For most of us, the word “heirloom” evokes an image of a sun-ripened, slightly irregular tomato dripping with flavor and glorious in all of its imperfections. Indeed, heirloom veggies typically have a reputation for being both exceptionally delicious and slightly irregular and imperfect. However, one of our favorite qualities of heirloom vegetables — their dense nutritional value — can sometimes escape the eye!
Open-pollinated varieties have long been touted as richer in healthful compounds such as antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients compared to their commercially produced hybrid counterparts. This is in part due to soil fertility, but science has shown us that nutrient density can range from variety to variety. Additionally, the benefits of eating a diet replete in vibrantly colored fruit and vegetables are well documented, and often the most colorful varieties are heirlooms.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. wanted precise comparative analysis of the nutritional content of the heirloom varieties we sell, so we enlisted SGS, an independent laboratory, to measure the various antioxidant and other nutrient levels of some of our favorite heirlooms. The results were fascinating and illuminating. If you’d like to review the stats and results from our nutrition study, it is available on the home page of rareseeds.com.
This study is ongoing and really just in the beginning stages. However, we have already learned quite a bit about some of our favorite veggies. For example, the Pusa Asita black carrot was shown to have more anthocyanin than almost any other vegetable or fruit! Also the newly available Asian green Chijimasai was shown to be one of the richest sources of vitamin A of any plant! In the past we have also studied the antioxidant qualities of various tomato varieties, as well as the protein content of corn. Stay tuned to heirloomseeds.com for future articles and insight from this exciting body of research.