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“It had been extinct for 70 years before we brought it back,” Mountz says.
“It’s a string bean, so we’ll eat it green before its beans develop in the pod, and we’ll also dry them and then soak them overnight for use in the winter as a cooking bean for things like refried beans.” Beyond the good eating, he says it’s just a good looking plant.
“If you have organically raised heirloom food plants in your garden, you’re going to be living a lot healthier than if you’re just growing hybrids. “Since the 1950s, hybridization has bled out nutrition for the sake of shelf life, or for whatever reason.
The heirlooms have not declined in their nutritional value the way these hybridized plants have,” Weaver says, citing studies from the U. It’s just not there.” Mountz and Weaver also extol the vigor of plants that have been bred to cope with our climate, soil and pests.
Many vegetables offered at nurseries and big-box stores are hybrids that can produce sterile seeds or offspring with erratic traits.
The idea of a plant with deep roots in our history intrigued me. What is our region’s history in growing heirloom food plants?
If you’ve ever grown or eaten a Green Zebra Tomato, you know a “new heirloom.” Open pollinated or “OP” varieties are created through a process in which two plants with different traits — say, a green tomato and a yellow tomato — are interbred to create a hybrid, explains Mountz.
“As they’re grown and saved and grown over generations, they become more adapted to the Philly area.” They’ve gotten many seeds from the pre-1800s collection at Bartram’s Garden and the Pendle Hill Quaker community in Wallingford, Pa.