Heirloom Vegetable Archive.




Plant List

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This website exists solely as a clearinghouse of heirloom vegetable images and information (primarily peppers & tomatoes). All varieties were obtained via the Seed Savers Exchange, and interested people should contact them for information regarding availability. I no longer maintain a seed collection; my former collection in its entirety now resides at the Seed Savers Exchange. So please don't request seed from me; I have no way of filling them.

Clicking on the Vegetable names at left will take you to pages with variety photos, descriptions, and histories. Or go to the Plant List for a clickable alphabetical listing. I hope you enjoy this resource and welcome your comments, especially any additional information you might have on variety histories.

Heirloom tomatoes at harvest.

History of this Site

This webpage was initally developed in conjunction with the yearly Mother's Day plant sale that I conducted at the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay to support ecological research. Because of the proceeds generated, I was able to bring internationally known ecologists to the school, support student research and training, and also maintain an active lab during this era of rapidly decreasing granting opportunities. This sale rapidly outgrew my wildest expectations, and soon became a yearly event for gardners in northeastern Wisconsin. By the end, we were routinely serving gardners from a 200-mile radius, including northern Illinois, Michigan, and central Wisconsin. This sale constitutes my fondest memories of my decade spent in Green Bay. For those of you visiting this site who used to attend this sale, I cannot thank you enough for the good will and resources you provided during those years. I and my students were given opportunities by your generosity that otherwise would have simply been impossible at that school.

I wanted to create a site that would disseminate the information about the varieties sold at the sale, so that the gardeners would have year-round, easy access to this information. The site soon grew beyond this simple scope, and began recieving significant global traffic. When continuing my ecological research UWGB became impossible, and I left that institution, I took this site down. It took some time, but I've finally been able to put this information back on the web thanks to the good folks at the Sevilleta LTER and Jim Brown's macroecology lab.

History of Heirloom Plants in the United States

Heirloom vegetables have gained popularity across the country because they speak to our hearts as well as our palates. These are plants that our great-grandparents were growing, and it is possible to buy or trade seeds of plants from cultures around the world. Vegetables have been cultivated for thousands of years. As people traded seeds and moved across the world they interbred different varieties in order to improve or develop specific flavors, colors, yields and the plants' abilitiy to survive in a particular climate. Unfortunately, mass producers of vegetables decided to improve transportability and shelflife at the expense of flavor and quality. This mass production has led to decreasing diversity of vegetable varieties, with farmers planting mono-cultures of tomatoes and other crops. At the same time the traditional family vegetable plot has mostly disapeared. Some varieties have already gone extinct because there was no one left to plant them. A growing interest in personal history and gardening has led to the preservation of many of our heirloom treasures. Native Americans, Amish and Mennonite groups have long collected and preserved vegetable seeds and now there are many others collecting and trading seeds as well. The Seed Savers Exchange and the Native Seeds Search are organizations that have been instrumental in preserving vegetable biodiversity by collecting, growing, and trading seeds.

Last Edit Date: April 5, 2010

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