I have always enjoyed growing my own produce. As I love cooking, I'm always on the lookout for different varieties I can grow at home to make my dishes taste better.
It was during this process a few years ago that I stumbled upon heirloom vegetables. Some very good people with foresight developed processes by which many varieties of fruits and vegetables have been kept pure throughout history. These are known as heritage or heirloom. Many of the strains now available were grown early in human history but were never used in modern day agriculture. They were kept pure through a variety of methods like seed banks and open pollination, while fruits were grown via grafts and cuttings. Modern agriculture has modified many things to make them grow faster and look better on the supermarket shelf, all at the expense of flavour and nutrients. While it does take a while to get used to eating ripe green and black tomatoes, you soon realise what has been missing from the taste of the more common looking varieties.
In Australia, the heirloom variates are distributed through Diggers Club. It's a fantastic resource if your are into growing at home with lots of cool stuff, check it out and if you are lucky enough to be in Victoria, they even have a few community gardens. Not everything is available in WA but we can get most varieties. I have grown everything from rainbow chard, beetroot and the most amazing tomatoes I've ever eaten. After sharing them with several friends, they all confirmed my opinion - they really do taste better.
Bunnings and other nurseries are now selling the seedlings, so just keep your eye out for them. I get 90% of mine from Alix of Heirloom Farm. She visits a few markets around Perth; I get mine from Kalamunda. I’ve tried growing from seed, which works fine for some plants, but it does take longer. Planting seedlings means you get another harvest before the season is over for some plants like tomatoes. Alix has a huge range of plants available seasonally. You can email her here.
There has been an increasing trend towards planting heirloom plants in gardens around the world, particular in Australia, North America and Europe, as people have a desire to get back to good-old flavour. Interestingly, they have adapted over time to whatever climate and soil they are in and are often resistant to local pests, diseases, and weather. I have been a home-grower for a while now and there is no doubt that to me that they are also stronger plants compared to mass produced nursery seedlings. There really aren’t too many tricks to growing them, although I will go into a few in more detail later as a few quick tips for various things will have your on your way. Heirlooms grow faster, are more hardy and the flavours will amaze you, so be sure to check them out.