Here are some rare vegetables 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 some local Pensylvania German rare delicacies as well. You are sure to find something tantalizing to grow, eat and enjoy on this page.
All seed packs are $3.00 each
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BACK FOR 2016! ~ EVA'S BURGUNDY LETTUCE ~
aka "Eva Snader's Brown Winter Lettuce"
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 been the only source of this seed available to the public for over 15 years. Before I launched this Amishland Heirloom Seed website I sold some of my seeds on ebay including this one.
I got my original seeds from my neighbor, friend and garden mentor, Eva Snader. She passed away at 89 in 2006. I truly miss her and all her stories and gardening knowledge she passed onto me. This lettuce has been grown on her family farms, in Schoeneck , Lancaster County,Pennsylvania, all in the same fertile valley for at least 5 generations! It is a gorgeous ruffly, very crisp type of lettuce. It is totally winter hardy. Eva said the best time to plant it is in the fall time and it will grow a little, then overwinter, no matter what the weather, with no cover. Mine has been 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 lettuce seed had never been offered to the public before. Only Eva's relatives and a few lucky friends (like me) have ever grown this lettuce. She sold this as a cut lettuce at a local outdoor market called "Green Dragon" in Ephrata, PA, 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.
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." I grew it side by side with "Eva's Burgundy Lettuce" and is not the same lettuce at all. Years ago I gave seeds of "Eva's Burgundy Lettuce" for identification to my fellow seed saver, William Woys Weaver, the 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.
He now calls it "Eva Snader's Brown Winter Lettuce", and has this to say: "This is one of the most distinctive Pennsylvania Dutch lettuces in our (Roughwood) seed collection. It was preserved by the late Eva Snader of Schoeneck, Pennsylvania and appears to be a local selection of the black-seeded Brown Dutch Winter (Laitue brune de Hollande see page 179 of his book) introduced into the US as a forcing lettuce during the 1860s. Extremely compact with bronze-tinged leaves, it makes an ideal winter lettuce for small gardens, and will reseed readily. Plant 6 to 7 inches apart in early September for winter salads into February. Also ideal for cold frames."
You will absolutely love this lettuce. It becomes everyone's favorite once they grow it. So very easy to grow, and it makes a great early spring lettuce too. Plus, it resists bolting in the heat of summer and lasts longer (actually all 12 months of the year, if cut regularly!) than any other lettuce I have grown or that you will ever find, believe me! I wouldn't have a garden without it, and you will soon feel the same!
ONE PACK = 20 OF MY OWN ORGANICALLY GROWN SEEDS
*BACK FOR 2016* 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.
**BACK AGAIN ** 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.) This 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 4+ feet tall, with very ornamental, lacy white flowers, not unlike Queen Ann's lace, see photo. One Pack is 20+ teeny tiny seeds, a big " pinch" of seeds.
20 very tiny fresh organically grown seeds.
These cute little fruits are related to both tomatoes and to the "Chinese Lanterns" (they are in the same physalis family, and they look a lot like miniature tomatillos). The Amish, Mennonites and Pennsylvania Dutch use them in jellies, jams, pies, etc. (be sure to see the recipes for Ground Cherry Pie, and Ground Cherry Soup in my Recipe section.) This is a traditional PA Dutch foodstuff and ground cherries were used primarily before tomatoes became widely available and eaten.
These fruits must ripen and slip from their husks and the plant before they can be eaten. The locals often pull up the entire plant in the fall and hang them upside down in an airy place. They stay preserved in their husks and can be harvested all winter, hence the name "Wintercherry." These plants grow on sprawling bushes about 2-4 ft. tall with long drooping branches that drop down and spread 3-4 ft. on the ground. These will self seed, so plant them where you really want them and they will come back year after year.
I got my original local heirloom husk cherries from an Old Order Mennonite farmer, Ammon Martin, who lives nearby on the way to the village of Fivepointville. (Yep, 5 farm roads all intersect there.) There are predominately Old Order (horse and buggy) Mennonite farms area in this part of Lancaster County, PA. That means, they use no mechanical devices, no tractors, no cars, that kind of modern thing. Of course, they do not use electricity or phones (not even cell phones which the local Amish are all starting to use now.) The Old Order Mennonite sects are much more conservative than the Amish around here. 10 fresh sustainably grown seeds.
~LONG WINTER LEEK aka COMMON LEEK~ This leek is a Pacific Northwest Landrace ~
I received these seeds from Cliff who said: "Raised this variety for about ten years, foundation came from transplant leek plants, no variety named. Collected seed over last ten years. Biennial, seed sets in second yr. (my remaining established bulbs seed every year) This variety is long& skinny,used a few for cooking, mild flavor. Very cold hardy, plant in fall or early spring in NW, warmer areas can plant fall thru winter. Very hardy variety." Photo is by Cliff who also says: "the Line drawing is from this book: The Vegetable Garden by MM. Vilmorin-Andrieux page 283, Long Winter Leek, description fits my common leek seed."
My stepfather was a gourmet chef who cherished French cooking in particular. His cold leek and potato soup called vichyssoise was made with leeks and potatoes. Here is the master French Chef, Julia child's way easy recipe which he followed:
Vichyssoise -This soup is traditionally served cold. Older potatoes are recommended because the longer they sit, the starch in the potatoes begins to turn to sugar. If you wish, you may use chicken stock instead of water for a richer flavor.
4 cups sliced leeks, white part only
4 cups diced potatoes, old or baking potatoes recommended
6 to 7 cups water
1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt or to taste
1/2 cup or more sour cream, heavy cream, or creme fraiche, optional
1 Tablespoon fresh chives or parsley, minced
Bring the leeks, potatoes, and water to the boil in the saucepan. Salt lightly, cover partially, and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Puree the soup if you wish. Taste, and correct seasoning.
After chilling the soup, you may wish to stir in a little sour cream, heavy cream or creme fraiche. Taste carefully again, and correct the seasoning. Top each serving with a sprinkle of chives or parsley.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings, about 2-1/2 quarts Recipe Source: The Way to Cook by Julia Child (Alfred A. Knopf)
ONE PACK = 1/4 teaspoon of the fresh, sustainably grown tiny leek seeds
ARMENIAN CUCUMBER aka SERPENT MELON MIX -INCREASED SEED QUANTITY DUE TO GREAT GROWING SEASON
This is an ancient heirloom and is actually a true melon but is eaten as a sweet and wonderful cucumber instead. My friend Cliff grew this out for me. He said to have the cucumber taste you must harvest at 12 inches or less. Or you can let it grow up to 3 feet when it will taste more like a melon. They are lovely ribbed fruit and grow straight and true whether allowed to gambol on the ground or tied to a trellis. He found they stayed straight regardless of how it was grown although some sources say it will only grow straight if trellised. It grows well in poorer soils that are sandy and well drained. He said that in 2009 they grew great on the gravel in his driveway and did better than where planted in better soil on a trellis. So benign neglect works well for these! Great sweet taste with no bitterness that is often the case with so many cucumbers.
In this mix you will get an assortment including:
Metki white, Metki green, Metki yellow, Metki painted Serpent Melon (dark green with pale green/gray stripes). Cliff also had this to say about them: "Colors appear toward later maturity. In early stage, all appear in different shades of green, (the edible cucumber stage).
INCREASED SEED QUANTITY DUE TO GREAT GROWING SEASON
30 sustainably grown seeds.
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.
HMOMG RED CUCUMBER ~VERY SCARCE ~ HARD TO FIND THIS YEAR~
INCREASED SEED QUANTITY!
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 . 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 west 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.The lovely photo of this cucumber was also taken by Cliff .The picture shows three stages of maturity, the white to the right, and late middle at top.
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.
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.
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)
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.
In the tiny village of Reamstown, where I go to pick up my mail, there is a historic old farmstead, dating back to the early 1800's. The cut red sandstone barn is meticulously built and still has its original hand hewn iron hinges and door handles. The builder must have been really proud of the barn he built because, unlike any I have ever seen here in Lancaster County, the name of the farm is painted in large black letters over lime white: "Pierce Lesher Farm" under the overhang by the main doorway. The recently restored stone home and separate summer kitchen sits next to it, as well as numerous out-buildings. The fence posts are hand carved out of stone with holes for the logs as the sidepieces. The only history I was able to research about the farm was that when the Reamstown Fair set up until the last fair held in 1853, they had foot races that were on the hill of his farm.
Anyway, I have always gravitated over to this farm since the day my car broke down in front of the barn. I had lots of time to explore while waiting for the tow truck. I noticed then the ground cherries growing by the fence alongside the road. I picked a few and took them home and grow out some plants from the seeds. These are the progeny of those first few fruits. These cute little fruits are related to both tomatoes and to the "Chinese Lanterns" (they are in the same physalis family, and they look a lot like little tomatillos). The Amish and Pa Dutch use them in jellies, jams, pies, etc. (be sure to see the recipe for Ground Cherry Pie in my Recipe section.) These fruits must ripen and slip from their husks and the plant before they can be eaten. The locals often pull up the entire plant in the fall and hang them upside down in an airy place. They stay preserved in their husks and can be harvested all winter, hence the name "Wintercherry." These plants grow on sprawling bushes about 2-4 ft. tall with long drooping branches that drop down and spread 3-4 ft. on the ground. These will self seed, so plant them where you really want them and they will come back year after year.
One whole dried organic fruit from this season- that's lots and lots of seeds! Hint, just soak the dried fruit and pull out the tiny seeds and plant like you would tomato seeds (see my seed starting and growing tips)