Summer of plenty
Image by Cindy Sayre
Turn back the clock to the summer of 1896, and you might be surprised to discover the plentiful produce growing in Vancouver’s veggie patches. Red Drumhead cabbage, Black Pencil Pod beans and Deer Tongue lettuce were some of the varieties of veggies eaten at the height of the season. These, plus many other old-timers that have been grown for over a century, will be cropping up in VanDusen Botanical Garden’s heirloom vegetable garden this summer.
The garden is a veritable snapshot in time that highlights the importance of conserving heirloom species – open-pollinated seeds that have been cultivated for at least 50 years.
“In an era where there are growing food shortages, and everywhere is experiencing the affects of climate change, the Garden considers it an important part of its mandate to educate the public about heirloom varieties of plants,” says Nancy Wong, VanDusen Botanical Garden’s director of marketing and public relations.
Heirlooms have natural immune systems that tend to be more disease and pest resistant than hybrids, and they tend to be hardier and less susceptible to climate variations, says Wong. And though these veggies may have some natural bumps and blemishes, their taste surpasses that of their hybrid counterparts.
“Anyone can grow a few vegetables – in a small yard, in a container on a balcony, even in a window box,” notes Wong. “By growing these varieties and saving the seed, each person is doing something meaningful to help preserve the planet’s genetic biodiversity.”