Using organic heirloom seeds to grow vegetables, fruits and herbs that can be used to make pickles in the fall guarantees great taste and the relief that comes with knowing exactly what you are eating. Home gardeners often create or pass down unique recipes to preserve their bounty and add texture and flavor to meals throughout the year.
A variety of produce can be grown from organic heirloom seeds to pickle this fall. They include cucumbers, carrots, peppers, beets, watermelon and of course dill, garlic and onions. Whether your recipe calls for a combination or is a single main ingredient like sweet pickles, the world is your oyster when pickling fresh produce from the garden.
• Cucumbers that will be used for gherkins should be picked when they are approximately 11/2 to 2 inches long. When they are used for dill pickles they should be in the 4-5 inch range, depending on the jar they’ll be placed in. If you plan to pickle chip style, the long slender varieties are a popular choice. Both smooth and spiny varieties can be used, and the spines can be rubbed off with a vegetable scrubber if desired.
• Carrots that will be used for pickling are generally harvested when they are slender and approximately 4 inches long. This can vary depending on whether they will be sliced lengthwise or across. They are popular for their flavor and color.
• Pickled beets are a popular throughout the country and most varieties are suitable for this purpose. Many people add them when making pickled eggs for added color, taste and texture.
• A variety of peppers are suitable for pickling. Sweet peppers are popular in relishes and eaten as a side. Jalapenos and Habaneros are often used in cooking and as toppings on tacos and other Southwestern meals. Red peppers can be grown, dried, crushed and added to a variety of pickled and canned foods for extra zing.
• Pickled watermelon rind is a great addition to meals that are prepared on the grill, such as smoked pork, or chicken. Most types of watermelon are suitable, but look for varieties with a thicker rind.
• Fresh herbs such as dill from organic heirloom seeds is a must have for pickling. It is easy to save seeds for the next year, and it often replants itself as well. The sprigs not only are beautiful when preserved in the jar, but add flavor to pickles and potato salad.
• Fresh certified organic seed garlic produces clusters of cloves that are perfect for adding to pickles as well as cooking.
Choose the variety of each heirloom organic seed that is best suited to your growing conditions. Heirloom seeds adapt well to a variety of climates, however some are drought tolerant, while others require shorter or longer growing seasons. By planting according to the intended use, gardeners will be able to choose the best organic heirloom seeds for their needs.
Regardless of location, February brings a desire to start working on garden ideas and planting heirloom seeds in preparation for warmer months. Dreams of a bountiful harvest and experimenting with new varieties and ideas can carry the gardener through long winter evenings. Garden planning, including which heirloom seeds to plant can begin taking shape today!
Many gardeners who plant heirloom seeds prefer to go the organic route with their garden, eliminating pesticides, herbicides and other potentially toxic plant and soil treatments. Natural fertilizer and soil amendment treatments will provide plants with the boost they need to reach their full bearing potential. The following suggestions will help you be prepared for spring:
- February is the absolute latest that you should organize seed packets. Count what you have and what you need then, get it ordered, or they may be sold out! Many of the rare heirlooms sell out in Jan/Feb, so gardeners who put this off until March will probably be out of luck.
- Replace grow lights, sterilize soil and containers.
- Planning a new garden is one of the most enjoyable February activities. Read through descriptions of heirloom vegetable seeds and flower seeds and determine which new varieties to add and where to place them. Some plants, such as corn, are heavy feeders and should be alternated with other crops unless fertilizer is used or a cover crop is planted to replace lost nutrients.
- Depending on where you live, heirloom seeds including onions, leeks, celery, radishes, peas, spinach, broccoli and other hardy greens can be started indoors now for transplanting later. Some varieties of flower seeds can also be started, depending upon garden location and whether a hot frame or greenhouse will be used.
- Herb seeds deserve their own honorable mention, as they can be grown indoors throughout the year and started early for transplanting. Many cooks enjoy having fresh herbs such as basil growing right at their fingertips to add fresh flavor to meals and sauces.
- Plan a cold frame or combination cold frame and hot frame for hardening off seedlings. Gardeners in colder zones will appreciate the mini-greenhouse effect of a hot frame. Begin gathering material and build a few of these to extend the season. Make sure if you are using leftover window frames and old wood that they don’t contain lead-based paint. Also steer clear of creosote or penta treated wood. Cedar and redwood are ideal choices as they are naturally resistant to rot and mildew. Pickled wood, often a softwood that has been treated with vinegar, is also a popular alternative.
- Determine what soil treatment and fertilizers need to be added, and order them when placing the rare seed order. Soil testing may be available from a county agent if you notice a significant decrease in produce. Most gardens benefit from the addition of compost and organic fertilizers such as blood meal.
- February is also a great time of the year to check, repair and replace sprinkler heads and drip systems, in advance of when they are needed.
Starting onions, leeks and celery indoors in February provides the perfect opportunity to dig in and get some dirt under your nails. American Flag Leek Seeds are an heirloom seed variety that offers a 105 day cycle, perfect for succession planting, approximately 3-4 weeks apart. Heirloom Seeds are available in hundreds of varieties, for gardeners to plant and enjoy in all temperature zones.