Discover the freshest heirloom releases of spring 2018, just in time for planting.
By the Heirloom Gardener Editors
‘King Tut Purple’ Pea
A rare garden pea with quite the story, the seeds of this cultivar are rumored to have been taken out of the tomb of famed Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen, where they had been undisturbed for thousands of years, until Howard Carter found the tomb in 1922. From there, the legend goes, the seeds were taken to England, where they were propagated and shared with friends. Others posit that ‘King Tut Purple’ originated on the country estate of Lord Carnarvon, the financier of Carter’s search for Tutankhamen’s tomb, and that it was named in honor of Carnarvon’s involvement in the discovery rather than for the seeds’ origin. However, experts agree that the most likely scenario is that the seeds originated in English gardens in the early 20th century. Regardless, this highly productive cultivar makes a delicious soup pea when mature or purple snow pea when picked young.
$4.00 for 25 seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
‘Rubine’ Brussels Sprout
This hard-to-find heirloom Brussels sprout is a colorful and delicious addition to any garden. It grows the same as ‘Long Island Improved’ and has that old-time Brussels-sprout flavor. Be the first in your neighborhood or farmers market to have these available.
$5.00 for 50 seeds from Heirloom Solutions.
‘Auntie Wilder’ Bean
Sweet, tender, and juicy, this heirloom cultivar took top honors in Seed Savers Exchange’s 2015 snap bean taste evaluation. It has a strong climbing habit and produces striking, 7-inch-long dark-purple pods. Dorothy Barnett, of Shelton, Washington, received this high-yielding cultivar from her mother, who traces it to her nurse, “Auntie Wilder,” an immigrant who brought the seeds with her from Sweden in the 1890s.
$3.75 for 50 seeds from Seed Savers Exchange.
‘Tennis Ball’ Butterhead Lettuce
‘Tennis Ball’ dates back to the 1700s in the United States, and Thomas Jefferson praised it, noting, “It does not require so much care and attention [as other lettuces].” It forms compact, but loose, tender heads up to 7 inches across. Its buttery, flavorful, pale-green leaves hide a yellow-green heart. You can cut whole heads of ‘Tennis Ball’ in half and drizzle them with your favorite vinaigrette for a unique and beautiful treat for two.
$3.55 for approximately 700 seeds fromJohn Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds.
‘Buena Mulata’ Hot Pepper
This rare, extremely productive hot pepper was introduced by Williams Woys Weaver from his grandfather’s collection and offered exclusively through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. His grandfather received the ‘Buena Mulata’ hot pepper from African-American folk artist Horace Pippin in 1944. This chameleon-like pepper undergoes color changes during ripening, changing from violet to pink, then orange to brown, and eventually to a deep red. The long, round pods reach 6 to 7 inches in length and go through a unique flavor change as they mature as well, becoming sweeter as they ripen. The stunning plants also make wonderful potted specimens.
$4.00 for 10 seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
‘Luxury Lace’ Daylily
This pastel gem topped the list of heirloom daylilies Old House Gardens felt they had to offer for 2018. Its pale, melon-pink color was an exciting advance for the 1950s, and — enhanced by a cool green throat — it’s still exciting and lovely today. Winner of the Stout Medal, it was bred by Edna Spalding, of rural Louisiana, who grew her seedlings in her vegetable garden and culled the rejects with a kitchen knife. This cultivar grows 32 inches tall and will deliver gorgeous midsummer blooms.
$7.50 for 1 bulb or $60 for 10 bulbs fromOld House Gardens.