our food security. 

These heirloom variety cultivars have been around in some cases for many generations, and have often been grown in the vegetable patches of families, who have single handedly maintained a specific cultivar’s survival. Seeds have travelled across the globe in hems of skirts and linings of jackets, by immigrants who wanted to bring a little of their history to their new country enabling them to pick the same tomatoes and other familiar vegetables that they had eaten all their lives, reminding them of “home”.

Heirloom cultivars have managed to survive through the ages by developing their own resistance to diseases and pests, adapting to changing climates, soil types and conditions and producing well with unbelievable flavour.  Unfortunately, due to mass commercial farming, and the need for hybrid or GM, (Genetically modified) seed, we run the risk of loosing many cultivars and many of them becoming extinct, threatening our food security.

Franchi Sementi, a family run business for over 227 years, is responsible for maintaining over 70 heirloom varieties worldwide & we now can make these seeds available to you in South Africa. Here are some Heirlooom vegetables to include in your winter patch which can provide you with many a seasonal feast, we have over 60 varieties of veggies to choose from for just winter gardening.

Cauliflower Romanesco Precoce
Sowing time: Early Autumn
Sowing distance: 50cm apart

The Lime Green Spiralled Romanesco Precoce is grown in the North of Italy, like most of our Vegetable seeds. This amazing cauliflower has an exquisite buttery flavor and is delicious raw or cooked. With a gorgeous Pecorino Cheese grated over and baked in the oven this wonderful vegetable maintains its vibrant Green Colour.

Cauliflower Di Sicilia Violetto
Sowing time: Early Autumn
Sowing distance: 50cm apart. 

The Purple Cauliflower or Di Sicilia Violetto is an Heirloom to the region of Sicily, which is the South of Italy. It is the original colour of cauliflower, it has a milder and sweeter flavour than its white cousin.  Due to its purple colour it possesses a powerful antioxidant called Anthocyanin which is present in Red wine and Red cabbage too.  It can be prepared in a Vegetable curry with potatoes, onions and a good home made broth – magnificent!

Kale – Cavolo Nero – SUPER VEG!
Sowing times: Autumn
Sowing distance: 60cm apart 

Also known as Black Kale or Cavolo Nero in Italian it is an Heirloom to Tuscany. It is Italy’s winter vegetable, much sort after and used in many speciality dishes the most famous being “Zuppa di Cavolo Nero” (Winter soup).  Its appearance is large deep Grayish-Green leaves which can grow to about 1m long. It is part of the Brassica family, (cabbage family) and has high antioxidant properties, It is also considered to have anti-inflammatory properties and are also excellent for the gut.  High in Beta-caratene and Vitamin K, A and C, including many other minerals. Like all Brassicas it possesses Sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties.  It has indole-3-carbinol which boosts DNA repair and blocks the growth of cancer cells this vegetable truly is a Super Food!!
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Heirloom seeds provide genetic variability , ensuring our food security, and prevent genetic bottlenecking, which is caused by genetically modifying species. Sought After Seedlings
Linda Galvad | linda@soughtafterseedlings.co.za | www.soughtafterseedlings.co.za

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