April 22, 2002
Heirloom varieties featured at UCSC Farm's annual Spring Plant Sale May 4-5
By Jennifer McNulty
More than 60 heirloom varieties of vegetables and flowers will be featured at the
UCSC Farm's annual Spring Plant Sale on May 4-5, the only collection of organically
grown flower, herb, and vegetable starts, perennials, grasses, and other landscape
plants available in the region.
The sale takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Barn Theater parking lot at the
intersection of Bay and High Streets at the base of campus.
|The sale includes more than 400 types of annuals and perennials. Photo:
Members of the Friends of the UCSC Farm & Garden enjoy a 10 percent discount
on purchases and, on Saturday morning only, early entry beginning at 9 a.m. New memberships
and renewals are available beginning at 8:30 a.m.
A banner event for local gardeners, the plant sale features more than 400 types
of annuals and perennials, including 15 types of lavender, the star of last year's
A complete annotated list of plants available at the sale can be found online,
with the list of perennials followed by annuals.
In an era of mass-produced hybrids, heirloom varieties are valued for their mouthwatering
flavors and array of unusual colors, shapes, sizes, and textures. Technically defined
as open-pollinated plants that have been around for at least 50 years, heirlooms
are living artifacts brimming with historical importance and cultural ancestry that
have been handed down from one generation to the next, attracting chefs and gardeners
Because heirloom vegetables tend to ripen over a longer period of time, home gardeners
enjoy an extended harvest, and growing heirlooms helps safeguard the genetic diversity
of the world's food crops.
Among the classic heirloom vegetables featured at this year's sale are:
Cherokee Purple Tomato: Flattened globes boasting spectacular purple-pink-brown
flesh color. This flavorful tomato is known to be more than 100 years old, and is
believed to have originated from the Cherokee people.
Lemon Cucumber: Introduced as a novelty in 1894, this highly productive round
cucumber is beloved for its bright yellow color, nonbitter skin, and easy digestibility.
Antohi Romanian Pepper: A delicious tapered yellow pepper that turns red when
fully ripe. (Jan Antohi was a touring acrobat when he defected to the United States.
In late 1991, he returned from a visit to his family in Romania with the seeds of
Rosa Bianca Eggplant: This Italian eggplant has stunning light pink fruits
with occasional creamy white shading.
Waltham Butternut Squash: Prized for its rich, dry, yellow-orange flesh, nutty
flavor, and high-yielding vines.
Red Russian Kale (aka Ragged Jack): A rare strain with tender, frilly, purple-veined
blue-green leaves tinged with reddish-purple and a mild sweet flavor.
Among the heirloom flowers featured this year are:
Mexican Sunflower 'Torch': Branching plants grow 4 feet to 6 feet high with
fiery orange 2- to 3-inch flowers that attract lots of butterflies. A favorite because
of its extremely long blooming period.
Bachelor's Buttons 'Blue Boy': Growing up to 3 feet tall on tough silvery
stems, this flower will bloom all season. "Blue Boy" was cultivated by
Thomas Jefferson at Monticello.
Love-in-the-Mist 'Persian Jewels': A delicate-looking, hardy, self-seeding
annual, this plant tolerates poor soil and produces flowers that are a mixture of
blue, white, pink, and crimson shades and black seedpods that last indefinitely in
dried arrangements. Native to Southern Europe and Northern Africa, it was cultivated
in gardens before 1548.
New this year will be "rainbow" vegetable six-packs featuring three
varieties per pack grown from seeds from Renee's Garden, a seed company owned by
Felton resident Renee Shepherd, who has introduced international vegetables, flowers,
and herbs to home gardeners and gourmet restaurants.
Returning this year will be an impressive array of peppers, representing all spots
on the flavor spectrum from sweet to mild to hot. Among the lovely perennials that
will be available are columbine, coral bells, statice, and Japanese anemone. The
flower selection will include a wide variety of sunflowers, yarrows, zinnias, alstroemeria,
roses, and penstemons.
This year's lettuce selection will feature new varieties and time-honored heirlooms
from the five basic classes: loose leaf, butterhead, romaine, iceburg, and batavian.
A number of tasty crosses between butter and romaine lettuces will be available,
too. The vegetable selection also includes six-packs of broccoli, cauliflower, salad
mix, and Asian greens. The tomato selection will include Camp Joy Cherry, Sungold,
Crimson Carmello, Brandywine, Stupice, Red and Yellow Pear, and Rainbow's End. Medicinal
and culinary herbs will also be available.
Sponsored by the Friends of the Farm & Garden and the Center for Agroecology
& Sustainable Food Systems, the sale will benefit the UCSC Apprenticeship in
Ecological Horticulture. For more information, call (831) 459-3240.
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