Stunning New Heirloom Varieties for 2018

By Shannon McCabe

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Atomic Grape Tomatoes grace the cover of our 2018 free catalog!

 

The Baker Creek team is proud to present our new selections for 2018. Our company is comprised of a diverse crew of dedicated seed enthusiasts. We have been delighted in bringing our panoply of gardening, homesteading, farming, culinary and cultural knowledge together to create a selection of seeds that is sure to meet every grower’s needs. Whether you seek the rare gems, the old favorites, or the new innovations, we aim to offer seeds for all.

 

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Read about the intriguing history behind the Ancient Handled Watermelon!

 

The Baker Creek team scoured near and far in search of exciting new items for this season. The Gettle family travelled to Japan in search of highly refined vegetable varieties, including visiting a region that has been meticulously breeding and cultivating exquisite heirlooms since antiquity. The Baker Creek team embarked on a larger-than-life adventure in search of an unusual shaped watermelon and have started to produce this unusual variety for purchase in coming years. A host of crops to tempt everyone from the small gardener to the market farmer has been collected, and of course, our skilled team of gardeners and farmers have trialed each variety for market and growing potential.

Colorful Corns

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Big Horse Spotted Corn is a rare striking flour corn variety from the great Osage People!

The Baker Creek team travelled to the Lima, Peru, farmers market searching for unique South American crops. A local beverage called chicha morada caught their attention: a bright purple elixir, striking in color and derived from a local variety of corn. This corn called Maiz Morado contains a healthful dose of antioxidants as evidenced by its violet colored kernels. Native Mesoamericans have been growing this crop for chicha morada since before the Inca empire. This variety was developed in the high altitude of the Andes region of Peru, making it difficult to grow in northern latitudes.

 

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Stunning and delicious Maiz Morado Corn grown this summer in Missouri at Baker Creek!

 

Fortunately, upon returning to the states, the team learned that there has been an effort to adapt Maiz Morado to North American climates and daylength. Thanks to over 20 years of breeding by Debra and Ron Boyd of Mer girl farms in New Mexico, Maiz Morado can be successfully grown in most North American gardens. This is the darkest variety of corn known and can be eaten fresh as sweet corn or left to dry for flour or boiling into chicha.

 

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Atomic Orange Corn is a fabulous soft flint corn that sport sunburst brilliant orange kernels!

 

Atomic Orange flint corn is a brand-new open pollinated variety from the gifted corn breeder Ed Schultz of Bozeman Montana. Although newly released, the variety is nothing new; Ed spent 30 years developing this fantastic soft flint corn. This lovely variety sports a range of orange color from brilliant sunburst orange to pumpkin orange to russet orange--even the cobs are orange! For an added surprise, it will throw an occasional all-white ear.

 

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Osage Brown is a rich coffee-colored flint corn!

 

Reaching back to heirlooms of antiquity, the Osage Brown corn was brought to Baker Creek by the king of Maize himself, Stephen Smith. Smith manages an exquisite collection of rare corns and beans, specializing in the Native American varieties that have served as a cornerstone of the pre-colonial diet but have been forgotten through the years. This incredibly rich coffee-colored flint corn was originally grown by the Osage Native Americans who predominantly inhabited the plains and hills of much of the Midwest, including the river valleys of the Ozarks where Baker Creek is located. Smith is dedicated to bringing these important varieties back to American gardens, selecting for the traits to meet modern gardeners’ needs.


Farmers’/Serious Gardeners’ Picks

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Folks here at Baker Creek take our farming seriously and and treat our crops with love!
 

Many members of the Baker Creek team have first-hand experience in production farming and gardening, including organic C.S.A farmers, market gardeners, seed farmers and restaurant produce gardeners. Our intimate knowledge of the unique needs of the small farmer helps us to better understand marketable traits and to help gardeners and farmers to select for success. Whether you are looking for high yield and productivity or eye appeal to get an edge at the market, Baker Creek is sure to help you decide wisely!

 

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Achievement Runner Bean isversatile bean that sports edible blooms!

 

Achievement runner beans are a beloved runner bean from Great Britain.  This variety is applauded for its ability to produce massive profusions of perfectly uniform beans, making it an excellent choice for farmers market production. An edible ornamental, the lush and vigorous vines are quite floriferous and covered in sweet pea-like blooms that are edible. The young tender green beans are excellent eaten fresh, but the dried beans are cooked. Edible flowers fetch top dollar at farmers markets, and the high yield of uniform beans makes this an ace market variety, as well as a superb addition to the home garden.

 

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Amazing Cauliflower lives up to its name!

 

We are always on the lookout for more resilient and productive varieties of the more difficult to produce crops. Amazing cauliflower was bred for easier production and adaptability; if you've had trouble growing cauliflower, try this amazing variety. It is a classic American favorite and can be harvested either at the “baby head” size or when fully mature at 10”. Brilliant white, self-blanching heads are covered by large abundant wrapper leaves that protect them from sun, heat and cold; easy to grow in the North or South. It keeps well in the field and bears large heads, so pick as needed and prepare for a large harvest. It does well in wet, clay soil too! Approximately 75 days to maturity.


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The exquisite Black Nebula Carrot retains its color after cooking and is incredibly high in anthocyanins.

Carrots are one of the most popular veggies for market sales, and Black Nebula carrot will delight consumers and growers alike with its deep, inky-purple flesh. One of the darkest carrots available from skin to core, it’s also used as a dye.  It makes a stunning dark purple drink when juiced and turns bright pink when a squeeze of lemon is added. Amazingly, it retains its color after cooking and is incredibly high in anthocyanins. If left in the garden, it makes an exquisite white umbel tinged with lavender. We suggest growing and selling a rainbow of carrots and selling in bunches; the rainbow carrots are in high demand at markets across the country!

 

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Dark Galaxy Tomato is a must have for your heirloom tomato collection!

 

Nothing will set your veggies apart from other growers like the groovy Dark Galaxy tomato.This is another stunning tomato from Brad Gates, renown tomato breeder who specializes in outlandish and exquisite heirloom tomatoes. A delicious galactic beauty--with mottled skin resembling a scene from deep space; each fascinating fruit depicts the depth and beauty of the night sky. Dark Galaxy bears 2-8-ounce fruits that are flattened, with red and orange stripes covered in random speckles, and layered by deep blue. The vines themselves display a purple blush and grow 5-6 feet tall while producing good amounts of the stunning tomatoes that begin to ripen in about 75 days. The taste is a perfect balance of tangy-sweetness--so juicy and refreshing! Each fruit is a unique work of art, and customers will appreciate the equally stunning flavor.

 

Baker Creek visits Japan, the Land of Sophisticated Veggies

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The hussle and bussle and plenty of fresh produce at a Japanese market.

A recent trip to Japan yielded an impressive haul of the most superbly sophisticated class of heirlooms. The Japanese are famously fastidious in their farming practices, which include an effort to breed the most productive and healthy vegetables.

 

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The Japanese Cucumber trials at Baker Creek this summer yielded amazing results!

 

Japanese cucumbers have led the market in quality for quite some time, we are delighted to introduce even more styles of the highly revered Japanese cucumbers. You will immediately be able to tell the flavor difference in these varieties; they are famous for being less bitter and more succulent than other cucumbers.  We recommend slicing samples for market customers to taste; once you have tried the superior Japanese cucumbers, it is impossible to go back!

 

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Aonaga Jibai  is an exceptionally sweet, tender cucumber with vigorous, tough vines!

 

With exceptionally sweet, tender, and above all vigorous, tough vines, Aonaga Jabai is known in the southern islands of Japan. The seeds have been preserved over generations by an oild family in Beppu City in Kyushu Island. The long, slender 8-inch fruits are bitter free and super sweet with inconspicuous seeds, making it a perfect marketing cucumber with flavor that stands out from the rest! From the 1939 seed catalog of Tanaka & Co.: “Hardiness and prolific bearing character are meritorious features of Japaese varieties of cucumber. They withstand drought, moisture and attack of fungoid disease to a remarkable dengree.”

 

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The Natsu Fushinari  cucumber boasts the exquisite flavor of an heirloom with the tough disease resistance synonymous with commercial types. This variety has been used in powdery mildew studies and has shown exceptional resistance, especially in high heat. In Japanese, fushi means node and nari means setting fruit; aptly named Natsu Fushinari is a high yielder due to setting ability at every node. This Japanese variety can be grown on the ground or on poles and is an early maturing cucumber at 70 days. It has a deep green color, glossy skin, good uniformity, and fruits 8” long.

 

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Tokiwa, an old Japanese variety, also known as “Tokyo Green”, came from China in the Meiji era, then became the dominant variety sold around Tokyo. It is a supremely sweet and bitter-free 9” cuke with tender skin and few seeds. Mentioned in the 1932 edition of the Oriental Seed Company: “The vines attain twice the length of common varieties.” They do well on fences and trellises, saving space in the gardens. Vines are almost mildew proof and well adapted to hot dry summers. Small fruits make excellent pickles and set the standard for slicing cucumbers; they are buttery soft and sweet, never bitter.


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Japan has a long history of breeding fine vegetables; a country-wide trend toward vegetarianism lasted for 1200 years from the Nara to the Meiji period. During this time much effort was expended creating the most nutritious and scrumptious vegetables to serve as the pillar of the Japanese diet. Varieties like Tokinashi turnip have persisted from this period, and production has continued to this day. Tokinashi is a traditional vegetable of Japan and listed among the illustrious group of Dento Yasai, or traditional cultural vegetables of Japan. This is a 50 day white turnip with silky, fine-grained texture. Father of forest gardening, Masanobu Fukuoka, grew this variety as a wild understory crop. With a reluctance to bolt or become pithy, this popular type has an incredible sweet taste and rich flavor. The roots are nice and smooth with crisp, white flesh of excellent quality. It can be planted in early spring or late summer, into fall, and enjoyed all year long! The crunchy, juicy roots are enjoyed fresh or pickled.

 

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The Hida Beni red turnip is  supremely crisp and mild with a white and red, fine-grained flesh making it a top fresh-eating salad turnip. These beautiful, large, red-skinned turnips are cultivated mainly in Takayama City, Japan. Its origin was from a former part of Takayama called Hachigago, where a local turnip of reddish-purple hue was widely grown. In 1918, this red colored mutant was discovered from these Hachiga turnips and named Hida Beni-Red Turnip. It is excellent for making pickles and matures in just 45-50 days.

 

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Daimaru is a firm, large, round turnip--‘dai’ meaning big and ‘maru’ meaning round. Developed in the early 1700s in Kyoto from a turnip in the Ōmi area (North of Kyoto), it is one of the most beautiful turnips we found in Japan. It has a very pink skin color and a creamy interior sprinkled with hot pink. It is incredibly delicious and has many uses, such as being sliced very thin and pickled with sugar, vinegar, and salt. It is a round turnip about 4” wide with green leaves and red petioles. Harvest 60 days after sowing.


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The Nagasaki Akari Kabu turnip is stunningly beautiful and will be sure to draw attention at market or on the plate. This delicious turnip is traditionally grown in lovely Nagasaki, Japan. A dark plum-to-wine color skin with a hint of delicate purple in the sweet, crisp flesh makes it so enticing. Great for pickling and a delicious raw turnip for fresh eating and salads. An excellent choice for succession planting, this variety is ready 50 days from sowing.

 

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Cultivated for centuries in the mountainous region of Kyoto, Japan, mizuna is celebrated as one of the region’s designated traditional gourmet and historic vegetable varieties. Mizuna is believed to have originally come to Japan from mainland Asia many centuries ago. Thanks to many generations of careful cultivation, and its status as a cornerstone of Japan’s culinary history, modern mizuna is considered a Japanese creation. We have acquired both summer and cool season varieties of Mizuna, each specifically adapted to the season for better harvests year round!

 

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An excellent choice for cool seasons, Benihoushi Mizuna is a new, vibrant twist on an ancient crop, and the bright purple stems set it apart from any other mizuna. The succulent stems are rich in anthocyanin, the same powerful purple antioxidant present in blueberries. This recently developed open-pollinated variety has been making a splash on the high-end culinary scene in Japan. The greens are excellent raw in salads; the purple stems and dark greens make a lovely contrast, and the delicate flavor is unparalleled. Mizuna is well adapted to both heat and cold extremes and is suitable for several harvests, in fact becoming more tasty and cool-adapted with each successive cutting.

 

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A taste of Kyoto’s culinary heritage, this heat tolerant Mizuna variety was originally bred to withstand the heat and intense humidity of Japan’s interior. Summer Mizuna is incredibly bolt resistant, even in the face of punishing heat and moisture. Mizuna is suitable for several harvests and can be eaten at all stages. This variety is traditionally planted for high summer harvest, when the juicy, watery stems make the most refreshing mid-day snack.

 

Homesteading Must Haves

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The Missouri Ozarks is known to be one of the greatest American landscapes for homesteading and living off the land. Many of the Baker Creek team were raised on homesteads or have moved to the area in hopes of going back to the land. Being personally invested in becoming more self sufficient, the team is always on the lookout for heirlooms that are well suited to homesteading.

 

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The Ozark Nest Egg gourd is one of our favorite old time heirlooms. Homesteaders in the Ozarks have historically used this gourd, which strongly resembles a goose or hen egg, as a false egg to place in the nest to encourage hens to lay. These white small gourds used to trick hens are perfect for making crafts. The gourds will take on a brown spotted appearance when dried, and they can be lightly sanded and painted. Just be aware that these these gourds are much too bitter to eat and may be toxic.

 

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Every homesteader knows that low maintenance perennial crops like berries can save time and labor with big rewards. Snowbank blackberry is a unique addition to any edible forest garden. These sparkling white berries were developed by the great Luther Burbank, legendary plant breeder of the early 20th Century. Burbank, who was also responsible for the Russet Burbank potato and the Shasta Daisy, took a chance mutation white blackberry that was found growing in the wild in New Jersey and bred a more bright white berry. The result, introduced in 1916, was a stunning alabaster fruit with exceptional sweet flavor. Extra sweet berries dazzle like diamonds on vigorous vines.This variety never transcended its reputation as a garden novelty, and for that reason the Snowbank completely disappeared from the commercial market. We are delighted to offer the Snowbank blackberry after many years of anticipation! Having almost gone extinct, it is one of the most exciting discoveries ever!

 

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Check out all of our 2018 New Items HERE

 

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