Interesting Varieties to Explore in 2019

By Catherine Winter

During the colder months, I love to daydream about what I’m going to plant once the snow melts. Sure, I have my tried-and-true favourites that I plant year after year (hello Little Marvel peas!), but I also love to go through seed catalogues to see which new, interesting varieties I can try out.

Sometimes I even get terribly daring and pick something random that I’ve never grown before, just for the sake of experimentation. (This is where you “ooOoh” along with me.)
Cultivars that do well in pots or small spaces are always appreciated, as I can experiment with them on my patio, rather than taking up valuable garden space with “iffy” newcomers.

Heirloom Varieties and New Offerings

Garden Produce.png

I like to play with different themes when planning my garden spaces. For example, I’m currently delving into Medieval and Tudor garden design, and I think it’ll be fun to incorporate some of these almost-forgotten veg and herbs into this year’s beds.

Sometimes I’ll even do themed colour gardens, like a bed that’s full of purple vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

With all the seeds available today, you can try out plants that were popular in ancient Rome, treasured by Czars, or fussed over by Edwardians. Or you can fill your garden with items in your favourite hues, and celebrate the amazing diversity that’s available.

Duplex Russian Giant Scorzonera

scorzonera, black salsify

Also called “black salsify”, this root vegetable tastes a bit like oysters, and was treasured from the Medieval period through to the mid Victorian era. I don’t know why it fell out of favour, but I’m going to try it out this year!
Since this is a Russian variety, it’ll thrive well in cooler growing zones.
Seeds are available here.

Purple Succotash Beans

succotash beans

Beans are must-haves for pretty much every garden, and Baker Creek has a lovely heirloom bean for 2019 that I’m aching to try. From the website:
“[The] Succotash Bean is a rare, ancient bean from the Narragansett Indian tribe of Rhode Island and grown in southern New England.”

Apparently it does really well in colder, northern climates and is ideal for Three Sisters permaculture guild gardens.
Get seeds here.

Red Warty Thing Squash

red warty thing squash

I’d like to grow this solely because of its name, honestly. Apparently introduced into Massachusetts in the 1890s, this orange-fleshed squash is as delicious as it is ideal for scaring passersby.
Seeds available here.

Crystal Apple Cucumber

crystal apple cucumber

Just about the same size as a small apple, these teensy cucumbers from southern China are only 3″ in diameter! They’re mild and crunchy, and the skin is so thin, you don’t even need to peel them. This heirloom variety was brought to North America from Australia in the 1930s, and are still quite rare here.
Buy seeds here.

Orach (Mountain Spinach)


Are you familiar with orach? This heirloom plant is a member of the Amaranth family. This makes it a relative to goosefoot/lamb’s quarters, Good King Henry, and quinoa.
It can be eaten raw or cooked, and is packed with vitamin C and iron. This variety was first documented in North Carolina, in 1714. How’s that for heirloom?
Get seeds here.

Micro Tom Tomatoes

micro tom tomatoes

Now, I have to admit that I “squeeed” aloud when I saw this new mini tomato variety. Wouldn’t these be absolutely perfect for window boxes or hanging planters? It’s a great option for urban gardeners, or those who only have a bit of garden space to play with.
Buy seeds here.

Green Mountain Winter Celtuce


Since I live in zone 4b, I’m always looking for varieties that thrive in cold weather. I’ve never even heard of celtuce before, but this plant—which apparently tastes like a cross between celery root and water chestnut—sounds like something I need to grow!
Seeds are available here.

Tommy Apple Melons

tommy melon

This is apparently a lovely little cantaloupe that’s been cultivated by a very nice man named Tommy. He lives in Oregon, and has been refining the variety through careful selective breeding over the past 50 years. It’s not an ancient melon, but it certainly sounds gorgeous nonetheless.
Get Seeds Here.

Mongolian Giant Sunflowers

mongolian giant sunflowers

What’s better than a wall of beautiful sunflowers? A wall of ENORMOUS sunflowers, with blooms the size of spare tires. This Mongolian variety is grown for its meaty, delicious seeds, which are around 1″ long on average. The birds will appreciate these seeds as much as you will.
Buy seeds here.

These are just a few of the new varieties that I’m eyeing for my 2019 garden. Which have caught your eye? Let us know!


Images © Baker Creek, Heritage Harvest Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and West Coast Seeds


3 thoughts on “Interesting Varieties to Explore in 2019

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