10 Heirloom Seeds for Dazzling Vegetables

©. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

My fantasy garden would include these showstopping varieties from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

It's that time of year again, when restless gardeners stare out the window at the bleak winter landscape while hungrily thumbing through seed catalogs. I think that buying seeds is truly the best kind of shopping – seeds are relatively affordable and are literally bursting with potential. Quite frankly, I think seeds are a miracle; you get a small envelope of little hard things, you sink them in soil and nurture them, and before you know it you get beautiful free food! Seeds are the antidote to a broken food system and the epidemic of being disconnected to what we eat.

Yet the seeds of the world are suffering a crisis, thanks to Big Agriculture and its power grab for the planet's seeds. Meanwhile, too many modern seeds are designed to produce produce (see what I did there?) that is great for shipping and storage, not so great for actual eating. Modern supermarket tomato, I'm looking at you.

Which is why for me, looking at a catalog like the one offered by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is like being a kid in a candy store. The company offer nearly 2,000 varieties of seeds for heirloom vegetables, flowers and herbs – it is the largest selection of heirloom varieties in the U.S. They also carry one of the largest selections of seeds from the 19th century. All of these seeds hearken back to times when seeds were simply a means to grow an abundance of pure, fresh food.

To give you an idea of what I"m talking about, I've selected 10 seed varieties to share – seeds that caught my eye for their beauty or unique characteristics. (And I know they are not all technically vegetables, but you know what I mean.) These are just 10 of many, so enjoy these and then go look at the rest.

Glass Gem Corn

glass gem corn

© Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Be. Still. My. Heart. These technicolor translucent kernels (also shown top) shine like beads and while obviously decorative, are also delicious. From the description: "Bred from a number of native varieties by Carl 'White Eagle' Barnes, the famous Cherokee corn collector to whom we owe our gratitude for his life’s work of collecting, preserving and sharing so many native corn varieties."

Chinese pink celery

Chinese pink celery

© Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Poor workhorse celery has a reputation for being blasé; this vibrant variety is working hard to change that storyline. Described as easy-to-grow, Baker Creek notes that they are excited about the "culinary potential of this nutritious and fun variety. It is quite easy to grow, and even the baby plants are stunning, neon pink. We love this!"

Candy Roaster: North Georgia Squash

candy roaster squash

© Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Because any squash with the word "candy" in it is my kind of squash. This hard-to-find squash gets rave reviews from gardeners and is described as having delicious, smooth orange flesh that is perfect baked, fried, or to make great pies.

Tennis Ball Lettuce

tennis ball lettuce

© Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

I love these petite heads of Bibb or Butterhead – not only for their little leaves, but they've got a great story. They are documented as having been grown at Monticello by Thomas Jefferson, who noted that the variety “does not require so much care and attention” as other types. Baker Creek's are the correct, black-seeded original strain, and listed in the Slow Foods Ark of Taste.

Hopi Red Dye Amaranth


© Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

This beauty may be the most versatile of all. Originally grown as a dye plant by the southwestern Hopi Nation, it has the reddest seedlings of any amaranth known. It can be used as dye matter, but also offers edible seeds and greens, in addition to being beautifully ornamental in the garden. The reviewers have nothing but raves for it, writing things like: "Beautiful plant , easy to grow and very tasty. My wife ordered these seeds as the pictures looked wonderful and we were excited to see them grow. Amazing plant, very abundant and such a rich red color."

Kurzer's Calico Traveler Lima Bean

calico beans

© Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

These plump pretty limas comes in a kaleidoscope of colors and originated in Choctaw, Mississippi. Not only are they lovely to behold, but they appear to be perseverant. One reviewer notes that they are "Incredibly, outstandingly, jaw-droppingly productive. Another reviewers says, "it is the only lima I have ever gotten a crop from here in the north and I have probably tried off and on for over forty years. Wonderfully productive here in Zone 6A."

Easter Basket Mix Radish

radish seeds

© Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Because why pick one beautiful variety of heirloom radish when you can have 15? This "magnificent mixture of some of the most colorful spring radishes on the planet," are easy to grow and yield a crop that is as pretty look at as it is to eat.

Succotash Beans


© Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Oh, these pretty things – these rare, ancient beans hail from the Narragansett tribe of Rhode Island and were used to make succotash, Baker Creek explains. This bean is great for the North, especially on the coast.

Early Wonder Beet

early wonder beet

© Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

So many beautiful beets to choose from, but I love these early beets not only for their loveliness and good reviews, but for their history as well, as they are a pre-1811 variety. They are said to produce an abundance of tall tender greens, too.

Brad's Atomic Grape Tomatoes

Atomic tomatoes

© Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Baker Creek calls this their favorite tomato, saying, "The color (and flavor!) is a full-blown assault on the senses—lavender and purple stripes, turning to technicolor olive-green, red, and brown/blue stripes when fully ripe. Really wild!" This release from Wild Boar Farms won best in show at the 2017 National Heirloom Expo. They are sure pretty, I bet they are delicious.

OK, are you aching for spring yet? Visit the site for more, and don't miss the book of dreams, also known as the2019 Whole Seed Catalog.

Updated note: I know I rave here, but the enthusiasm is genuine ... and neither solicited nor sponsored!