10 Great Vegetables with Great Names

I love vegetables with unique names. Granted, this isn’t the best way to pick out a vegetable. Just because the name makes you smile doesn’t mean the harvest will. But sometimes you get lucky and are granted both.

The following ten vegetables have great names and are great choices for our cool climate garden.

Photos are from West Coast Seeds. Click on images or the plant names for more information.

Drunken Woman Lettuce West Coast Seeds

1 – Drunken Woman Lettuce

I don’t know if this lettuce gets its name because of its somewhat dishevelled and ruffled appearance or because it is the last lettuce to bolt-or leave the summer party. I do know that this is a fantastic choice for the garden. West Coast Seeds recommends it as the lettuce to plant if you only have room for one and I agree. Open pollinated so you can let a few go to seed for collection.

Dragon Tongue West Coast Seeds.jpg

2 – Dragon Tongue Beans

These are my personal favorites. They do well in the Peace Country and taste as great as they look. Unfortunately the purple colour is lost when cooked, but that is the only criticism I can come up with. If you leave them to go to seed you can collect small tan beans for drying to use in winter soups. Open pollinated so you can also collect the seeds from this heirloom to replant in the spring. Provided you don’t eat them all of course!


3 – Avalanche Beets

Personally I love the earthy taste of red beets and don’t mind my hands getting stained in the processing (well, not too much) but for those who don’t these pure white beets may be the answer to your prayers. Sweet tasting and “bloodless” these AAS winning white beets mature in only 50 days. Open Pollinated so you can collect the seeds for replanting.


4 – Cosmic Purple Carrots

These purple carrots taste good and they keep their rich colour even after cooking. 18 cm (7 inch) sweet tasting roots are ready to harvest in 58 days. Open pollinated.


5 – Graffiti Cauliflower

A gorgeous, rich, purple cauliflower that does hold its colour when cooked but looks best on a raw vegetable platter. Matures in 80 days so needs to be started indoors to ensure a harvest. This one is a hybrid so no seed collecting, but still a beautiful addition to the garden.

sugar buns westcoast seeds

6 – Sugar Buns Corn

The earliest sugar enhanced (SE) variety of corn with the longest harvest window (two weeks) Sugar Buns matures in 70-80 days producing two 19 centimeter (seven inch) cobs on each 1.5 – 2 meter (5-6 foot) stalk. Hybrid.


7 – Superschmeltz Kohlrabi

This open pollinated variety can produce kohlrabi the size of a volleyball in only 70 days. A huge variety that is hugely popular and tastes great even when weighing in at 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) or more! And it is fun to say “Check out my enormous Superschmeltz”



8 – Chinook Leeks

Okay, the name isn’t that unusual, especially for us northerners, but it is still a fun way of having a chinook in your kitchen. Provided you can get past the having to think about winter in the summer part. All monikers aside, this is a great leek for our area. So long as your start the seeds indoors and transplant outside once the soil has warmed up these leeks don’t mind a bit of cool weather. They grow fast, taste great and are easy to clean.

65 days to maturity. Hybrid seeds.


9 – Red Zeppelin Onion

This is a beautiful onion with lots of flavour and an exceptionally long storage life of six months or more. A long day onion it is beautifully suited to our summer soaked Peace Country days but needs 90 days from transplanting to fully mature so you will need to start them indoors in March for best results. Hybrid seeds.

mr big peas.jpg

10 – Mr Big Peas

When you are this big they call you mister 🙂 These are my favourite peas. An open pollinated AAS winner these peas need something solid to climb on as they can easily reach heights of two meters (six feet) or more.  They will produce prolific crops of large sweet tasting peas that are easy to shell.




seed saving book

A great read if you are interested in seed saving…


Ounce of Petunia Seeds

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One ounce of petunia seed contains a whopping 250,000 to 300,000 potential plants making it ounce for ounce far more valuable than gold. And, some would say, far prettier to look at as well!

Who says you can’t grow money.

Crimson Flowered Broad Bean

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The story of the Crimson Flowered Broad Bean has everything Hollywood could hope for; a gorgeous protagonist, passion, disaster and a hero rushing in to save the day at the last possible second.

The titillating tale begins with the first mention of the bean’s cultivation in 1778. For almost two centuries gardeners enjoyed its presence both in their gardens and on their tables. It’s hard to fathom how this beautiful bean fell from favour, but fall it did. By the 1970’s it was no longer being offered in catalogues and had all but disappeared. One might think it was a matter of taste; but one would be wrong. These broad beans taste as good as they look. The only plausible explanation is that humans are a fickle bunch, always chasing after something new. Even when the recently introduced broad beans had boring white blooms and lesser flavour, gardeners added them to their seed orders, ignoring the poor Crimson Broad Bean into oblivion.

Rhoda Cutbush: Shown here with a handful of the Crimson Broad Beans she helped rescue from extinction is Rhoda Cutbush of England. Rhoda passed away in 2003 at 98 years of age. Photo Credit: Garden Organic  Shown here with a handful of the Crimson Broad Beans she helped rescue from extinction is Rhoda Cutbush of England. Rhoda passed away in 2003 at 98 years of age. Photo Credit: Garden Organic

Well, not everyone. Not Rhoda Cutbush of Kent, UK. Her father originally received the seeds for this heirloom from a cottage garden back in 1912 and Rhoda grew up eating this wonderful bean. As the bean’s only known proponent, Rhoda continued the tradition of cultivating the plants, saving her own seed and replanting year after year. And then…disaster struck! In 1978 at the age of 73, a crop failure wiped out every last one of Rhoda’s beans. Searching through a shed she stumbled upon a tin holding three Crimson Broad Bean seeds. In desperation she sent them to Lawrence Hills, founder of the Heritage Seed Library who took on the enormous responsibility of rescuing the bean from extinction.

Ironically, the Crimson Broad Bean’s near demise also proved to be its saving grace. The story captivated gardeners the world over and the laws of supply and demand helped the bean slowly regain its rightful place in seed catalogues. Today it is still an all too rare sight in gardens, but happily no longer in danger of extinction; at least not for the time being.

If your interest in heirlooms is big, but your garden is small this is a story to keep in mind. No matter how diminutive your plot might be you can surely manage to save three seeds. As the saying goes, never underestimate the power of one person to change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has! I challenge you to choose one heirloom that interests you and become a champion for its survival.

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Fava Facts

• Broad beans are also known as fava beans.

• A small percentage of people, usually of Mediterranean heritage, experience a severe allergic reaction to fava beans.

• Unlike heat loving bush and pole beans, broad beans are cool weather crops and should be sown the same time as peas.

• Plants can reach bush-like statures of 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 metres) high. The Crimson Flowered Broad Bean is a bit smaller usually topping out at approximately 3 feet (0.9 metres) with robust 6 inch (15 cm) pods. Sowing to harvest is approximately 100 days.

• Crimson Broad Beans will occasionally revert to white blooms. Should this happen remove the rogue plant immediately to keep the crimson genes intact.

• Beans pull nitrogen into the soil making them an excellent cover crop.

• Broad beans can be eaten pod and all when young or shelled for soup beans when they are older. Skin on older beans can be rather chewy. Happily, the beans naturally shed their jackets while being boiled, exposing their tender, inside morsels. Simply scoop out the boiled beans and leave their jackets behind. They can then be consumed with a dab of butter or splash of olive oil or tossed into your favorite fava recipe.

• Beans are largely self pollinating but broad beans are often visited by bees; bumblebees in particular. To help ensure seed saving purity, plant only one type of broad bean in your garden.

• Broad beans are frequently attacked by black aphids. The simplest and safest method of dealing with these pests is to blast them off with a garden hose. Many gardeners report the Crimson Flowered Broad Bean doesn’t seem to be as bothered by aphids; just one more reason to be grateful we still have this bean in our gene pool!

• In Canada the Crimson Flowered Broad Bean is available from the following suppliers:

Heritage Harvest Seed
Box 40, RR 3
Carman, MB R0G 0J0
Fax (204) 745-6723
Phone (204) 745-6489
Email: seed@heritageharvestseed.com

And of course, once you start saving seeds, the Crimson Flowered Broad Bean will be available from your own address! I am germinating some seeds I saved to make sure they’re viable. If they are I would be happy to share a handful with anyone who is interested while supplies last. I just have a mason jarful so if the demand is high I can give six seeds to at least a dozen people. If they made their comeback from three imagine what can be done with six : ) I just planted four seeds today so I’ll let you know in a later post when (if?) they sprout and where you can pick them up. Despite needing 100 growing days mine did just fine in our Zone 2b…but as we know here in the north, so much depends on the year and every year offers its own unique gifts and challenges.

A special thank you goes out to Neil Munro, current manager of The Heritage Seed Library, for his help with facts about their role in the resurrection of the Crimson Broad Bean and for providing us with a lovely picture of Rhoda Cutbush. Anyone interested in finding out more about this seed saving organization can check them out here. And thank you to Gardens West who first published a version of my article in their magazine in October 2012.

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Urban Harvest…Another Heirloom Souce for Seeds

Just added an old–but new to me–source for heirloom seeds to my Online Catalogues page. Urban Harvest is based in Ontario and has been selling heirloom seeds since 1998. Here are just a few of their interesting offerings. All images and descriptions are from Urban Harvest.



A small pale yellow fleshed watermelon that probably was brought to Saskatchewan from Russia. It has a quite thin, light green with dark green striped rind, with sweet flesh and black seeds. It can grow well in cool climates. Weigh up to 3 kilos. 25 cm in diamatre. 80 days, Heirloom. 21 seeds


Bird Egg Bush Bean


According to Seed Savers Exchange. “these beans were brought to Missouri by covered wagon in the 1880s by Lina’s grandmother. Lina was one of the six original members of SSE, which was founded in 1975”. We are happy to be able to offer these grown here in Southern Ontario and certified organic like all of our seed. Dried cranberry type bean. Tan with deep red markings. Productive and hardy. Bush. Heirloom. 85 days. 30 seeds




An early maturing, open pollinated, bi-colour corn. Good germination in cool soil with excellent old fashioned flavourful ears approximately 14 cm (7”)long. Full sun. 65-75days. 50 seeds.


Black Seaman Tomato


NEW FOR 2013
This Russian Heirloom tomato produces small semi-
determinant, potato-leaf plants that yield an
abundance of rich flavourful mid-sized tomatoes.
This is one of our new faves. Heirloom. 70 days


Seed Source for Northern Gardeners

Brrrrr!!! Minus 27 Celsius…it’s a chilly one out there today!!!

Saving seed

Saving your own seed is the best feeling of all…but catalogues and local nurseries are pretty fun to browse through as well!

I’ve been going through my seeds to see what I have to order and came across a few packets I got from Best Cool Seeds last year. They’re a company in Alaska that specializes in cool climate gardening. The seeds arrived as promised and they always throw in a couple freebies. I realized I didn’t have them listed on my Online Catalogue page so I added them today.

For those of you that might be interested here is the blurb from their site (and just in case you’re growing suspicious, no I don’t get anything for telling you about them : )

Here’s their blurb…

Best Cool Seeds is the online store for Denali Seed Company, America’s foremost authority on cool climate gardening. The garden varieties sold in this e-store have been performance tested in Alaska in private gardens and in university trials for over 50 years. Our veteran horticulturist has taught and worked with gardeners in arctic and sub-arctic locations for over 30 years and only varieties that will mature in these regions are sold in this e-store. Our horticulturist has selected the varieties available in this e-store because they excel in cool northern climates that include arctic and sub-arctic regions, and mountain areas.

BestCoolSeeds the online store for Denali Seed Company offers open pollinated seed, organic seed, heirloom seed and hybrid seed for Denali exclusive vegetable varieties, flower seed, wildflower seed, vegetable seed and herb seed specifically for far north gardens. Our garden seed is performance tested in Alaska to offer seed for short season vegetables and short season flowers perfect for use in cold climate gardening, arctic gardens, sub-arctic gardens, high altitude gardens, northern gardens and for northern greenhouse gardening. We do not use chemicals, all our seed is untreated seed and we sell NO GMO seed. (genetically modified organisms)

For more interesting seed sources (including lots of Canadian ones) check out the Online Catalogue tab above. And if you have any others you think Peace Country Gardeners–or Cold Climate Gardeners anywhere–might be interested in please share!

I love how she looks like she is doing the two handed seed packet grab...just like a true cold climate gardener unleashed in a seed store in February!

I love how she looks like she is doing the two handed seed packet grab…just like a true cold climate gardener unleashed in a seed store in February!

Now back to seed sorting and stoking the fire…

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