Ever Ate An Heirloom?
Heirlooms are precious things. They are passed down through generations. In the vegetable world, an heirloom is one that has kept it’s traits through generations of open pollination versus through grafts and cuttings of other vegetables. Heirloom varieties such as tomatoes for example, were commonly grown in earlier periods of human history. Those varieties are not part of modern, large scale agrigulture which supplies the food generally found in grocery stores. Today’s tomatoes are bred for their productivity, and ability to stand up to processing or resist pesticides.
The popularity of gowing heirloom varieties in home gardens has spread across North America and Europe over the last decade. Another heirloom vegetable is Rapini. Known as brocoli rabe, it is widely popular in Italian cuisine. Rapini has a pleasing bitter flavor often lacking in our American diet. In our greenhouse plot over at Nancy’s Garden here in Frisco, CO, we grew rapini with good success for our first crop. The leaves were abundant and we harvested them often as we waited for the crowns to develop.
The simplest way to prepare Rapini is the steam or blanch it first, then sautee it in olive oil with garlic. A sprinkle of crushed red pepper gives the dish some spice. I like to finish it off at the table with a healthy topping of ramano cheese. Italians often serve Rapini by itself as a side dish, cooked with canelinni beans as an entrée, or stirred into rissoto.
Potoatoes are another heirloom crop growing over at Nancy’s Garden. Plot holders Janet and John simply took some fingerling potatoes that had begun to sprout and buried them in one of the outdoor plots. Janet & John have been plot holders since the garden started in 2010. John said one of the
challenges that popped up in the greenhouse this year are voles. The voles eat the roots of the plants as well as the tops and can kill plants. Filling in their tunnels is one way to deter voles. Using mice traps is another way John controls the vole population.
Since the planting season started early this year, we have sown a second round of rapinin over at our plot. As the seedlings begin to break ground, the must be thinned out so they have room to grow and fully develop. It is a fun experience to grow edible crops. The heirloom varieties are espicially rewarding because they are often not availble in grocery stores.
Learn more Mediterranean cooking and enjoy the benefits of this renowned cuisine here: