Lowcountry heirlooms offer a flavor punch for both veggies and meat

Image by United States Department of Agriculture Heirloom corn is just one of many types of non-mainstream veggies.

If you find your palate running dry, perhaps it's time you mixed some heirlooms into your diet. beefheart tomato
Tomatoes, like this beefheart, usually get all the attention for being heirlooms. Though the word "heirloom" generally evokes thoughts of tomatoes, there are many other types ranging from the expected: corn, collards, beans, to the unexpected: heirloom meat. Of course once you define the word it starts to make sense: "a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations." (New Oxford) And in an area with as much farming history as the Lowcountry heirlooms are abundant, Charleston City Paper has solid guide to much of the heirloom activity going on in the area. As a sample, here's their entry on Anson Mills Grits:

In 1998, Glenn Roberts took it upon himself to recreate the taste of the old South. With the intention of growing, harvesting, and milling different grains and corn facing extinction, he started Anson Mills in a metal warehouse outside of Columbia. His whole endeavor began with grits. Once he found the famous Carolina Gourdseed white, a strain of corn dating back to the 1600s, Roberts became hooked on providing people with the ingredients necessary to make nutritionally sound grits, high in minerals, with the same creamy fill-your-mouth feel. Anson Mills now offers a variety of 100 percent organic grits like Antebellum Coarse, Rosebank Gold, and Whole Carolina Hominy made only from heirloom corn.

The paper goes on to discuss heirloom beef, pork, corn, figs, etc. and where you can sample them at area restaurants. You can also find them (generally) at area roadside markets. Though, you may want to call ahead and see what they have available. You could also check out the next farmer's market in your area. Given that heirlooms are by their nature quite unique it's hard to find a guide about what tastes and textures are like, and you'll probably do best to ask the vendor about flavors and qualities if unsure. But, having said that, here's a guide to some more mainstream late-season heirlooms. Just remember if you find yourself bitting into a too acidic raw tomato, cooking will improves its flavor. But if you don't want to spend much dining out but still want some ideas on how best to consume the historic veggies, there are some simple heirloom tomato recipes. Maybe try using some of the old-variety vegetables in some 19th-century recipes?

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