Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Top 10 heirloom fruits and vegetables for the Ozarks

Here are Jere Gettle’s top 10 favorite fruits and vegetables to grow in the Ozarks, along with his comments:

Tomatoes: Cherokee Purple. “It’s flavorful and grows well here. It does crack some, but it’s mighty good eating.”

Melons: Banana Melon. “It’s a big oblong cantaloupe, shaped like a giant banana. When you cut it, it’s really fragrant and tastes like an old time cantaloupe.”

Beans: Contender. “It only goes back to 1949, but that’s over 50 years old, so it qualifies. It’s a good solid producer, almost twice as much as others, and it has a good green bean taste.”

Watermelon: Ali Baba. “It’s from Iraq, and it has really crisp, pinkish flesh and a grayish green rind. It’s superior to anything you can get in the store and keeps ‘forever.’ It will keep 2 ½ months if you keep it kind of cool. We’ve had them past Thanksgiving, and they stay pretty crisp. A seed saver from France sent me the first seeds. He wrote to us three or four times, then he went back to Iraq and I haven’t heard from him since.”

Bell Peppers: Red Marconi. “It always does well here. It’s large, oblong, in a cayenne pepper shape, and it’s really, really sweet. It’s good in stir-frying or any way you want to use a sweet pepper. It’s long, 6, 8, 10 inches with medium thick walls, so it’s good for stuffing.

Long beans: “One of my favorites for this region is the Chinese Red Noodle Bean. It’s kind of ornamental, too. I have to grow it every year. It’s good in stir-fry, and in Thailand, they even use them raw. It’s stringless, thick as a pencil and about 14-15 inches long.

Lettuce: Forellenschluss. “We’ve sent it out the last four or five years, and everybody likes it. It’s a Romaine type, sweet and really crisp. Market gardeners love it. The leaves are green and red speckled. It’s from Austria and the name means ‘speckled like a trout.’”

Hot pepper: Thai Red Chili. “They’re great for flavor, they’re really hot and good in stir fry or for a cold remedy. You can grind it up and sprinkle it on different foods. It makes a good chili paste, too, and chefs in Springfield use it.

Cucumbers: “My favorite is Richmond Green Apple. It’s a little round cucumber, light green. It’s one of three from Australia that we have. The others are Crystal Apple and Lemon Cucumber, but this is the best. It’s very flavorful and the rind is tender.

Swiss Chard: Five Color Swiss Chard. “It’s ornamental as well as tasty. It’s yellow, orange, pink, black and red.”

Squash: Lemon Squash. “It’s really resistant to squash bugs, really prolific and tasty.”

Okra: “I’ve got several favorites. One is Hill Country Heirloom Red, from Texas. It makes a short fat pod with a red tinge. It’s really prolific, stems are red, pods are tinted red, and it greens when you boil it. It’s a really tasty okra.

More information is available at www.rareseeds.com.

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