A couple weeks ago I was sent a copy of William Woys Weaver’s Heirloom Vegetable Gardening from Mother Earth News. I’m always excited to get more information on a favorite subject of mine, vegetables!
The book was first published in 1997 and is now available on CD. Unfortunately you don’t get the tactile sensation of reading a book on paper but if you can move beyond that and look at the great information available you will indeed learn something!
After the foreward by Peter Hatch and an introduction that displays where Mr. Weaver’s passion for heirloom vegetables and seeds originated, he begins his book with a section on the kitchen garden which I believe is only becoming more and more relevant today. He talks about the history of the kitchen garden, its Mediterranean ties, and how it came to be what it is. It’s very interesting information if you have ever wondered how things evolved into the backyard gardens we have today.
As my favorite category of vegetables is the tomato my first look at this tome of heirloom lore was to see what Mr. Weaver wrote on that subject. The amount of detailed historical information is simply astounding. Each heirloom variety has its own heading with information on the origin of the vegetable as documented from various sources. You learn things like who developed it, what possible ancestor varieties the heirlooms had, and even what variations developed from the original cultivar. Since heirloom vegetables are open pollinated there are constant changes between generations which helps to build resistance to diseases. You also learn about the loss of varieties that you may never have known about like the ‘Crimson Cluster’ Tomato whose descendants are most likely the ‘Tigerella’ or the ‘Schimmeig Stoo’. I’ve heard of ‘Tigerella’ but not ‘Schimmeig Stoo’ but it sure sounds interesting! But alas for the ‘Crimson Cluster’ we will never know its flavor. Skimming through all this information is making me appreciate seed saving a whole lot more.
I can only begin to tell you how much good information is in this book. My only reservation in recommending it is that this is the type of book you want to pull off the shelf and sit down with for a spell and not the type of book I would want on a computer screen. Unfortunately Heirloom Vegetable Gardening is out of print in other forms. Of course you could print it off chapter by chapter as you go through the book, which is just what I may have to do!