Heirloom Vegetables and Crops

After standing the test of time, a number of well flavoured good old fashioned vegetables are well worth hunting down and growing at home. Oldies but goodies, if you fancy something different in the edible garden this season, why not try a few of these heirloom and old fashioned crops that are making a comeback.

Ones to look out for:

IN SPRING (after frosts)...

Pumpkin triamble – a must have for the foodie, this iron bark type pumpkin has exceptional flavour and stores for a long time after harvest due to its hard skin. With three distinct segments (hence the reference to tri) it’s a super star of a pumpkin. Not a heavy cropping Pumpkin, expect between 3 and 5 pumpkins per plant. Sow seeds in spring – early summer.

Tomato Amish Paste – an old heirloom variety dating back to 1885, with intense flavour this oval tomato is well worth a try, it’s a vigorous plant. Seed widely available, plants may appear in spring.

Pean – believed to be a cross between a pea and a bean, this wonderfully unique crop has Italian origins. With a similar habit to sweet peas, but with bean-like foliage, the dark green smooth skinned peans have white ‘pea’ like beans inside. They can either be cooked whole, like a bean or podded like a pea. Be prepared to order this one early from a seed specialist.


Saffron – another one for the foodies, worth its weight in gold, Saffron is very easy to grow at home in the garden. Plant in late spring or early summer in a sunny spot, in well drained fertile soil. Harvest in autumn once flowers appear. Saffron corms are available from bulb growers and specialist heirloom seed companies.

Jerusalem artichokes - These yummy tall sunflower-looking plants need plenty of room and they are wonderful as a backdrop for the veggie garden. Due to their tall habit they are ideal as a host plant for other crops such as peas and beans to climb up. Harvest the tubers from under the ground when tops die down in autumn and through the winter months. Tubers are widely available in winter in organic food shops.


Miners Lettuce - A wonderful salad green that is at its best in the cooler months, as it can be picked all through winter and spring when planted in autumn. Reputed to have come to New Zealand with the early Chinese gold miners and naturalised in many areas, it is best in moist soils, and will willingly cope with a little shade.


Potato Pink Fir – with Irish origins, the name "fir" is Gaelic for "man". With fat, finger sized potatoes, a pinkish skin and yellow waxy flesh these have an exceptional flavour. Not an overly large cropping potato, but well worth the effort to track it down. Be prepared to order this one early from a seed specialist.

By Rachel Vogan

Post a comment

Heirloom Vegetables and Crops Comments

  • Don't forget to tell that once you have Jerusalem Artichokes they are nearly impossible to get rid of!


  • Can anyone inform me where I can obtain any of these please e mail:the mermaid@orcon.net.nz. Many tys

    Caroline Blewitt

  • yes, i can definitely confirm this. The Jerusalem artichoke tubers will duplicate readily if left in the ground (very much like mint - it takes over if you let it!)


  • I planted Jerusalem Artichoke in a tyre garden which contained them, if you don't get every little bit of tuber they regrow and spread in the following years.

    Bryan Jackson