I am often asked about my favorite crops to grow so I thought I'd share. This is the print version from my video Top 10 Homestead Crops
Choosing my favorites is no easy task but I've included a few specific varieties throughout this article that might help you choose. If you have additional questions I'm happy to help!
Cabbage, Collards and Kale
Cold hardiness and nutrient-rich qualities are why cabbage makes this list. It can stay in the garden late into fall and store in a root cellar or cold greenhouse. Sauerkraut, a fermented food rich in vitamins and probiotics, is a traditional means of preserving cabbage, and your kraut can keep in a crock for months.
Pictured is Pak Choy Cabbage (also called bok choy and pok choy). This is a fantastic, fast-growing variety of Chinese cabbage.
Kale is a superfood that keeps on giving! When growing Kale, you harvest the outer leaves instead of pulling up the whole plant. This allows for multiple harvests of nutrient-dense food.
Lacinato Kale is a good heat-tolerant variety if you live in warmer climates
Collards are cool weather crops but some do very well in warmer climates. Morris Heading and Georgia Green both do well in warmer growing areas.
Greens don't last very long once harvested so you'll need to use them up or preserve them. 2 simple ways to preserve greens are freezing and dehydrating.
- Winter Squash
Winter squash, rich in fiber and vitamins A and C. Grow ‘Waltham Butternut’ for a pest-resistant, HUGE performer in the garden. Pumpkin and Acorn squash are also homestead favorites and they store very well.
HUBBARB BLUE reaches 16 to 20 pounds. It is also a "trap crop" for companion planting so Hubbard Blue is a must-have in our garden
If stored properly, winter squash and pumpkin can last a few months after harvest making this an excellent homestead crop.
- Staples Crops: Dry Beans & Green Beans
Beans are most definitely a homestead favorite. From our article Feeding a Family from the garden, it is recommended to plant 10-20 plants per person to feed for a year. If you're just looking to add to your food preps, 5 plants or more per person would work
Dry beans, or legumes, are a homestead favorite as they store very well without needed to can them.
Green Beans are easy to grow and can or freeze. If you have a smaller garden space, planting pole beans are an excellent option as they grow UP.
- Heirloom Corn
Providing homegrown food for your table is such an amazing thing. Heirloom Corn can be used fresh or dried for future use. Animals can be fed from stored corn making Heirloom Corn one of our top 10.
As we mentioned in our video Heirloom Corn varieties at Mary's Heirloom Seeds, there are 6 types of corn: Sweet, Popcorn, flint, flour, dent and waxy.
Flint corn is suited to cooler, wetter climates and is the most difficult to grind.
Flour corn, grown by American Indians in the Southwest, is the easiest to grind.
Dent corn is characterized by the dent in the top of each kernel.
Common field corn is dent corn.
Popcorn is exactly as the name implies. It is used dried for popping.
Sweet corn does not store as well so it should be consumed or preserved after harvest.
- ROOT CROPS: Garlic & Potatoes
I know I mention a few different root crops for homesteading but Garlic and Potatoes are in a category together as they store very well if properly cured. "Seed potatoes" and "seed garlic" is available from most seed companies only seasonally. You can use store bought but you might be exposing your garden to soil born diseases.
We have 2 videos about garlic planting:
PLANTING GARLIC IN CONTAINERS
Tomatoes can be dried, frozen or canned. They can be made into soups, sauces, pastes and more. They then become the base ingredient in hundreds of kitchen recipes. Tomatoes are one of the easiest veggies to can because they are a high acid veggie and as such, they can be water bath canned instead of needing a pressure canner.
Yellow Pear tomato is a sweet and juicy snack I like to eat right out in the garden. San Marzano tomato has been a hearty producer for making sauce. Cherokee Purple Tomato is still my all time favorite for slicers but Emerald Green is a close second!
Fast growing, fast maturing and a double duty crop because you eat the root and greens. Easy to pickle and delicious raw. Radish can also be roasted just like mini potatoes. French Breakfast Radish is a more mild variety. German Giant Radish can be eaten small or large. Japanese Daikon is a nice, spicy variety but it takes a couple weeks longer to mature.
Fast growing, fast maturing and a double duty crop because you eat the root and greens of beets. Depending on your growing region, some gardeners can grow beets year-round.
Detroit Dark Red is definitely a favorite because it's so pest resistant. Red Mammoth Mangel deserves a mention because it can grow 20 POUNDS, making it great to feed livestock
Wheat for those of you not gluten sensitive. Wheat is used to make so many food items such as bread, pasta and pastries.
We carry Einkorn Wheat berries, which is an ancient grain. Some people with gluten sensitivity have had success using Einkorn instead.
BUT...I would say SUNFLOWERS instead on our homestead. We avoid wheat. Sunflowers produce seeds to feed us and our chickens. They also produce A LOT of seeds to grow more. Sunflowers also attract pollinators to our garden to help us grow the BEST garden ever!
Pretty much grow your own pharmacy if you know what to grow and how to dry it. We offer a few seed combo packs like the "In the Kitchen" Herb Garden Kit to help you grow a small herb garden. For your own home apothecary, we have quite a few options. CLICK HERE to see our herb seed combo packs
If I had to pick 3 specific varieties to grow?
TOP 3 Varieties:
Blue Lake Bush Beans, Hubbard Blue Squash and Cherokee Purple Tomato
If you have additional questions please give us a call or email
Sign up for our E-Newsletter
Produces a diversity of gorgeous translucent, jewel-colored ears, each one unique. A stunning corn variety selected over many years by Carl "White Eagle" Barnes, a part-Cherokee farmer and breeder from Oklahoma.
Selected from crossing several traditional corn varieties and saving seed from the vivid, translucent kernels. Size of ears range from 3-8 inches.
Glass Gem Corn plants commonly produce numerous tillers, or side stalks, which also produce ears. Height of plants depend upon quantity of water, but can reach up to 9 feet, typically 6 feet. A popcorn, the kernels may be ground into cornmeal or popped
From our article,
In the course of growing some of the older corn varieties still being farmed at that time, Carl began noticing ancestral types of corn re-appearing in his crops. As he isolated these, he found many of the variants to match up with traditional corns that had been lost to many of the Native tribes - particularly those peoples who had been relocated during the 1800s to what is now Oklahoma. Thus, he was able to re-introduce specific corn types to the elders of those tribes, and this helped their people in reclaiming their cultural identities. The corn is, to them, literally the same as their blood line, their language, and their sense of who they are."
What are some of the Heirloom Corn varieties that Carl worked to "Back to Life"?
Plant corn in well-drained soil with lots of organic matter. Grow in full sun. Mulching around your corn will help keep the free of invasive weeds during the summer.
Corn seeds should be sown in warm conditions, covered very lightly (depth of ¼ inch) and kept reasonably moist until seedlings emerge.
The sweet corn seedlings should germinate after 10 - 12 days, and once they have fully emerged the weakest seedling from each pot should be removed. If you choose to direct-sow, thin Seedlings 6-8 inches apart.
Water well and if they are being germinated indoors - move to a warm, bright windowsill.
Do not over water.
Sign up for our E-Newsletter
We are so excited to announce our first "batch" of New Arrivals for 2019. All of these varieties should be available to ship after October 1st. Enjoy!
100 days. The Dickinson Pumpkin has a long and famous history. This is one of the varieties that Libbey's uses in its pumpkin pie filling.
A medium to large tan squash, weighing from 10-40 pounds. Nearly round to elongated fruits, 18 inches long by 14 inch diameter.
This is an excellent variety for canning and pumpkin pie filling
BOONE COUNTY WHITE CORN
110 days. Boone County White corn dates back to 1874 from a mane named James Riley in Boone County, Indiana.
There are many reason to love this heirloom corn variety:
It is a very heavy producer of huge ears that measure 9-11" in length. 9-11' stalks. Uniform ears have 18-22 rows.
HICKORY KING WHITE CORN
110 days. Hickory King White Corn can grow up to 12 feet tall and produces 8-9" long ears. Huge white kernels not seen in modern corn. An Appalasian staple, dating back to the 1800s.
Excellent for roasting, grits, cornmeal, and cornuts. Hickory king has a very high leafy green matter which makes it perfect for silage. Tight husks which help keep out corn worms.
45-50 days. White Egg turnip is fast growing variety, producing Medium-green 17 inch tops. Good bunching variety.
White egg turnip is a long time favorite in the South where it is know for its reliability and fine flavor.
85 days. Cubanelle Pepper is a variety of sweet pepper commonly used in Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Dominican cuisine. Famous for delicious fried or stuffed peppers.
Sweet frying pepper, 4.5-6 inches long x 2-2.5 inches in diameter, 3 lobes, tapers to a blunt end, slightly irregular and roughened, medium-thick waxy flesh, yellow-green to red, distinct flavor.
MIZUNA MUSTARD GREENS
40-60 days. A hardy Japanese non-heading type mustard that is extremely vigorous and cold tolerant.
Mizuna grows in bunches and has long stems growing from a central stalk. The dark green leaves have deeply serrated edges and have a fringed appearance. The thin, white stems are firm and offer a crunchy texture. Mizuna is harvested at both the baby lettuce and mature stages, with the younger leaves being more tender and milder.
TENDERGREEN BURPLESS CUCUMBER
55-60 day. A burpless slicing type that has been popular for over 80 years!
Fruits are medium-dark green, 7-12 inches in length, and quite plump and smooth. Excels as a slicer, because each fruit yields so many slices of uniform diameter.
Tendergreen Burpless can also be used for pickling if picked early.
GOURMET GREEN SALAD MIX
20-50 days. Contains: Arugula, Red Russian Kale, Greenwave, Tatsoi, and Mizuna Mustard, and Paris Island Cos Lettuce.
Start harvesting your greens when they’re 4- to 6-inches long. This can be as soon as 2 weeks after planting!
GRANNY CANTRELL'S GERMAN PINK/RED TOMATO
70-80 days. (Indeterminate) A Kentucky Heirloom grown by Lettie Cantrell since the 1940s. The original seeds were given to Lettie from a soldier returning home from Germany during World War II.
Large, meaty fruit are about 1 lb. and are wonderful for fresh eating, slicing, or canning.
80 days. (Indeterminate) Bulgarian heirloom tomato
The word druzba means "friendship" in Bulgarian and Druzba is a very friendly tomato. Not too large, half pound to a pound, the fruit is born in clusters of 3 to 5. Flavor is outstanding, with just the right combination of sweetness and tartness.
PINK BRANDYWINE TOMATO
80-90 days. Indeterminate. One of the most popular heirloom tomatoes!
A favorite of many gardeners; large fruit with superb flavor. A great potato-leafed variety from 1885! Beautiful pink fruit up to 1-1/2 lbs. each!
60 days. (Determinate) One of our Earliest producing heirloom tomatoes!
Sets fruit at 24" tall and keeps producing all season long. Great for the small garden or containers. Potato-leaf foliage.
Very cold-tolerant and may survive a light frost. Potato leaf foliage.
60-70 days. (Semi-determinate) Moskvich is a high quality, early season, Russian Heirloom.
Fruits are round to slightly flattened with deep red color and luscious, rich flavor. Great eaten fresh or processed. Highly resistant to cracking, making it a great pick for the greenhouse. Like most Russian varieties, it can stand up to cool conditions.
BLACK RUSSIAN TOMATO
80 days. Indeterminate. A heirloom variety from Russia. These compact plants bear plenty of wonderfully rich, mahogany-brown tomatoes that average about 4 ounces.
Grows in full sun and are cool-tolerant. The is a great greenhouse variety.
BACK IN STOCK FOR 2019
I hope you're as excited as we are about these new arrivals! We are currently working on more tutorials and videos for 2019 and adding a few more heirloom varieties to our current collection.
If you have additional questions, please email
Tomatillo is an often overlooked heirloom variety. Native to Mexico and domesticated by the Aztecs around 800 B.C., the tomatillo is one of our most ancient food bearing plants.
Growing Tomatillo is similar to growing tomatoes but isn't as heavy a feeder as tomatoes.
Select a growing area with full sun exposure and well-drained, moderately rich soil.
The rule of thumb for sowing seeds is to plant the seed twice as deep as it is wide (or twice as deep as the diameter of the seed). Tomatillo seeds are really small, so don’t plant them very deep – they only need to be planted 1/8″ – 1/4″ deep. Grow at least 2 plants at a time, more if you plan to make a bit of salsa.
My personal rule of thumb is to always plant more than you think you'll will need. This will come in handy if you have pest issues such as bugs, birds, squirrels and even cats. If you produce more than you need or use, you can always store for later or share with friends and family.
Similar to growing tomatoes, Tomatillo sprouts roots along the stems, so it does well when planted deep in the soil. Tomatillo plants grow 3 to 4 feet tall and about the same in width, so space the plants 3 feet apart in rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Plan to give them support in the form of gardening trellises or tomato cages.
Tomatillo will continue to produce until frost takes over. Although moderately drought-tolerant, tomatillos do best with an inch or so of water per week (more if you live in a very hot climate).
You know a tomatillo is ready to be cut from the plant when the fruit has filled out the husk. Left to ripen further, the fruit will frequently split the husk and turn yellow or purple depending on its genetics.
We hope you have enjoyed yet another informative growing article here at Mary's Heirloom Seeds. If you have additional questions please ask!
Sign up for our E-Newsletter
I love reading about people in their community growing food and building relationships thru their food gardens. This particular story touched my heart so I'm sharing with you too
11 Year Old Boy Creates Community Garden so No One Goes Hungry
Hurt told 24-Hour News 8 he started gardening when he was 7 years old and planted beans. His mom said the beans provided extra food for the family.
Hurt is now expanding his garden to help others. The community garden opened earlier in May.
“I got rows of tomatoes, one, two,” Hurt described. “This one’s got two tomatoes.”
But this land is more than just a garden of fruits and vegetables.
“I got it from across the school because the lady over there donated it to me so that’s when I got it and also I wanted to do that to feed the community,” Hurt added.
He said the garden is open to everyone and people can stop by whenever to pick fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Because it’s the right thing to help feed the community, and it feeds people so nobody goes hungry,” Hurt said. Helping people grow the healthiest gardens possible is our passion. This is one of many reasons we started Mary's Heirloom Seeds. Every day we are working to create additional planting tutorials and videos. Our Gardens Fundraiser at Mary's Heirloom Seeds helps fund additional seed donations to school gardens, community and non-profit gardens and church gardens across the country. Every Year our donation program GROWS!
Gardening can reduce stress & anxiety, it can bring people together and it's a great education tool. Food gardens offer all of those benefits and more! You may already know from numerous articles I've shared that I'm a huge advocate of Growing Food no matter what! If you're curious, read You Don't Need a farm to Grow Food Start A Bucket Garden Growing In Containers 9 Easiest Vegetables to grow from Seed to Harvest
Food Gardens can feed people!!! I know that's an obvious statement but with so many hungry people in the world and right here in our own community, it needs to be said. We can make a difference one food garden at a time.
Food Gardens can solve the issue of food deserts. "Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers." source
Food Gardens can help save the Pollinators! 2018 is the Year of the pollinators! If you grow organic and WITH nature, there is always a place for beneficial insects. We use Companion Planting as our first line of defense against pests. A healthy, well fed soil system can produce healthy plant which do not require expensive sprays and treatments. The agri-chem companies want you to believe that GMOs are meant to "feed the world" but that is a myth. Read GMO Crops Do Not Cure Hunger. The answer to feeding more people is for the community to get involved with their food production. The amount of cancer causing pesticides and herbicides used every year is in the billions of pounds. If we all took responsibility for our food and grow beyond organic standards, we could make a GLOBAL change for the benefit of everyone.
, "Safety and crime reduction
- There is evidence
linking community gardens to improved safety in neighborhoods – showing that crime decreases in neighborhoods as the amount of green space increases. Two reports in the Journal of Environment and Behavior
studied (1) the impact nature has on mental fatigue (often a precursor of aggression and violence), and (2) the relationship between green space and inner city crime rates. The research determined that aggression and violence was “significantly lower among those people who lived near some green space than those who lived in more barren conditions.”" Kids love to grow food! Food Gardens are a great educational tool. As part of our seed donation program at Mary's Heirloom Seeds, we work with several homeschool groups and co-ops across the country and in our own community. My sister and her kids grow all sorts of deliciousness in the garden.
Why Heirloom Seeds? From Seed Saving Part 1, "Saving Seeds from your garden bounty is like putting money away for a rainy day. Best of all, saving your own seeds is one of many ways to regain control of your family's source of food" Open-pollinated, heirloom seeds will grow seeds that can be saved and re-planted year after year. Hybrid seeds can be sterile and may not produce true offspring from saved seeds.
I hope you have enjoyed another educational article. If you have additional questions, please leave a comment below or send an email to email@example.com
Sign up for our E-Newsletter