Discover the freshest new heirloom seed releases of summer 2018, just in time for some of our readers to plant, and for others to start planning space in next year’s gardens!
By the Heirloom Gardener Editors
The Bradford family is best known for its heirloom watermelon, but this giant okra cultivar is another of the family’s wonderful secrets. Grown and passed down in Sumter, South Carolina, for nearly as long as the famous watermelon, this okra’s 8-inch pods snap clean all the way to the tips — remarkably tender for their size.
Nat Bradford, the current manager for his family’s heirloom okra, introduced it to South Carolina chefs during the summer of 2017. It’s now in high demand: Larger, sweeter, and more tender than many other cultivars, chef Sean Brock commented that it’s “okra caviar.” One of the most exciting new heirloom seed releases this year, the seeds have long been unavailable to the public, but after close to three-quarters of a century, the Bradford family is making this fabulous, rare okra available again for a limited time.
$3.95 for approximately 90 seeds from Sow True Seed. [www.SowTrueSeed.com]
The standout of Annie’s Heirloom Seeds’ watermelon trials last year, this yellow-fleshed watermelon reaches maturity in only 65 to 80 days. In cooler climates, a fast-maturing melon is key to harvesting before the first fall frost, and this cultivar fits the bill. Its beautiful bright-yellow flesh and amazing sweet flavor are sure to make it a new garden favorite!
$4.00 for approximately 15 seeds from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds. [www.AnniesHeirloomSeeds.com]
A charming pepper with shiny gold to super-saturated-orange skin and a carrot-like shape, the ‘Bulgarian Carrot’ pepper tastes fruity and is spicier than most jalapeños, but typically less spicy than cayenne peppers. The 2- to 3-inch-long fruits’ thin walls are also packed with vitamins and beta carotene. As with most peppers, plant the seeds early and keep them warm to encourage germination, and then transplant the seedlings after all risk of frost has passed.
$3.50 for 25 seeds from Hudson Valley Seed Company. [www.HudsonValleySeed.com]
This unique cherry tomato species (Solanum cheesmanii) from the rocky lava flow areas of Ecuador’s famed Galápagos Islands is a wild relative of modern cultivated tomatoes. The highly productive plants typically vine and produce lemon-scented foliage as well as the small, flavorful, yellow-orange fruits. It also tolerates disease, drought, and heat while maintaining excellent flavor and productivity. It’s an excellent choice for beginner tomato breeders! Read more about wild tomatoes in ‘Charley Rick’s Hunt for Wild Tomatoes.’
$4.00 for 15 seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. [www.RareSeeds.com]
Also called the “Tahoka daisy” or “tansy-aster,” this annual North American wildflower (Machaeranthera tanacetifolia) stands 18 inches tall and has beautiful purple petals with a golden-yellow center. Despite its name, the prairie aster isn’t a true aster, but a cousin in the sunflower family, and it’s native to the western United States. The flowers are highly attractive to butterflies, bees, and birds, providing nectar well into fall. It also makes an excellent cut flower and self-seeds (as long as the goldfinches don’t eat everything).
$5.00 for 500 seeds from Heirloom Solutions. [www.HeirloomSolutions.com]