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William Woys Weaver
The Roughwood Seed Collection, which now comprises about 4000 varieties of heirloom food plants, was begun informally in 1932 by my grandfather H. Ralph Weaver (1896-1956).
I discovered his seed collection at the bottom of a freezer many years later and decided to take on the responsibility of growing out the rare and unusual plants he had accumulated. Since then, I have added thousands of new plants to the collection (and given it the name Roughwood, after my 1805 house in Devon, Pennsylvania) .
Ancash Market Cucumber
Exclusive listing with Baker Creek! Collected in Chacas, Peru by the late pepper historian Jean Andrews. This landrace traces its ancestry to cucumbers brought from Spain in the 1500s. It's also known as Pepino Criollo Chacasino or Ancashino. It has been carefully selected for its resistance to pests and mildew. Grown in the cool climate of the high Andes, this cucumber is especially suited to cooler parts of the US and will remain productive all season if grown on trellises. The cucumbers are best when harvested 6 inches long.
Biquinho Hot Pepper
Pronounced bee-KEE-nyo, the name of this landrace from Brazil means “little beak,” and it will add a kiss of flavor to any dish you cook with it. The bright red 1 inch pods taper to a point like an inverted teardrop. The pepper has the distinctive smoky flavor like other members of this species, but also a rich fruitiness that is enhanced by sugar or sweet-and-sour marinades. It also makes the perfect garnish for barbecues and pickles. The 2 1/2 foot bushes should be spaced 18 inches apart. Also locally known as "chupetinho." Part of the each sale helps support Dr. Weaver's work.
Brown Lazy Wife
The lentil bean, otherwise known among the Pennsylvania Dutch as Brown Lazy Wife, is perhaps one of the meatiest of all the old time pole beans. This bean was called lentil because it was cooked like an over-sized lentil (or even with true lentils), but also because when ground, it yielded a unique flour when combined with chinquapins (wild chestnuts) for Pennsylvania Dutch style dumplings, flat breads, and soups. Pole bean culture: allow 80 days for dry beans. Space 6 to 8 inches apart. Can be grown on sunflowers or tall corn. Plant early since this bean requires 80 days for dry seed. The traditional Pennsylvania Dutch planting day was June 4, which was called Buhnedaag (Bean Day) in dialect. Grown in genetic isolation for the Roughwood Seed Collection at Field’s Edge Farm, Litiz, Pennsylvania.
Buena Mulata Hot Pepper
A very rare, extremely productive, and stunning hot pepper being offered exclusively through Baker Creek! William Woys Weaver introduced us to this pepper from his grandfather's collection. His grandfather received the pepper from African-American folk artist Horace Pippin in 1944. A chameleon like pepper that undergoes color changes during ripening; violet to pinkish-flesh color, then orange changing to brown, and eventually to a deep red. The long, round pods reach 6 to 7 inches in length and undergo a unique flavor change as they ripen as well--with the reds being more sweet and meatier than the violet. The stunning plants also make wonderful potted specimens.
Chi Yei Eggplant
ROUGHWOOD/EFN EXCLUSIVE. 'Chi Yei' is an incredibly early, fast-ripening eggplant variety from China. It was donated to the USDA collection by the Beijing Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Science in 1979. Fruit are round, almost globe-shaped, with firm flesh and shiny, deep purple skin. The stems are also dark purple, and the leaves have a dark tint to them as well, which perhaps explains why these eggplants seem to withstand flea beetle infestations better than others. If you want an extra-early eggplant, try the 'Chi Yei'. Grown ecologically in New Jersey by the Experimental Farm Network.
Citrullus lanatus We discovered this classic Cypriot watermelon in 1996 in the picturesque mid-week farmer’s market within the walls of Old Nicosia. Grown then by only one villager, it is now gone from the island’s markets and is considered one of the most endangered of the Cypriot heirlooms. Dating from at least the 1700s if not before, this melon is known locally as the Pastiha Kypriaki “Anidri,” which means that it requires very little irrigation. The traditional practice was to pack mud around the base of the plants in the early morning and let Nature do the rest. The melons feature thin black-green skin with rich, bright red flesh and weigh from 5 to 10 pounds, depending on soil fertility. We have gotten some to weigh as much as 20 pounds. Highly productive, with several fruits on one vine, this watermelon can be grown successfully on trellises or netting. Grown for the Roughwood Seed Collection at Field’s Edge Farm, Lititz, Pennsylvania.
Debbie's Pink Tomato
Debbie’s Pink is the product of a selective breeding program begun by Dr. Weaver over 25 years ago. The pink, plump pear-shaped fruit about 4 inches tall and 2 inches in diameter at the bottom is a 1998 selection of Mr. Jack, a red tomato created in 1993 by crossing Red Fig with a Mexican landrace called Tomate enrollado rojo. The new pink selection was named in honor of Debbie Warden of Mill Hollow Farm (Delaware County, Pennsylvania) where we grew the tomato on large scale for final breeding stability. Debbie’s Pink has proved to be quite a hit with Philadelphia chefs and has been featured on a number of upscale menus. The indeterminate vines require staking and do very well on trellises in greenhouses.
Dr. Lyle Tomato
This rare regular leaf strain of the original Mikado (there are 2 genetic Mikado strains), is perhaps one of the most popular tomatoes among home gardeners today. Dr. Lyle is difficult to find in most farm markets because the fruit is almost seedless and therefore challenging to reproduce on a commercial scale. That said Dr. Lyle is a great favorite with our interns at Kutztown University, who appreciate the large size of the fruit and the plant’s seemingly uninterrupted productivity until frost. Dr. Lyle is said to have been preserved by George Korbel of West Virginia, although the tomato shares many characteristics with other Mikado selections. The history of this tomato may prove quite interesting but until good documentation is forthcoming, we can only say that we have been growing it since 1996 and that it has never disappointed. The large raspberry pink fruit weigh anywhere from 1 to 2 pounds and have few seed chambers. An excellent slicing tomato for midseason harvest, the 4 to 6 foot vines demand sturdy staking. Plants should be spaced 24 to 36 inches apart for best production, although individually each plant puts its “all” into a few fruit, so if you are a market gardener, you will need to plant a 150 foot row for profitability.
Elephant Trunk Pepper
This spicy cherry red heirloom pepper tracing to Central America was saved from the original Roughwood Seed Collection in the 1930s. It was mentioned as a novelty pepper in the 1898 catalog of Philadelphia seedsman William Henry Maule and remained popular with the New Jersey canning industry. The curving pods are 10 to 12 inches long and taper to a point or a three-lobed “nose” like an elephant’s trunk. They literally drag the ground so plants should be well staked. Since the bushes are small, about 1 ½ feet tall, they are well adapted to pot culture or even table top gardening in greenhouses. The pepper was popular with canning companies because it is fleshy, sweet, and yet pleasantly hot. This made it an excellent candidate for pickling, catsups, and bottled sauces. A late season pepper, peak production occurs in late August and early September in Zone 7a. Not recommended for Zone 5 and colder.
Fejee Improved Tomato
This tomato came in to my grandfather ’s collection from his friend Dr. Harold E. Martin (1888-1959), the creator of Dr. Martin’ s Lima Bean. Dr. Martin used it as a breeding parent to create the True Black Brandywine tomato which I discussed several years ago in The Heirloom Gardener. Fejee Improved or True Beefsteak appeared as a new cross or selection about 1883 in the seed catalogs of David Landreth and Robert Buist of Philadelphia. Ideal for slicing, the fat, oblate fruit about 4 to 5 inches in diameter features maroon or brownish-purple flesh with a red “bloody” center as shown in the picture. It received the name Beefsteak because it resembled raw aged beef. Treat as a late season tomato. Due to the heavy fruit, plants should be staked or caged.
Fiaschetto di Manduria Tomato
<p style="text-align: justify;"> <span style="font-size:13px;color:#000000;font-weight:400;text-decoration:none;font-family:'Arial';font-style:normal;">'Fiaschetto' (pronounced "Fee-ah-SKET-oh") means "flask" in Italian, and the name is appropriate considering how juicy these tomatoes are. Originally from the village of Manduria in Taranto Province of Puglia, in the heel of Italy's boot, these 2-3 oz. plum tomatoes with a slight point on the blossom end are great for juicing, sauce, or fresh eating. They are also wonderful sun-dried (or oven-dried). The plants are determinate and very productive. Grown ecologically in New Jersey by the Experimental Farm Network.</span></p>
This rare Bhutanese cucumber thrives in cool northern climates, but also stands up to intense heat and humidity. It was collected in 1981 at a farmstore in the Trongsa district village of Poengenang, roughly in the geographical center of Bhutan. When fruit is immature and green, it makes a great cucumber for raw eating or pickling. When mature, it resembles the more common Indian variety ‘Poona Kheera’, but is darker-skinned, much bigger (up to 20” long in our experience), but still quite tasty. The flesh of the mature fruit is reminiscent of melons (which are cousins of cucumbers, after all), and can be eaten raw, pickled, or turned into a delicious chutney. The flesh of the ripe fruit is traditionally cooked in Bhutan. For seed savers, it’s refreshing to find a cucumber that is still useful once seeds are fully ripe. Watching these giants develop on the vine is one of the joys of summer! A portion of each sale is donated to Dr. William Woys Weaver and Roughwood Seed Collection
<p style="text-align: justify;"> <span style="font-size:13px;color:#000000;font-weight:400;text-decoration:none;font-family:'Arial';font-style:normal;">This yellow-orange heirloom cherry tomato from Siberia is one of the earliest around, but it also produces its 1" fruit throughout the summer into fall. Not as sweet as modern "Sun Gold" hybrids, this old heirloom has a great tomato flavor and beautiful color. The potato-leaved, indeterminate plants are healthy and productive, and perform equally well in cold areas as hot. Also known as 'Galina's Yellow.' Grown ecologically in New Jersey by the Experimental Farm Network.</span></p>
Governor Pennypacker Tomato
Developed about 1908 by a Bucks County, PA farmer, and named in honor of a popular Pennsylvania Dutch governor, this tomato was preserved by Betty Gottshall Kulp of Harleysville, PA. Mrs. Kulp operated a country store and sold this tomato from the truck garden behind her business. Considered a paste tomato with bright orange-red fruit about the same size and shape as a goose egg (3 inches tall and about 2 ½ inches wide), the flavor is best when the tomatoes are vine ripened. Indeterminate.
Grandpa's White Wax Tomato
Found in my grandfathers frozen seed collection many years after his death, this unique oblate white tomato w ith waxy skin was used as a display tomato in county fairs. That was because it will remain firm even a week after picking. H. Ralph Weaver acquired it sometime before 1932 and considered it one of the sweetest tomatoes in his collection. The 3-i nch diameter fruits can be served like fruit with raspberries or mangos, or converted into jam.
Green Gage Yellow Tomato
One of our favorite cottage garden tomatoes. This Victorian classic was created in England in the 1870s and introduced into the US in 1876. The fruit is sweet just like a greengage plum and our careful selection is also the purest now available with pale yellow flesh and green seed mass. Exceptional flavor! Each fruit is roughly 1 ½ inches in diameter. Produces early, often 60 days after planting and will continue until frost. Ideal for small gardens and cool climate areas of the country. Easy to grow in tubs.
Homs 11 Tomato
<p style="text-align: justify;"> <span style="font-size:13px;color:#000000;font-weight:400;text-decoration:none;font-family:'Arial';font-style:normal;">ROUGHWOOD/EFN EXCLUSIVE. This gorgeous tomato was collected in Homs, Syria, by C.O. Eyer of the Near East Foundation in 1949 or earlier. Homs has been one of the cities most devastated by the ongoing war in Syria and is known for being a hotbed of resistance. It was also once a major agricultural center. The 'Homs 11' tomato produces flat, deeply fasciated (ribbed), bright red fruits on sprawling, indeterminate plants. These tomatoes are not long-keepers, so they may not be best suited for market farmers, but for the home gardener they are wonderful -- with a strong, heirloom tomato flavor, a striking beauty, and a powerful story. Being from Syria, the plants are extremely drought and heat tolerant. Grown ecologically in New Jersey by the Experimental Farm Network.</span></p>
Landis Winter Lettuce
(Lactuca sativa) We acquired this dark green classic Pennsylvania Dutch winter lettuce in 1994 from the well-known lettuce collector Mary Schultz of Monroe, Washington. A Pennsylvania Dutch selection of the now-extinct late 1700s variety known as White Tennisball, this is one of the hardiest, most frost-resistant lettuces we have ever grown. It even survived the Polar Vortex during the severe winter of 2013-2014. Each head reaches 11 to 12 inches in diameter with a loose butterhead appearance. Plant 14 inches apart in early September for salad greens through December and January.
Exclusive listing with Baker Creek! This rare and unusual preserving melon hails from South Africa where it has been grown in tribal areas for many centuries. The name makataan derives from the native Tswana language and is used locally in the same manner as squash. The leaves and young fruit are cooked like green vegetables while the ripe flesh is often mixed with cornmeal and transformed into porridge or pudding. The edible red seeds are extremely rich in anti-oxidants and Vitamin C and can be ground to make gluten-free flour. Afrikaners use the melon for jams, pickles, and preserves. The 15 to 20 foot vines require a great deal of space hence this is best for small field culture, especially since individual melons can weigh as much as 50 pounds!
Mallorcan Winter Tomato
This unusual tomato from the Spanish island of Mallorca is used almost exclusively for sun drying or for winter storage. The rambling vines about 24 inches in height produce an abundance of round, pinkish-yellow fruit with rose-pink centers. The fruits are generally about 2 to 2 ½ inches in diameter and are not full-flavored when they appear vine-ripe. They attain their most intense flavor thorough aging. The tomato should be treated as determinate because at the end of summer, the fruit production peaks and then stops. The plants defoliate and at this point the Mallorcans either harvest the fruit for sun drying (which improves their flavor), or the vines are pulled up whole and hung upside down in a protected place (such as a barn) so that the tomatoes can ripen slowly over the course of the winter. The tomatoes are then pulled off the vines as needed. They will keep this way for several months. The plants should be spaced about 24 inches apart and are not helped by staking. In Mallorca, they are allowed to ramble over the ground or to drape over stone walls or terraces because the radiated heat from the ground contributes to their special flavor. If you are looking for the ideal tomato for drying or for use as a winter keeper, this tomato is by far the best heirloom of choice.
Mammi Huber's Stuffing Pepper
(Capsicum annuum) This Lancaster County, Pennsylvania heirloom was developed during the 1920s in the garden of Mammi Huber, an Old Order Mennonite who operated a fruit and produce stand near Hinkletown, Pennsylvania. The small, sweet, crunchy peppers measuring 1 ½ to 2 inches in diameter were normally stuffed with shredded cabbage and spices and then pickled. Also great for snack trays. Each 3 foot bush is a prolific producer from mid-summer to frost. Plant 16 inches apart.
Mary's Niagara Ground Cherry
ROUGHWOOD/EFN EXCLUSIVE. We're very excited to be offering this variety to the public for the very first time. The original seed came from fruit purchased at a roadside stand in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, some years ago by the Experimental Farm Network’s Nate Kleinman. Mary was the name of the woman selling them, and she said at the time that she had been growing these and saving her own seed for more years than she could remember. The fruit were particularly sweet and flavorful, so Nate brought them back across the border (receiving permission from border guards!), dried a few seeds, put them in a plastic bag, and promptly forgot about them for many years. Upon growing them out for the first time a couple years ago, the plants quickly impressed with their earliness, their reliably sweet fruits, and their especially low profile: each averages roughly a three to four foot spread, but with the sprawling branches hovering only a few inches off the ground. A bed of 'Mary's Niagara' appears so flat it almost resembles a an actual bed. They are a good candidate to be attempted in short-season areas where other nightshades like tomatoes, peppers, or egpplants, might be challenging. Productive, precocious, and delicious, these ground cherries might just become the new gold standard! Seeds grown ecologically in Elmer, NJ, by the Experimental Farm Network Cooperative.
Minsk Early Tomato
<p style="text-align: justify;"> <span style="font-size:13px;color:#000000;font-weight:400;text-decoration:none;font-family:'Arial';font-style:normal;">ROUGHWOOD/EFN EXCLUSIVE. 'Minsk Early', or 'Minskiy Ranniy', is one of the earliest tomatoes you'll ever find. We eat them by the handful come July. Picked at peak ripeness, this small to medium-sized tomato has a lovely sweet-tart flavor and a pleasant texture. It's very productive too. Do not confuse with 'Orange Minsk,' a completely different heirloom: 'Minsk Early' is bright red. Grown ecologically in New Jersey by the Experimental Farm Network.</span></p>