Specialty crop farming is a fulfilling business. Sometimes it’s like antiquing. In this case, the collector is looking for those rare heirlooms of the past before our food became mass-produced by commercial farms. We target certain antique vegetables to grow and like to gather up additional information and knowledge about the rarity in order to give a history and tell a story. Here are two such recent rare finds.
Garnet Chile Potatoes were developed in 1853 by the Reverend Chauncy E. Goodrich, an Anglican minister in New York State. One parent potato was the Rough Purple Chile potato, which he had obtained from contacts in Chile. At the time, potatoes in North America were suffering from blight; Goodrich’s theory was that stock had grown weak through cultivation and selection, and that re-introducing more vigorous stock from South America would help. The Garnet Chile potato contributed over half of the genetics to Burbank’s Russet. And it is significantly related to over 150 potato varieties now planted across North America and Europe. In short, Chauncey E Goodrich’s work in his backyard garden produced a genetic taproot for nearly all ‘modern potatoes’ grown today .
We’ll grow out these tubers using the “pull start” method. We have one pound of seed potato, and from them we should be able to pull all of the sprouts we need to plant our garden. This procedure is to put the seed tubers in a tray and cover them with a moist soilless media. In a few days, we’ll have several sprouts rooting and elongating from the tubers. So, we’ll pull the sprouts and plant them in the garden or in a container; and return the tubers back into the soil. And after a few days, the tubers will grow new sprouts again. And, we repeat the procedure until there is no more life in those seed tubers. Eventually, the tubers become soft mush when no new sprouts emerge.
This other find shown here are the seeds of a nice small banana-type squash from Appalachia. Also, described as a “curious heirloom with fantastic flavor”. This rare fruit weighs about 10 pounds and is pink skinned with a distinctive greenish-blue blossom end mark. It’s a banjo playing Appalachian variety squash that you’ll be seeing at the market this summer.
These squash seeds we’ll sow into rows of crimped winter rye. The winter rye was planted last fall into the rows used for last year’s garlic crop. Crimping mechanically kills the growing winter rye to create a layer of mulch to help with weed suppression and protect the soil until the squash plants emerge later this summer. Rodale Institute researchers have developed this method for reduced-till. It was one of the many topics presented at the organic agriculture seminar held on February 20, 2016 at the Genesee Environmental Center.
 Source: Cook’s Info founded in 1999, the site is now the largest food encyclopedia on the Internet.