The diversity of edible plants never ceases to amaze me. Here are some rare vegetables and fruits that you may not have known existed, or have been looking for and could not find.
I have searched out little known vegetables and have found local PA German rare delicacies as well. You are sure to find something tantalizing to grow, eat and enjoy on this page.
All seed packs are $2.50 each
CLICK ON EACH SMALL PHOTO TO SEE A MUCH LARGER VERSION OF THAT PHOTO - USE "BACK BUTTON" TO COME BACK TO THIS PAGE.
JAPANESE YUBARI KING TYPE CANTELOPE- BACK AGAIN - Very Limited Quantities Order Early ~~VERY RARE!~ One of only 2 USA seed sources ~ ~ Here is Amishland this summer it was cold, wet and just plain awful for melon growing. So once again my dear friend Cliff did my growing for me. Since he was handling all the growing of this fabulous, rare melon I am giving you, in his own words, the description as follows: “90 days, 3-4-1/2 lb melons, very productive 10+ melons per vine. Honey sweet orange flesh that extends almost to rind. At full slip, melon is at peak of ripeness, will not store long at this stage. Can be harvested before full slip and still have very good flavor/sweetness. 1n 1960s, melon was a hybrid, created for the farming area around Yubari City, Hokkaido Island, Japan. Very intense agricultural area, climate similar to most of USA. Over time, an open pollinated version was developed.
Two years ago, a pair of Yubari King melons sold for a record $203,000, at a charity auction in Japan. Full story of this auction can be read on-line. Japan does not allow imports of cantaloupes or watermelons, and all domestic production is sold at auction by their agriculture department. Most common people in Japan can not afford to buy melons, as they are too expensive. Most are bought to be given as gifts to a favored friend." Please see this Japanese website for very detailed history of this melon. http://www.bigempire.com/sake/yubari.html. Since this is officially not the Yubari King Melon of Japan, which is controlled by the Japanese Government, we are calling it "JAPANESE YUBARI KING TYPE CANTELOPE”. The photo for this melon was also taken by Cliff.
5 fresh sustainably grown seeds.
*NEW FOR 2013* AMISH DEER TONGUE LETTUCE ~RARE and Endangered~ Living here on my new farmette my biggest fear as a gardener is the deer chomping down all my hard work. There are 100 acres of undeveloped woodland right behind my home and cottage. Up until the record breaking cold we have had here in Amishland this winter I luckily had not see them. That is until the "deer hoedown" the other night. They are deep woods deer and very skittish but so hungry they came and ate birdseed. Duke and Earl, my cats, watched them and then threw themselves at the window which sent the party scattering. I swear they just disappeared right before my eyes! This party has been every night now. The spotlights help a bit but me screaming like a banshee is the most effective.
Last spring I did put up a deer netting fence around my gardens. The idea is that they walk into it and it spooks them. I thought that sounded foolish, until I repeatedly walked into the near invisible netting and spooked myself! Yep it works great, at least on (dumb) humans !
Amish deer tongue lettuce is an old heirloom variety dating all the way back to around 1840. The name, deer tongue, comes from its pointed leaves that are triangularly shaped with green straight edges. Ok, I don't know about you but I have never seen an actual deer tongue up close, but I know its way long when they stand on their hind legs to eat apples off the tree. So maybe they are truly triangular? I will have to ask my deer hunting friend Jon S. He shot a 200+ lb trophy buck this year with, get this, three (3) antlers, God's truth! The number of points on the 2 regular ones was 12 and then for good measure a few more on the middle one!
Back to this great lettuce. I always try to grow any Amish heirlooms that I can and I don't know why I didn't think to save seeds from "Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce". I have grown it for years at a museum demonstration garden I used to help with. There is a reason its been so popular all these years. For one, it has super heat tolerance, so it won't bolt even under high temperatures in the summer. The lettuce has a thin midrib, a nice crisp texture and just wonderful sharp, clean flavor. It grows into these wild, curving rosettes that are very psychodelic looking and so ornamental.
This incredible heirloom lettuce is in danger of extinction. It is listed on Slow Food USA Ark of Taste. The Ark is "an international catalog of foods that are threatened by industrial standardization, the regulations of large-scale distribution and environmental damage." Here is the link for this amazing organization: http://www.slowfoodfoundation.com/pagine/eng/arca/cerca.lasso?-id_pg=36
I am listed with the Ark as source for several varieties of endangered seeds (look at my Hinkelhatz Hot Pepper here) and this year, hopefully, will be listed as one of the few sources of this rare lettuce as well.
So be sure to try this wonderful genuine Amish lettuce known for it ruggedness and heavy production in just about any climate. And let the deer frolicking begin! One Pack is a "pinch" of seeds - about 20+ of my own fresh organically grown seeds.
NETTED NUTMEG CANTELOUPE aka GREEN NUTMEG aka NETTED GEM CANTELOUPE ~Hard to Find Original Type~ Here in Amishland this summer it was cold, wet and just plain awful for melon growing. So once again my dear friend Cliff did my growing for me. He said her could hardly improve on the description he found in a 1931 seed catalog, Union Farm & Garden Store, Boise Idaho: Netted Gem: "We consider this is one of the best varieties in cultivation for family use. Vines hardy, productive, fruit round slightly flattened at both ends, ribbed covered with course netting; flesh very thick, green and of the highest flavor!" The flavor of the pale green flesh is meltingly good, with a hint of spice and nutmeg, hence the name. A "Nutmeg Melon" was grown in Europe prior to 1850 and used for breeding stock for the development of other melons. This is a great one for the home gardener to grow and eat. Don't get those awful cardboard hybrids so common now when you can get that old time taste here. Easy to pick, its slips off the vine when perfectly ripe. Cliff said he got 6 to 8 fruits per plant. Please see my “NEW FOR 2010” information for more about Cliff. The photo for this melon was also taken by Cliff.
10 fresh sustainably grown seeds.
HMOMG RED CUCUMBER ~VERY SCARCE ~ HARD TO FIND THIS YEAR~ Very Limited Quantities ~ Order Early~ This lovely cuke is very like the wonderful rare Sikkim Cucumber which I did not grow out this year due to the late cold spring we had . Actually, I did not grow any curcubits in Amishland this summer. It is well that I didn't as we had such cold, rainy weather that the fungal diseases rampant this summer would have killed off just about anything in that plant family. I know of virtually no one who was successful with curcubits locally. So, my wonderful farmer friend, Cliff, grew and saved painstakingly the seeds for this cucumber out for me. Here in his own words are what Cliff had to say about the Hmong Red cucumber: “...is a very aggressive grower, excellent choice for trellis, as seedlings stand very erect. Did not tie one single vine to trellis, and 99% of fruits were on the trellis. Produces extremely well all season long. At 6 inches, cucumber is a pale white, has an excellent flavor with a hint of pepper. Said to be sweeter than most other cucumbers. Also has a higher water content, so growers need to be careful not to over-water this variety. Some pictures show this cucumber in the middle maturity as pimento red..." But, as I learned in my research, this color was due to faulty advertising photos from one seed company that first marketed it and now everyone expects it will be this wild red color. Actually it will be a deep golden orange prior to the darker netting stage that you see in Cliff's photos.
I actually visited some of the areas where the hill tribe Hmongs (aka Black Meo -called black because of their black costumes) live. They live in the mountain border regions of Thailand, China, Laos and Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, it was illegal for a non-military American to visit the northern border of Thailand or to go into Laos and Cambodia. I got a special short term visa in order to visit the fabled Angkor Wat Temples in Cambodia. I did visit a Hmong village on that trip which, alas, was cut short. I was traveling by motorcycle with an ex-Peace Corps American who spoke fluent Thai and some other dialects. As we approached the actual border, much to my consternation, we were shot at by snipers. My friend was all for toughing it out and gunning the engines and proceeding. Me, I was stunned and demanded we turn around. They didn't actually appear to be trying to hit us, just scaring us away. Trust me, it's one thing to watch a movie with sniper fire, but it's way too real in person. Honestly, strange as it sounds, you couldn't hear the bullets, over the motorcycle noise and through our helmets. But I can still remember the horror of just seeing that long spray of dust for each bullet as it hit the ground at our feet. Yep, I was hightailing it way fast back down to Thailand!! So much for viewing ancient Cambodian culture. My friend caught up with me finally. I did purchase a piece of woven silk in that Hmong village which I treasure as the memento of a day I nearly died. So the Hmong Red Cucumber is extra special to me. Please see my “NEW FOR 2010 " information for more about Cliff. The lovely photo of this cuke was also taken by Cliff .The picture shows three stages of maturity, the white to the right, and late middle at top.
10 fresh sustainably grown seeds.
JAPANESE DENSUKE TYPE WATERMELON ~SCARCE~Only One of 2 USA Sources (85 days) My wonderful farmer friend Cliff grew the seeds for this watermelon out for me, as I had a terrible growing season in Amishland these past 2 summers and had no melons. So, since I didn't get to taste this beauty, I am using Cliff's description word for word as follows: "10-15 pounds, most 8-1/2" by 10", large blackish seeds, flesh very crisp, pleasantly sweet, different taste than most USA melons. Brix, scientific measurement of sugar content for these melons, was 11-12. Very sweet watermelons brix from 9 to about 12, with 10 being the bottom range for most melons. True Japanese Densuke watermelons have a black colored rind; these only turned dark green in Idaho. Soil and ph can have an effect on the coloring aspects of vegetables, and speculate that the rich volcanic ash soils of Hokkaido Island contribute to the darkness of the rind. This Melon originates near Sapporo city, on Hokkaido Island, Japan. Hokkaido is the northern most island. Large amount of Japanese produce originates near Sapporo, the vegetable food basket for Japan. Area is renowned also for many varieties of winter squash." The lovely photo for this melon was also taken by Cliff.
5 fresh sustainably grown seeds.
EIN DOR CANTELOUPE- 100 days -This is a fabulous dessert melon which was developed on the Ein Dor Kibbutz in Israel. Very rare and hard to find in the United States. The range in size from 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 pounds (lbs.) It is light colored with very slight netting compared to American cantaloupes. It releases from stem (slips) when ripe. This sweet melon got rave reviews in all my taste testings. And when I sold out last season they all begged for more seeds. People couldn’t get enough of it, swearing it was the best cantaloupe they had ever eaten. It has a fruity, banana taste, with pale green flesh, (which looks white in this photo.) It is great tasting clear to rind. The fruits are a unique football shape. This melon was grown sustainably for me by my great friend Cliff, since I just don't have the room for melon growing here in my Lancaster County gardens. The lovely photo is by Cliff also.
5 fresh sustainably grown seeds.
TUSCAN BLACK PALM CABBAGE, aka NERO DI TOSCANA, LACINATO KALE- Brassica oleracea, Acephala group - By any name this is a showstopper! These plants are so primeval looking that they have earned the nickname "Dinosaur Kale"! They have huge, heavily crinkled (savoyed) leaves of black-green nearly 2 feet long. It grows up to 4 ft high in good, rich, soil.
This heirloom dates back to the 1700's and is prized for soups and stews in its native Tuscany, Italy. It is great cooked in olive oil with garlic. This truly is one of the most beautiful and adaptable kales you can possibly grow. It is very cold hardy, but also remains tender and sweet in summertime when other kales become tough and bitter. A touch of frost only sweetens it more. "Lacinato" kale makes a fabulous edible ornamental for both the kitchen or the flower garden. As the name suggests, it really does look like little black palm trees. 20 of my own organically grown seeds.
RED RUSSIAN KALE AKA Ragged Jack -Stunningly beautiful and easy to grow. What more could you want from a vegetable. Oh yes, its delicious and sweet and exceptionally good and healthy for you! So beautiful, you can use it in your flower beds as an edible ornamental. Delicate flavor is sweeter after a frost or eaten very young in salads. Large oak leaf shaped leaves with purple red veins. It turns redder and more vibrant as the weather gets cooler. Very frost tolerant. If you never liked kale before, try this one, you will change your mind for sure! Last season I did an experiment in growing many types of kale and this one won hands down.
20 of my own fresh organically grown seeds.
STRAWBERRY SPINACH - aka Beetberry, Strawberry Blite, Chenopodium capitatum - HARD TO FIND
Salad~Dessert in one plant! This is a very rare ancient vegetable dating back 400 years! It was rediscovered at old monasteries in Europe. This is one of my best sellers as it is so hard to find and so unsual and such fun. It is similar to Lamb's Quarters in habit, although smaller. Grows 1-1/2 Feet high. Triangular, toothed leaves are thinner than spinach, very nutritious and high in vitamins. The tender shoots are used in salads or cooked like spinach. But the real surprise is that at each leaf axle there is an abundance of sweet, strawberry-like fruits which some say resemble mulberries. Can reseed vigorously.
10 Teensy weensy seeds- my own organically grown seeds. (lay on surface of soil to germinate)
NEW! ASTRAKHANSKI WATERMELON - RUSSIAN HEIRLOOM 75-85 days. This is a super short season rare watermelon. It hails from the city of Astrakhan, on the Volga River near the Caspian Sea. It is a larger refrigerator size, ranging from 8-10 pounds (lbs). The shape is roundish at 10-12 inches. See tape measure to get a idea of its diminuative size. This rare watermelon has a wonderful, delicious, delicate sweetness. The flesh is is pink and the seeds seem to vary in color and can be buff ,orangeish or brownish. The rind is dark green with stripes and mottling. It is a very pretty melon that doesnt get too huge like many, good for a small family or one very hungry watermelon lover. This melon was grown sustainably for me by my great friend Cliff, since I just don't have the room for melon growing here in my Lancaster County gardens. This is also Cliff's great photo.
10 fresh seeds.
EVA'S BURGUNDY LETTUCE - 5 Generation HEIRLOOM - EXCLUSIVE SEED SOURCE - This is an extremely rare heirloom lettuce. This is a winter hardy green with burgundy tips lettuce that has a shimmering, almost metallic sheen on the leaves. I believe this protects it from the cold. I have the only source of this seed available to the public. I got my original seeds from my 89 year old neighbor and friend, Eva, who passed away six years ago in June. I truly miss her and all her stories and gardening knowledge she passed onto me. This lettuce has been grown on her family farm, in the same fertile valley here in Amishland, for 5 generations at least! It is a gorgeous ruffly, Romaine/Cos crisp type of lettuce. It is totally winter hardy. Eva said the best time to plant it is in the falltime and it will grow a little, then overwinter, no matter what the weather, with no cover. Mine was thriving and green under the snow every season.
Extremely beautiful lettuce (see photos). The cooler the weather the redder or deeper in color it gets. In warmer weather it is greener. Very tasty and sweet and crunchy, and keeps on producing and almost never bolts (goes to flowering) or gets bitter. You must let lettuce go to flower in order to save seeds. This one got bigger than I have ever seen - 6 feet tall. All my neighbors kept asking what the huge, tall plants were in my garden!
This lettuce seed has never been offered to the public before. Only Eva's relatives and a few lucky friends (like me) have ever grown this lettuce. She has sold this as a cut lettuce at a local outdoor farmer's market here in Lancaster county for over 50 years. I feel that the special attributes (its wonderful taste and ability to overwinter, plus late bolting qualities in summer heat) should be shared with more people. You will love this lettuce. It is very easy to grow,and it makes a great early spring lettuce too. Plus it resists bolting in the heat of summer and last longer (actually all 12 months if cut regularly!) than any other lettuce I have grown or that you will ever find, believe me!
Very limited amount of seed available. The seed is a very dark brown/black color. I acquired and grew another rare heirloom lettuce which had a similar look, called "De Morges Braun" but that was white seeded. I grew it side by side with "Eva's Burgundy Lettuce" and is not the same lettuce at all. I gave seeds of "Eva's burgundy Lettuce" for identification to my fellow seed saver, William Woys Weaver. He is a famous foodways historian and author of my favorite gardening book: Heirloom Vegetable Gardening. He grew it out and confirmed it is unlike any other lettuce he has found, and he felt it was a totally unique, formerly unknown heirloom lettuce. 15 of my own fresh organically grown seeds.
~SCARCE~"EARLY CLUSTER" or "RUSSIAN CUCUMBER" Very early at 52-60 days. This small pickling variety was introduced into the United States from Russia in the 1850's. It is still popular after all these years because it grows so prolifically on a trellis. It just naturally grows erect right to the trellis, with its long tendrils reaching out to the support. It is carefree as you hardly have to do any any hand tying of the plant onto the trellis. This cucumber is very hardy, vigorous, and bears heavily all season till frost. I guess its Russian background makes it bear the most in late summer and early fall when all your other cukes have succumbed to the heat long before. It grows in clusters of 2 or 3 fruits. The fruits are pale green on the blossom end and darker green on the stem end. The fruits are about 6 inches long by 2 1/2 inches across. I wouldn't suggest this as a market cucumber, as it doesn't have consistent form. But it is just super for a home gardener and is never bitter. It just makes the best pickles! Here in Amishland the locals refer to all cucumbers as pickles, even when they are growing on the vine. My friend Cliff grew out my seed stock for me sustainably. This lovely photo was taken by Cliff also.Try this one and you won't ever buy or eat another hybrid pickler again.
10 fresh sustainably grown seeds.
CLAYTONIA aka Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata (syn. Montia perfoliata)- LOOKS LIKE FAIRY BOUQUETS!- This is absolutely one of the cutest and most enjoyable little edible plants you can possibly grow! First a little bit of history. Calytonia's common name, "Miner's Lettuce", comes from the fact that miners during the California gold rush days, used to eat the plant, which then grew wild, for salad greens. It certainly helped when nothing else green and fresh was available at that time of year. Also has very high vitamin C content. They may not known about vitamins back then but they did know it made them happier and healthier to eat such "greens" in late winter when they had no other fresh vegetables. The generic name, Claytonia, is after John Clayton, a botanist in the 1600's. The specific name, perfoliata, refers to the leaves that are attached at the base that completely encircle the stem -that is what perfolitata translates as. Succulent little leaves start by being diamond shaped, (as in the diamonds on card suits). Then as the plant matures a bit later, it forms these perfect little funnels, that look exactly like old fashioned nosegays (or “tussie mussies" as they were called in colonial days). They even have teeny, tiny little white flowers inside that are so perfect they look like the fairies made them, I swear. A charming and adorable plant that always pleases children and those young at heart. This plant likes cold weather and is one of the first to sprout in late winter if not earlier in my zone 6A garden. They self seed easily, so it is delightful to see where they appear each season like magic. They will bolt and disappear when it gets hot. Planting in a woodland setting or with alpine plants might extend the season, but I have not tried that as yet.
The entire plant grows maybe 8" across, although it can get up to one foot wide, growing in a little mound. Very refreshing, succulent, “wet" taste of the leaves lends itself well to early spring mixes or mesclum salads. It took me years to collect enough seeds to sell, because just when the claytonia made seeds it would suddenly disappear before I could collect them. I finally learned the exact timing and voila, now you can enjoy these Lilliputian delights for yourself. Sorry, my photo does not do justice to this plant's beauty, it is a very early shot before the funnel is fully formed. Very limited supply, order early 10 of my own fresh organically grown teeny weeny seeds.
**SORRY SOLD OUT ALREADY FOR 2013 SEASON** SKIRRET - Siumsisarum These are very rare and hard to find seeds. I am very proud to be offering it. The name (sium) is from the Celtic siu (water), referring to their wet habitat. Skirret is derived from the Dutch "suikerwortel" meaning "sugar root." It is also known as "skirwort."It is a vegetable grown for its sweet, edible roots. This member of the carrot and parsley family Umbelliferae) originated in the Far East. It is still used widely in China and Japan, but is a very minor crop in the United States. Has a taste superior to Carrots, not unlike parsnips. The roots are white inside and the flowers are white, too. Emperor Tiberius liked it so much that it is said he demanded it as a tribute from the Germans who had evidently introduced the plant from China. Skirret or Water Parsnip, was once popular in the American colonies, but is rarely grown now. If you enjoy Hamburg Root Parsley and Salsify, you should try Skirret. It is grown for its numerous, swollen, fleshy roots, which look a lot like skinny Dahlia tubers. Sweet, white, and pleasant tasting roots are often cooked like Salsify or Scorzonera (Black Salsify-May be tricky to grow from seed, although I had no trouble at all. I would advise starting it indoors in peat pots 8-10 weeks before before putting out. Plants grow to 5 feet tall, with very ornamental, lacy white flowers, not unlike Queen Ann's lace, see photo. **SORRY SOLD OUT ALREADY FOR 2013 SEASON**
PURPLE ORACH ORGANIC PURPLE RED ORACH-MOUNTAIN SPINACH Chenopodium hortensis - 30 days- This stunning purple red mountain spinach is a wonderful late summer and fall green. An annual plant, it will grow to 2-3 feet and will have thick, savoyed, large, arrow shaped purple leaves with spinach-like quality. I prefer it picked fresh from the garden but it can be steamed or used in cooking like spinach leaves. Contains 3 times the vitamin C as spinach. The photo is of a very young plant- it gets much more intensely cerise purple in color when it matures- this photo does not do it justice. 10 of my own Organically grown seeds.