Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday’s Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today’s Cook.
By Doreen Howard
Cool Springs Press, Minneapolis, MN 9781591864899, $24.99

In the O’Shaughnessy Chronicles novels, gardens are often mentioned, perhaps most beautifully in this passage about a family whose daughter decorates the entryway of their home with fall garden bounty, as part of a church project.

“A veritable garden under a roof, the entryway presented the family’s fall food-stock displayed like a work of art. Gourds, pumpkins, squash, and zucchini dotted the perimeter. Bunched corn stalks interspersed with full-blossomed sun flowers leaned against the wall. Pole beans, looped around wooden standards, looked as if they had spent the summer inching toward an appointment with the ceiling.”

Book coverIn recent years, an explosion of interest in old fashioned varieties of fruits and vegetables has given rise to books, retail stores, catalogs, and websites devoted to heirloom garden seeds. Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday’s Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today’s Cook, is one recent book on the subject, published in September, 2013 by Cool Springs Press in Minneapolis. Author Doreen Howard is intimately familiar with the Great Lakes region; she lives just south of the Wisconsin state line in Roscoe, Illinois.

In her book, Howard “an admitted foodie,” says flavor is the foremost reason to cook with heirlooms. There is also a growing movement toward buying produce at farmer’s markets and farm stands, and the return to home gardens, to avoid chemicals used on commercial farms, to save money, to ensure freshness, and simply as a way of knowing where your food is from.

The abundantly, and vividly, illustrated paperback book goes on to share some history about heirlooms, from carrots that originated in Afghanistan, to melons that originated in Africa. Howard shares tips on planting, tending, harvesting and storing heirlooms, and includes lots of recipes.

What’s the difference between Brandywine and Red Kim beefsteak tomatoes? Could you tell Music Pink garlic from Russian Giant and Chesnok Red? Do you know what to look for when picking a cabbage, cucumber or eggplant from the market or store? Need some tips for getting picky kids to eat peas? Howard offers answers to these and many more questions.

To buy a copy of Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday’s Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today’s Cook, visit Amazon. 

The article on this website: Italian Food and Culture tells the story of Italian immigrants who began arriving in Mineral Point, Wisconsin in 1902.

Joe Galle, a descendent of the area’s first Italian immigrants, shares how his grandfather, Charles Galle, brought pepper seeds with him from his homeland more than a century ago. Today, the peppers Joe Galle grows in his garden every summer are direct descendents of those; the family has dried a few seeds each year since 1902, for replanting.