Experimental Homestead

Turkeysong Seed and Vegetable Varieties

turkeysong varieties header



This is sort of a vegetable review area, as well as a repository of information that people who get seeds from me can access as needed.  I will be editing it and adding pictures and varieties over time.

I give away a lot of seeds, and will be giving a whole lot away in the next couple of months at the Ukiah farmer’s market and the Boonville scion exchange.  If you save seed, you’ll find that you almost always have way more than you can use.  That’s awesome, because then you can give away seeds too.  If more of us save seeds in our communities, then each of us has to spend less time trying to save seeds of everything ourselves.  Saving seed in a community can also lead to maintaining a larger genetic pool, because can we trade for seed of varieties that we already save at home just to get some new genes or traits in the mix.  Also, I’m fairly convinced (intuitively more than anything else) that gifting is part of any sustainable economy.  When I say economy, dollar signs probably start flashing in your head, but I mean economy more in the old school sense of the totality of activities, interactions and resources that make up a person or family’s living, and of course the overlap that has with other people and families in a broader community.

Below are all varieties that I grow personally here, and which have found a place in the the garden by way of various virtues.  I’ve grown weary, and wary, of trialing large numbers of vegetables and now only do it one vegetable at a time, on the rare year that I do it at all.  Mostly I find that it ends up being a waste of money and bed space.  I think it’s very important to find good varieties and that a lot of folks should expend more effort on the pursuit, but is can get expensive and complicated.  It’s easy to run up a good sized bill if I allow myself to be seduced by every seed catalogue and rosy description.  That rose of a beet is rarely any better than Detroit Dark Red since it has already snuffed out a half dozen or more varieties before it.  It is nice to have varieties that are consistent and reliable and then every once in a while I can seek to improve something I’m not happy with, or try a variety that a friend recommends.  I’ve gone through a lot of trouble to find these guys and, while your mileage may vary, they are a good place to start if just starting out, or might be worth trying in a small plot against whatever it is that you normally grow.  Let me know what has worked for you in the comments.

More about saving seeds and these super cool turkeysong original origami seed pockets soon!

seed pockets

Touchon Carrot:  I’ve grown this variety for a long time.  I settled on it after trialing maybe 7 or 8 different varieties of carrots including the usual french carrots of the Nantes and Chantenay types.  It just seemed to taste better, and do so over a longer season.  Here in our mild climate, we can hold carrots in the ground through the winter in a pick as needed scenario.  I’ve planted these in the spring and harvested them through the following winter, and they maintain eating quality throughout.  They do tend to crack if you leave them that long, but I think most carrots do.  The point is more that the flesh quality is retained.  They are allegedly a good storage carrot as well.  I also like Shin Kuroda from Japan.  It is somewhat more uniform and very tender and juicy, but also less sweet and flavorful.  Touchon is a good market carrot, with acceptable uniformity, if grown out fast.  With age, it tends to bulb out at the end and get bumpy.  I haven’t gone out of my way to trial carrots for a while, but Touchon has never been bumped from first place.  Friends I’ve given seeds to seem to like it as well.  My last selection was made by harvesting the most uniform roots and tasting every one with a panel of three people to determine the best tasting, and not just the best looking.  The tips were tested and the remaining carrot planted to go to seed.  I was thinking about doing some breeding work with it for a somewhat sweeter and more uniform version, just so I can call it touche’  he he he…

Bronze Beauty lettuce (aka bronze arrow or bronze arrowhead):  Bronze beauty lettuce delivers fine eating, good cultural traits and yes beauty!  So far it seems like one of my hardier lettuces too, withstanding both heat and cold pretty well without turning to a pile of mush or bolting.  It has become my main winter lettuce under cover and I’ve done well with it during the last two summers, though both were on the cool side.  It is a good market lettuce too, drawing attention with it’s interesting deeply cut leaves.  According to a lot of websites, it’s original name was bronze beauty, but it is more commonly known as bronze arrow, or arrowhead now.  Adding cultivar names is just confusing, and usually done by a nursery or seedsman that wants to make more money.  There are rules that you aren’t supposed to rename a variety, or name it initially with a trademarked name in order to secure the royalties trademark holders claim to be entitled to.  As far as I know, neither name is trademarked, and we should all start using the original cultivar name, which is quite nice anyway!  So, BRONZE BEAUTY gets the tiara!

Bronze Beauty

Bronze Beauty

Paul Robeson: is a medium to large slicing tomato.  It has interesting coloring, with dark reds tending to black and a dark green top.  Very pretty and very tasty.  It also seems to be reasonably early and quite productive.  All in all a great tomato that gets a lot of well deserved great reviews.  It’s also an educational tomato, since I had no idea who Paul Robeson was before I started growing it.

Green Zebra: is a novelty that goes beyond novelty.  It is also a great tasting tomato.  It is on the acidic side, so people who prefer a gentler sweeter tomato might not find it to their liking.  Because it’s sharp, it makes a good salad tomato.  When ripe, it has green stripes on a yellow background.  The tomatoes are small and there are always a lot of them.   I usually grow one green zebra plant.

Green Zebra

Green Zebra

Blue Beech paste tomato:  This variety has risen to the top after trying many other paste tomatoes.  I don’t actually make paste, or sauce to can, but I can a ton of whole tomatoes.  Blue Beech makes a nice whole canned tomato.  It peels easily, is large, which greatly reduces the work of preparing, and the vines are productive.  It has very few seeds and Fedco implied that their seed producer nick named it blue bitch because it has so few seeds!  The flavor is a classic tomato flavor.  I’ve tried San Marzano (lame in my considerable opinion) and a good double handful of canning types, and I like this one best so far, except for maybe orange banana, but that is like comparing apples and orange bananas.  It won’t surprise me if I replace this variety someday, but then again, it’s a solid performer (and a solid tomato too, with very few seeds and firm flesh) and I don’t have any compelling reason to spend more money on more seeds to try to bump it out of it’s place with another variety.  At the least, it’s a good place to start if you want to can tomatoes.  I wouldn’t grow it for fresh eating, though it is not bad fresh by any stretch.

Not 100% sure these are blue beech, but probably and they look about like this anyway.

Not 100% sure these are blue beech, but probably.  There is a whole group of similar large old school canning tomatoes.  Polish Linguisa takes the record for productivity here at Turkeysong, but Blue Beech is also very productive and won out for taste.

Orange Banana: is a small orange canning tomato.  It also makes a good snack with salt, great dried tomatoes and a tasty salad tomato.  The flavor is sweet and fruity.  I love it as a canned whole tomato.  The juice that comes off the canned tomatoes is something to really look forward to.  I’ll usually pour it off into a glass and savor it while I’m preparing dinner.  The flavor of the canned tomatoes is not really tomatoey, it’s more fruity and delicious in it’s own right.  If taken in poundage, the vines can’t compare in productivity with something like Blue Beech above, but they’re worth the effort as a canned tomato just because they are so delicious.

Zapotec: is a medium to large tomato of unusual form.  It is pleated all the way around, so the slices look really interesting.  It is pretty solid, with less juice than many tomatoes and small seed cavities.  That makes it excellent for salsa and cooking.  I had high hopes for it as a canned tomato, but they fell a little short on flavor when canned (edit:  Actually, I’m still on the fence with this as a canned tomato.  I need one more year of tests!).  I like it as a slicing tomato for sandwiches and stuff, for cooking with, or just to eat with salt.  The flavor is rich and tomatoey.


Zapotec.  Note the firm flesh.  They don’t turn all to juice when you cut them up for salsa.  The rich tomatoey flavor is just hard to beat.  My mom brought one to dinner that she had bought at a Farmer’s Market.  One bite and I squished all the seeds out onto a paper towel to save.

Italian Parsley:  I think I bought this variety as Giant Italian Parsley.  It is a flat leaved type with thick stems.  I like the Italian parsley better than the curled type, if for no other reason than it’s easier to clean.  I think it also just tastes milder and sweeter and it’s less chewy or rough or something.  The stems get super sweet in the winter and make a good garden munch.  I use the stems and tops a lot like one would use celery, which I don’t grow.  Essential for so many winter soups and nice to have around for salsa verde.  I try to head into the winter with at least 6 to 8 plants.  They get messed around by frost a bit, but they always seem to pull through in the end.

Ruby Streaks Mustard (aka red streaks?):  This is a beautiful mustard green.  The greens are dark green and maroon, with a ferny outline.  Like every other mustard green I’ve ever grown, the plants are prone to bolting, and prefer cool weather.  The flowering tops make great rapini though, so that is major consolation!  I’ve not been able to interest market goers in the my red mizuna rapini yet, but I still have hopes.  I like them almost better than the greens when simmered quickly in heavily salted water, or briefly saute’d in butter.  The greens are good stir fried, wilted in butter, and as the minority component in a salad.  They are quite pungent raw, but simmer down as soon a they’re cooked.  A tasty addition to the garden and always garnering a comment at the market for their beauty, though they are near impossible to keep from wilting as they are so delicate.

Ruby Streaks. I was calling them red mizuna for a while, because that's basically what it is. There is also a red streaks mizuna going around. They might all be the same thing.

Ruby Streaks. I was calling them red mizuna for a while, because that’s basically what it is. There is also a red streaks mizuna going around. They might all be the same thing.

Hailstone radish: is an early twentieth century variety with large, white, mild, sweet roots.  Since I found this variety, I’ve never gone back to the little red radishes.  Hailstone’s mild, sweet, juicy roots are more similar to daikon, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were bred from some Asian accession, or simply imported and introduced under an english name.  Aside from having great roots, Hailstone has great tops!  Most radish greens are hairy and tough.  Hailstone’s greens are smooth and mild tasting.  They’re great for salads, or even just garden munching.  I’ve never encountered another radish with greens like this.  The seedlings are robust and succulent too, so I’m sure it would make a great sprouting seed as well.  It has the usual problem of going hot and pithy when stressed or old, but I’m not sure it’s any worse than the rest, and it is milder throughout than most spring radishes.  I plant it in the open in late winter/early spring, or all winter under cover.  I haven’t grown it in the fall, but wouldn’t doubt that it would do okay.  It comes up and grows very fast.  Not instant gratification, but maybe quickish gratification in the spring when the garden larder is running low.  It would be a good market radish, but the white skin shows every blemish.  I’m going to work on better culture to see if i can grow it out smoother and faster so it looks better.  It’s an easy sell on flavor, so that makes up for cosmetics to an extent, but looks still matter a lot at market.

Hailstone Radish

Hailstone Radish.  A very nice bunch.  They don’t always look this good.  I’ll probably never go back to little red radishes.  The very tender and delicious greens are a great bonus.

Burgess’ Buttercup:  This is the best winter squash I’ve grown, and I’ve tried a lot of them.  Every so many years I get suckered into trying some new varieties, but Burgess always takes the prize.  The only comparable squash so far is Kubocha, but I think it is actually just a japanese version of the same squash, or close to it.  Red Kuri can be quite good, but Burgess is better more consistently for me.  It is a sweet squash with dense dry flesh.  If you like a more moist squash, like butternut, don’t grow burgess.  It is quite dry, requiring lubrication with a generous amount of butter (that’s good ;).  It makes a very rich squash pie.

Burgess' Butercup Winter Squash.

Burgess’ Butercup Winter Squash.

Golden Summer Crookneck Squash:  I like zuchini for some uses, and the other summer squash are okay I guess, but if I could only grow one summer squash, it would definitely by crookneck.  Crooknecks have a rich flavor that has never been touched by any other summer squash I’ve ever grown.  They don’t dry or freeze well, but they sure taste great fresh off the vine steamed and slathered in butter.  I do like Zucchini sometimes and Costata Romanesca is the best I’ve grown.

Scallions:  I thought this variety of scallions that I grow was Hardy Evergreen, but it doesn’t really match the descriptions in catalogues, and I’ve been saving the seed for so many years that I can’t remember for sure.  Anyway, if you get scallion seeds from me, I don’t know what they are, but they’re good!  They hold over winter fine, grow fast, look nice.  Market goers like them a lot.  A solid performer.

Scallions of unknown variety

Scallions of unknown variety

Bulgarian Giant Leek:  There is so much written on this blog already, that I’ll keep it short.  This is a tall self blanching leek.  It is large in diameter and long in length.  The long shaft is particularly nice because it contains no dirt until near the top.  If grown over a long season with plenty of attention and continual feeding, it can get truly huge by late winter.  It is also quite tasty.

Bulgarian Giant.

Bulgarian Giant.  These are pretty big, but it can grow larger.

Fortex Green Bean:  I usually don’t have seeds of these to give away, because I use most of them for planting.  However, I sometimes have enough to give some away and they are worthy of mention anyway.  I have met a number of other gardeners who agree with me that Fortex kicks some serious green bean butt!  It seems healthy, it’s productive, it tastes great and it stays tender to a large size.  It’s truly hard to beat this bean when all things are considered.  It is a long french type.  I get repeat customers for these at farmer’s market, but I never have even close to enough to supply demand.

Fortex green bean rocks!

Fortex green bean rocks!

Detroit Red Beet:  I know, such an unsexy name for an awesome beet right?  The only beet I’ve grown that has given Detroit real competition is Robuschka, which I will probably try again at some point.  Robuschka is a rare variety in the U.S. and I unfortunately didn’t save seed for it when I had it.  For yellow beets, Touchstone Golden Beet is great and fast gaining much deserved popularity (available from fedco seeds).  Golden Detroit is also quite good, but I’m not crazy about the shape.  Anyway, Detroit Red is an excellent beet and has survived the test of time as a garden standard.  It seems to be good at any size up to flowering.  It gets large if allowed to grow all season, and since the quality holds well, I usually plant only one or two crops a year and just let them grow on through the winter.

Many of these are usually available through fedco seeds, hands down my favorite seed company for price, quality, and all around coolness.

January 19, 2014 - Posted by | Garden Stuff | , ,


  1. Seed saving is on my to-do list, one of these years once we get the barn and house under control :) Looks like you’ve found some really cool varieties!

    Comment by jj | January 19, 2014 | Reply

    • I’ll be trying to take the intimidation out of seed saving soon, so that people can just get started. There is a lot of information that a person can consume on the subject, and some is very important, but it is also very easy to just get started with a minimum of information. for instance, tomatoes almost never cross out, so you can just squish some seeds onto a paper towel and presto, you’ve got a few year’s supply of that seed variety. That’s how I got Zapotec. My mom had a tomato and it was really good, so I squished some onto a paper towel. Hell, you can even just scrape some off your cutting board instead of scraping them into the compost! Lettuce doesn’t really cross out either, so you can just let the best few heads, or even just one head, go to seed. I’m all about people getting started with a couple of easy ones to just get in the groove and see that it doesn’t always have to be prohibitively complicated. We can refine and learn more from there. Good luck with building/refurbishing. That always seems to take a back seat around here, but I not infrequently have cause to regret it ;)

      Comment by Stevene | January 19, 2014 | Reply

      • We have a toddler and a baby on the way, so the house sort of became the priority :)

        I know seed saving really isn’t rocket science, and I’ve done a bit of reading; the most daunting bits, for me, are separation (we always grow several varieties of bean and pumpkin, for instance) and how to manage the biennials in our very harsh climate (zone 2). I will look forward to your next post on the topic :)

        Comment by jj | January 19, 2014

  2. Some prolific (and tasty) varieties that I tried last year: Cosata Romanesco (zuchinni) and Zeppelin Delicata (squash). Both produced so much I couldn’t give enough away. The Cosata tastes great dried as well.

    Thanks for the tips on the other varieties. I’ve heard about Paul Robeson too many times not to try it. And I’ve never heard of that carrot variety, so I’ll have to try it (if it works for 4a MN). I grew boring old Danvers from Fedco last year. It grew well but tasted bland.

    Any recommendations on peppers? A local seed saver offers a bunch so I’d thought I’d try some myself. Or other pie squash varieties? I tried New England Pie and Winter Luxury and wasn’t too impressed with either. Sweet Meat Oregon Homestead did really well for me, but wasn’t as prolific as I’d like. It’s worth at least a plant or two, I think.

    Comment by Dennis | January 19, 2014 | Reply

    • I had a few people recommend Costata Romanesca over the years. I grew it the last few years and it is really good. I think it’s probably going to be my zucchini of choice. I’ve been drying a little of it too, which I learned about in the Resilient Gardener by Carole Deppe. It’s hard to save seed from two summer squash at once, or even to save seed at all if you are growing more than one, so I haven’t saved seed from it yet.

      Robeson is a real winner, just have to see if it does well there. I’ve grown danvers half long at least. Don’t remember the details, but apparently it didn’t make the grade.

      I really like Jimmy Nardello pepper. I’m not crazy about de-seeding them, but they are early, productive and very tasty. The walls are thin, so they burn easily when fire roasting, but that also means that they caramelize quickly in a saute’ or stir fry, which can really be useful. It’s popular for good reason. I’m still looking for the best thick walled sweet pepper ever, but I’m not looking very hard. I really liked Shepard’s Ramshorn when I grew that, but I don’t have seed anymore and it is not very common. For pepperoncini I like Sigaretta di Bergamo and second place Stavros here is a link to my pepperoncini article/booklet in which I reviewed all the varieties I’ve tried. http://www.paleotechnics.com/Articles/Pepperoncini.html

      Sometimes burgess is almost too rich for pie. It also tastes different than a pumpkin. Pumpkins aren’t good for much except pie, so I don’t really grow them. I usually just use what I have and it is always at least good. I’ve been wanting to try oregon homestead actually. You must be a Carol Deppe fan too! I had forgotten about it damn you, now I’m going to have to go back to squash trials! I’m not going to try it this year though. I’m saving seeds from squash this year, so that means burgess’ buttercup, crookneck and maybe a few butternut. Those three don’t cross, so I can just let them flower freely and pick a few crookneck seeds to let mature. I’m using crookneck seed that’s probably 5 years old or more. I kind of like burpee’s butterbush for a butternut. I haven’t really tried to compare varieties of butternuts, but this one is certainly decent and it has the very cool property of growing as a small vine. The plants can fit in a 4 foot bed, with just a little tucking and redirecting of shoot ends. The fruits are also small, which I like. Just right for two people. i think I’ll grow that again this year and save seeds. If there is any water to grow anything.

      So much depend on local suitability that we just have to try them and see what happens. It’s nice to have a place to start though. So, was Oregon Homestead dry and sweet? So many squash won’t sweeten up for me, but that could be partially due to my climate where it cools off at night pretty reliably. Burgess produces some duds to be sure, but over all it’s a pretty good performer and the good ones are really outstanding.

      Comment by Stevene | January 19, 2014 | Reply

  3. I grew Sweet Meat in the cool nights and dry summer of Olympia, WA–in a very cold valley near Olympia–so I think it would work for you especially considering you (I assume) have hotter summers. It is a risky one as it’s all quality not quantity. Sweet, dry, and lots of flesh. The huge 30 lb squashes made it worth the space for me. I would consider Katy’s Sweet Meat strain as well and compare (both available from Nichols) and maybe even eventually cross the best of them together.

    To contrast, though, I’m still eating Delicatas because I got 7-8 large squashes (1 would feed two people) per plant in a very compact amount of space. I had to give boxes away because I knew I couldn’t go through it all.

    Yeah, I’m a huge Carol Deppe fan. I read Resilient Gardener and basically tried everything she suggested and definitely reaped the benefits. I heard she’s bad about getting people seeds though, which is frustrating because I basically want to grow everything she sells (Fertile Valley Seeds). Her “eat all” varieties sound amazing. (“Eat all” of course means something like a bull’s blood beet: you can eat everything without having to compost any part). I have to redo all of my variety research because I live in 4a Minnesota now, but I’m going to still stick with most of Carol’s varieties and suggestions.

    I even got some Ancona Ducks which I highly recommend (if you have consistent enough water for a kiddie pool. (The quickly muddied shit water can still be used as a side dressing for plants, I used mine on corn and squash with great success). I think getting into Ancona duck breeding would be an awesome homestead business as they are quickly being recognized as an ideal breed to have. And selling duck eggs at the market? That’s $7 a dozen.

    Note to JJ (since I can’t reply to your post): I learned seed saving from John Navazio (author of Organic Seed Grower). He’s a carrot breeder (among other vegetables) and I remember him saying you can pull carrots inside and put them in sand or straw over the winter, much like in any root cellar. You can even taste the base of the carrot, and then plant the best ones back in the field in the Spring. Also, consider growing Rhodiola rosea (zone 1).

    Comment by Dennis | January 20, 2014 | Reply

    • Okay, okay, maybe I’ll try those few squash out. I like delicata when it’s good well enough, but not my favorite and it’s often not up to the quality it should be. I may not grow any this year with this drought. It’s really serious. We’ve barely gotten enough to start the annual ground cover and keep it growing.

      I like Carol Deppe because she’s an original thinker as much as for anything. There are very few garden writers that are up to her level of having original contextual things to say. Her Potato essay is awesome. http://www.caroldeppe.com/ThePotatoBin.html

      I don’t think ducks would be super stoked here, because the summers are so dry, but maybe I should just try and see what happens. I can certainly give them a kiddy pool, but not much more for now. I’m still not convinced that they won’t hammer my crops walking around with those big ol’ feet, but no way to find out for sure but try. They seem like they have high entertainment value, so that’s worth something. I don’t like feeding grain though, it’s expensive and the egg and meat quality is compromised if that’s the majority of the diet. My chickens get very little grain because there is so much for them to forage here, and the balance of their diet is compost scraps that I pick up from the local hot springs. I don’t think there is as much for a duck to forage in this environment, and doubt they are going to be as stoked about mixed food waste coated in coffee grounds. Green stuff is very sparse in the summer. I also don’t have many slugs or snails. What were your ducks eating?

      Comment by Stevene | January 20, 2014 | Reply

      • Oh, the ducks were eating grass, slugs, and bugs. Even mosquito larvae. Ancona ducks are soooo entertaining and cute. It’s ridiculous. It made it worth cleaning out their quickly dirtied pool just to see them swim and have fun again.

        But yeah, where I had ducks it was on a flood plain, on a creek, 60 inches of rain, etc. Very wet. The summers were dry though and the ducks still quacked up a storm as long as they had shade and a pool to play in.

        I would get at least three. Anconas are a great meat bird too so if they don’t work out with water being sparse…And I do recommend that specific breed as they are super nice with each other (unless older adults are put in with small, younger competition). Instead of males being too aggressive, the females usually have to initiate sex — a much better arrangement than the usual rough stuff. If you end up finding Pekins (the usual large white ducks sold at feed stores) they’re OK too. They’re pretty relaxed and produce a lot of eggs. Breeds that are tweekers and no fun: muscovy, indian runners, and call ducks.

        Comment by dennis | February 3, 2014

  4. […] got one laid out in adobe illustrator for each of the seed varieties that I save regularly, with names, short descriptions and a nudge in the direction of my blog to pick up web traffic. […]

    Pingback by Turkeysong Origami Seed Pockets Video Goes Live! « Turkeysong | March 30, 2014 | Reply

  5. […] You can read about all of these seed varieties and then some in my Turkeysong Seed Varieties post. […]

    Pingback by Virtual Garden Tour and Seed Packet Give Away for Subscribers « Turkeysong | June 27, 2015 | Reply

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