The Speaker’s House has a traditional Pennsylvania German kitchen garden in which raised beds are used to grow herbs, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. It measures 44 x 44 feet square; these dimensions were chosen as Pennsylvania German gardens were usually built in units of 11 feet. A typical garden for a large family was 55 or 66 feet square. Our garden is enclosed by a picket fence; the picket shape is based on a surviving late 18th-century example from a nearby property. The fence posts are hewn out of black locust, which is rot resistant; the pickets are hickory while the fence rails and boards enclosing the raised beds are white oak. Wooden boards are also used within the raised beds to walk on and avoid compacting the soil. The walking paths between the beds are hard packed bare earth, which is kept free of weeds by the garden’s many visitors and occasional scraping with a broad hoe.
The narrow bed along the inside perimeter of the fence is used for growing herbs (closest to the kitchen) and flowers, while the four center beds are used primarily for vegetables. The raised beds provide excellent drainage and enable early spring planting as the soil warms up faster. Historically, raised beds were also used in the winter to store hardy root crops such as turnips, parsnips, and potatoes; a trench was dug and lined with straw, filled with the crops, and then covered with boards and more straw.
Seeds were saved from year-to-year for planting in the garden. Small cloth bags or even specialized wooden chests with numerous small drawers were used to keep the seeds dry and carefully sorted. Seeds were also ordered from professional botanists such as John Bartram (1699–1777), who shipped seeds and plant specimens from his gardens along the west bank of the Schuylkill River near Philadelphia to clients across the United States and in England. In 1802, nurseryman Bernard McMahon (1775–1816) of Philadelphia published one of the first seed catalogue in the United States, which listed 720 varieties of “Garden Grass, Herb, Flower, Tree & Shrub-Seeds, Flower Roots, Etc.” for sale.
The location of our kitchen garden is a best estimate based on archaeological evidence and careful study of 18th- and 19th-century descriptions and illustrations of kitchen gardens. Based on the journals of Frederick Muhlenberg’s father, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, who lived on the adjacent property to the west, we know that Frederick’s property had a garden as well as some of the plants that were grown in it. Wherever possible, we grow heirloom plant varieties that can be documented to Pennsylvania in or before the early 1800s. Produce from the garden is sold at our farm stand on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from mid-May through mid-October.
Funding for the kitchen garden installation was supported in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources through the Schuylkill River Heritage Area Grant Program.
[Insert aerial photo of our garden]
Learn more about Pennsylvania German and early American gardens
Beam, C. Richard and Jennifer L. Trout. “Plant Names of the Pennsylvania Germans in PA Dutch—Latin—English,” in Pennsylvania German Treasures (Millersville, Pa.: Center for Pennsylvania German Studies at Millersville University, 2012), pp. 151-268.
Emery, Michael B. and Irwin Richman. Heritage Gardens, Heirloom Seeds: Melded Cultures with a Pennsylvania German Accent (Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing, 2015).
Greene, Wesley. Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way: 18th-Century Methods for Today’s Organic Gardeners (Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2012).
Griffith, Lawrence D. Flowers and Herbs of Early America (Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2008).
Hatch, Peter J. “A Rich Spot of Earth”: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2012).
Keyser, Alan. “Gardens and Gardening Among the Pennsylvania Germans.” Pennsylvania Folklife (Spring 1971): pp. 2-15.
Richman, Irwin. Pennsylvania German Farms, Gardens, and Seeds (Atglen, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing, 2006).
Spencer, Darrell. The Gardens of Salem: The Landscape History of a Moravian Town in North Carolina (Winston-Salem, NC: Old Salem Inc., 1997).
Where to see more Pennsylvania German-style kitchen gardens
Historic sites with variations of Pennsylvania German-style kitchen gardens include:
1719 Hans Herr House, Willow Street, PA
Henry Antes House, Frederick, PA
Burnside Planation, Bethlehem, PA
Ephrata Cloister, Ephrata, PA
Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, Lancaster, PA
Old Salem Museums and Gardens, Winston-Salem, NC
Peter Wentz Farmstead, Worcester, PA
Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm, Stroudsburg, PA
Renfrew Museum and Park, Waynesboro, PA
Alexander Schaeffer Farm, Schaefferstown, PA
Where to buy heirloom seeds and plants
Heirloom seeds and plants are available for purchase from numerous vendors, including:
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Heritage Harvest Seed
Landis Valley Museum heirloom seed project
Landis Valley Museum’s Herb & Garden Fair, held annually on Mother’s Day weekend
The following is a comprehensive list of plants grown in The Speaker’s House kitchen garden, accompanied by photographs taken by our garden volunteers. Where possible, we have also included the German (G) and Pennsylvania German (PG) names for each plant.
[image] HERBS, CULINARY, AND MEDICINAL PLANTS
Pennsylvania German families grew many different herbs in their kitchen gardens as well as plants for culinary or medicinal purposes.
Basil, Ocimum basilicum, Annual
Basilikum (G); unknown (PG)
Basil is a common culinary herb that is also used as a garnish for many foods and drinks. It is primarily used in the summer, as the leaves are extremely frost sensitive.
Bay, Laurus nobilis, Perennial
Echter or Edler Lorbeer (G); Lorbeer (PG)
Fresh bay leaves are very mild; dried leaves add flavor to soups and stews. The leaves should be removed before eating.
Bee Balm, Monarda didyma, Perennial
Goldmelisse (G); unknown (PG)
Bee balm, also known as bergamot, is native to North America and was historically used as an antiseptic and to help improve digestion. It is a member of the mint family and can spread prolifically if not kept in check.
Borage, Borago officinalis, Annual
Borretsch (G); Barretsch (PG)
Documented in the Carolinas by 1709, borage has a short-lived blue flower and textured leaves. The leaves taste like cucumbers and are used in salads, soups, and drinks; the blue flowers attract pollinators and may be candied or eaten as is. Historically borage was used to treat fevers and cramps.
Chamomile, Matricaria recutita, Annual
Kamille (G); Kamille (PG)
One of the most popular herbs in the Western world, chamomile has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. Its flowers make a soothing tea to calm frayed nerves and treat mild stomach problems. The German variety is taller and stronger in flavor than the English, or Roman, chamomile.
Chives, Allium schoenoprasum, Perennial
Schnittlauch (G); Schnidderlich (PG)
Chives are a type of grass related to scallions and onions. The leaves are often chopped and sprinkled on top of everything from mashed potatoes to soups, but the purple flowers are also edible.
Dill, Anethum graveolens, Annual
Dill (G); Dill (PG)
Dill is a member of the carrot family that is used as flavoring in soups, sauces, and pickles. It attracts insects that are beneficial to gardens and helps to control pests.
Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, Perennial
Fenchel (G); Fennichel (PG)
Fennel tastes like anise and is commonly used as a garnish, although the bulb and stalks can also be eaten as vegetables. A hardy plant, fennel was used medicinally to reduce flatulence.
Feverfew, Tanacetum parthenium, Perennial
Mutterkraut (G); Maederli (PG)
Feverfew produces an abundance of small, white flowers. Brewed as a tea, it was historically used to lower fevers.
Hops, Humulus lupulus, Perennial
Hopfen (G); Hoppeschtock (PG)
The flowers of the hops plant are used to make beer, but they were also used historically to make poultices, bolster the appetite, promote sleep, and even as a light-brown dye. Some Pennsylvania German families sewed dried hops into cloth bags that were heated and applied to aching body parts. Hops vines were traditionally grown up a tall post, often made from a dead cedar tree. The flowers were supposed to be gathered before the September winds blew on them.
Horehound, Marrubium vulgare, Perennial
Gewöhnlicher Andorn (G); Adarn, Eedann, or Haarhund (PG)
Horehound was grown by Pennsylvania Germans to brew as a tea to treat coughs and colds; it is used today in cough drops and syrups. It is a strong-smelling hairy member of the mint family.
Horseradish, Amoracia rusticana, Perennial
Meerrettich (G); Marredich; also Geilsreddich or Meerreddich (PG)
Horseradish root can be grated to make a pungent sauce; if it is not harvested every year, the plant tends to spread like a weed.
Lady’s Mantle, Alchemila molis, Perennial
Weicher Frauenmantel (G); unknown (PG)
Lady’s mantle has scalloped-edge leaves with a felt-like texture that help them to retain beads of water. This plant has green flowers and was historically thought to heal minor wounds.
Lamb’s Ears, Stachys byzantina, Perennial
Eselsohr or Wollziest (G); unknown (PG)
The lamb’s ears plant has fuzzy gray-green leaves and bears spikes of pinkish purple flowers in the summer. The leaves were used in colonial America to bandage wounds.
Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, Perennial
Lavendel (G); Laafander (PG)
Lavender is an evergreen shrub with fragrant purple flowers that can be dried and used in cooking or baking. The name traces back to the Latin lavare, “to wash,” in reference to the plant’s scent being used as a perfume in Roman baths.
Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis, Perennial
Zitronenmelisse (G); ___ (PG)
Lemon balm leaves may be used in soups, salads, or tea. The white flowers attract honeybees. This plant was used in colonial America to treat boils, toothaches, and fevers.
Lovage, Levisticum officinale, Perennial
Liebstöckel (G); Liebschteckel; also Lebschteckel, Liebschtecke, Liebschtengel, or Liebschtock (PG)
Lovage tastes like celery and is used in soups, salads, and as a garnish for meat dishes. The Pennsylvania German name Lebschteckel or “life stalk” is a corruption of the Latin name Levisticum.
Oregano, Origanum vulgare, Perennial
Oregano (G); unknown (PG)
Oregano was a common herb in colonial America, where it was used to treat stomachaches.
Parsley, Petroselinum crispum, Annual
Petersilie (G); Pederli (PG)
Parsley leaves are common for cooking, although the root of the Hamburg variety is also edible. Its leaves may be curled or flat; the latter variety has more flavor.
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, Perennial
Rosmarin (G); Rosmarei (PG)
Rosemary is a common culinary herb and was used in colonial America to freshen breath, strengthen memory, and as an antiseptic. It is only marginally hardy in southeastern Pennsylvania, where it is often grown as a potted plant. Some Pennsylvania German Catholics grew rosemary at the center of their four-square gardens.
Saffron Crocus, Crocus sativus, Perennial
Safran (G); Safferich, Saffrich; also Saffran (PG)
The stigma of the saffron crocus produces a very small amount of red-orange powder used as a flavoring in cooking. It is one of the most expensive spices in the world by volume. Its leaves, bulb, and flowers are poisonous.
Sage, Salvia officinalis, Perennial
Salbei (G); Salwei (PG)
Sage is a popular culinary herb that may be used fresh or dried. Historically it was also used to treat a variety of ailments, from headaches to palsy, as well as to ward off snakebite and prolong a person’s lifespan.
Spearmint, Mentha spicata, Perennial
Minze (G); Balsem (PG)
Today spearmint is most often used as a breath freshener or flavoring, but in colonial America it was used for headaches, indigestion, and as an antiseptic. Its leaves should be cut back often and closely monitored or they will rapidly spread.
Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, Perennial
Thymian (G); Gwendel; also Alder Mann, Aldermannschtock, or Versammlinggraut (PG)
A culinary and medicinal herb used to treat upset stomachs, poor eyesight, and weak lungs, thyme was also historically planted as a pungent, low-growing groundcover in graveyards. The Speaker’s House garden includes an 18th-century variety of thyme transplanted from the graveyard of Christ Lutheran Church in Stouchburg, Berks County, PA, where Frederick Muhlenberg’s sister Eve Elisabeth and her husband, Rev. Emanuel Schultze, are buried.
Wormwood, Artemisia absinthium, Perennial
Wermut (G); Warmut; also Bidderwied, Warmetschtengel, Wilder Warmet (PG)
Wormwood is mostly grown today for its gray-green leaves. Historically it was used to increase the appetite and as a tonic.
Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, Perennial
Gemeine Schafgarbe (G); Schofrippe (PG)
Yarrow is native to North America and was used by colonists to help with bleeding, inflammation, and fevers. It is drought tolerant and grows well, even in poor soils. The Pennsylvania German name Schofrippe or “sheep ribs” may be in reference to a belief that sheep like to eat the plant. Yarrow was also fed to horses to eliminate intestinal worms.
Pennsylvania German kitchen gardens also included a wide variety of ornamental flowering plants.
Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, Perennial
Rauer Sonnenhut or Schwarzäugige Rudbeckie (G); Riedblumm (PG)
A traditional garden heirloom plant, black-eyed Susan produces golden-yellow flowers with black centers after which it gets its name. A North American native, it was grown in England as early as 1714.
Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, Perennial
Purpur-Sonnenhut (G); unknown (PG)
The purple coneflower is native to the United States and was common in 18th century gardens for its beautiful flowers and medicinal properties. Often referred to today by its botanical name, Echinacea, the plant is used in supplements to stimulate the body’s immune system.
Coral Bells, Heuchera sanguinea, Perennial
Purpurglöckchen (G); unknown (PG)
This heirloom flower is characterized by airy stems with tiny, bright-red flowers.
Cornflower, Centaurea cyanus, Annual
Kornblume (G); Kannblumm (PG)
Also known as bachelor’s buttons, cornflower produces blue flowers that attract pollinators and are good for cutting.
Costmary, Tanacetum balsamita, Perennial
Balsamkraut or Frauenminze (G); unknown (PG)
Costmary has large, fragrant, flavorful leaves which were used in colonial America to make ale, as an air freshener, and for bookmarks.
Flowering Tobacco, Nicotiana alata, Annual
Ziertabak (G); Bliehduwack (PG)
Flowering tobacco is native to Brazil but was grown by Europeans and colonists alike for the sweet scent of its flowers, which open on evenings and cool days in the summer.
Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, Perennial
Roter Fingerhut (G); Roder Fingerhut (PG)
Featuring tall spikes of pink tubular flowers, foxglove was brought to the colonies by the early 1700s.
It is the source of the drug digitalis, which is used to treat heart ailments, but all parts of the plant are poisonous.
Gayfeather, Liatris spicata, Perennial
Prachtscharte (G); Deifelsabbiss (PG)
Gayfeather is a purple, spike-shape flower that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. In Pennsylvania German it is known as Deifelsabbiss or “devil’s bit,” after a Lebanon County folk tale in which the root was so powerful at healing that the devil bit it off in a fit of rage.
Hollyhock, Alcea rosea, Biennial
Stockrose or Malve (G); Halros or Maulros (PG)
With their towering spires of large, colorful blossoms, hollyhocks are a popular heirloom flower well-suited for planting against fences or in the back row of a garden. The Pennsylvania German terms Halros or “neck rose” and Maulros or “mouth rose” refer to the shape of the tubular flowers.
Johnny Jump Up, Viola cornuta, Perennial
Hornveilchen (G); Veioli (PG)
A popular heirloom member of the Viola family, johnny jump ups are winter hardy and provide cheerful color in the springtime garden. Their purple-yellow flowers are edible.
Lilac, Syringa vulgaris, Perennial
Flieder (G); Leelack (PG)
Grown today mainly for its scented flowers, the lilac was historically used to treat fever and intestinal worms. It is also known as Pingschtblumme or “pinkster flowers” in Pennsylvania German because lilacs are in bloom around Pfingsten or Whit Monday (the day after Whit Sunday or Pentecost, celebrated in the Christian calendar on the 50th day after Easter to commemorate the descent of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles or disciples of Christ).
Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis, Perennial
Maiglöckchen (G); Moiblumm (PG)
Lily of the valley was brought to the United States by the 1730s. Its flowers are fragrant, but all parts of this plant are poisonous.
Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena, Annual
Jungfer im Grünen (G); ____ (PG)
With blue flowers that seemingly float amid its feathery foliage, love-in-a-mist is a delightful heirloom. It is specifically mentioned in a Boston advertisement dating from 1760.
Mock Indigo, Baptisia australis, Perennial
Indigolupine (G); unknown (PG)
Mock indigo has blue pea-like flowers that were historically used as a blue dye. It is native to the eastern United States.
Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus, Annual
Kapuzinerkresse (G); Gresse or Gresseblumm (PG)
Discovered by Spanish conquistadores in Peru, nasturtiums were once known as “Indian cress”. The leaves add a peppery flavor to salads and the flowers are also edible. Historically, the leaves were also used as an antiseptic or to clear skin. Nasturiums were grown in England by 1686 and in North Carolina by 1759.
Phlox, Phlox paniculata, Perennial
Phlox (G); Gaardeflax or Schpritznegglin (PG)
Noted for its sweet fragrance, phlox produces various shades of white and pink flowers. It is known by two names in Pennsylvania German: Gaardeflax or “garden flax” and Schpritznegglin or “springing nails” in reference to how the plant’s seed pods burst open and eject the seeds.
Pot Marigold, Calendula officinalis, Annual
Ringelblume (G); Ringel Blumm or Ringelros (PG)
One of the first flowers in the spring, pot marigold produces yellow or orange blossoms that are now grown mostly for their color. Historically, the plant was used in both culinary and medicinal recipes. Its petals add a golden color (as an alternative to saffron) in soups and stews, breads and cakes, as well as milk, butter, and cheese products. An ancient potherb referenced in Pliny’s Natural History of the first century AD, pot marigold was included in a landmark 1542 herbal book by German physician and botanist Leonhart Fuchs.
Rose Campion, Lychnis coronaria, Perennial
Kronon-Lichtnelke (G); unknown (PG)
A member of the carnation family, rose campion has distinctive gray-green foliage and flowers which come in white, bright pink, and magenta colors.
Lavender Cotton, Santolina chamaecyparrissus, Perennial
Silbrigblättriges Heiligenkraut (G); unknown (PG)
A small evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean, lavender cotton has narrow, grey-green leaves and in summer produces masses of small, yellow, button-like flowers. Historically it was used to expel intestinal parasites and to repel insects from the home.
Salvia, Salvia officinalis, Perennial
Echter Salbei (G); Salb (PG)
An ornamental sage, salvia is a hardy evergreen plant with grayish leaves and blue to purple flowers.
Siberian Iris, Iris sibirica, Perennial
Sibirische Schwertlilie (G); Schwertli; also Schwaartli, Schwertlicherm or Schwertlisblumm (PG)
This heirloom Siberian Iris produces flowers in a deep-blue color.
Soapwort, Saponaria officinalis, Perennial
Seifenkraut (G); Seefegraut (PG)
Soapwort is a European native. The sap can be mixed with water to make soap. The plant contains a fungicide, and its roots can be harmful to fish if grown near water.
Tansy, Tanacetum vulgare, Perennial
Rainfarn (G); Reefaare; also Kiehbidders, Reifart, Reifaa, Reifaade, or Reifaare (PG)
An herbaceous perennial, tansy was historically used to treat colds and fevers. The leaves are edible and have a peppery taste; their fern-like shape is the source of the plant’s name in Pennsylvania German, Reefaare, or “border fern.” Tansy produces an abundance of yellow flowers which should be removed before they turn to seed or it will spread prolifically.
Tulip, Tulipa sylvestris, Perennial
Wilde Tulpe (G); Wildi Dullebaan (PG)
The woodland or wild tulip grows abundantly in Germany and was brought by German immigrants to Pennsylvania. It is likely the source of the tulip motif commonly found in Pennsylvania German folk art. Naturalized wood tulips bloom in abundance at The Speaker’s House every spring.
[image] FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
Currants and ground cherries are some of the more common fruits in Pennsylvania German kitchen gardens; numerous vegetables including beets, carrots, leeks, lettuce, and tomatoes were also popular.
Bean (Hyacinth), Lablab purpureus, Annual
Bohn (G); Bohn (PG)
A native of Africa, this bean is a vigorous ornamental vine with showy purple flowers and reddish-purple pods. The beans are poisonous and should not be eaten.
Bean (Scarlet Runner), Phaseolus coccineus, Annual
Bohn (G); Feierbuhne (PG)
The scarlet runner bean is native to Mexico and was grown in colonial America for its showy red flowers; the Pennsylvania Dutch called it Feierbuhne or “fire bean.” The 8-inch-long beans are edible when young and tender, and the plant will bear continuously if beans are picked regularly.
Beet, Beta vulgaris, Biennial
Zuckerrübe (G); Zuckerrieb (PG)
Red beets come in many varieties. The bull’s blood beet, an early variety, has a beautiful candy-striped color. The golden variety dates to the 1820s or earlier and has a sweeter, milder flavor. Beet greens are also edible and may be added to salads for flavor and color. Hard-boiled eggs mixed with pickled beet slices are a Pennsylvania German culinary mainstay.
Carrot, Daucus carota var. sativus, Annual
Karotte (G); Gehlrieb (PG)
One of the oldest varieties of carrots grown in colonial America, the scarlet horn carrot is extremely rare today. Its short, blunt root grows well in shallow soils. The Danvers half-long carrot, which was introduced in the 1800s, is bright orange and grows 5 to 7 inches long. It grows well in clay soil and resists splitting.
Cucumber (Lemon), Cucumis sativus, Annual
Gurke (G); Gummer, also Guckgummer (PG)
This round, yellow cucumber has a thin, tender skin and mild flavor. Each fruit is about the size of a tennis ball, making a perfect serving size for 1 or 2 people. The plant was introduced to the U.S. by the late 1800s.
Currant, Ribes odoratum, Perennial
Johannisbeere (G); Rote Kansdrauwe (PG)
Red currant plants are native to North America and have flowers that smell like cloves. The fruit grows in clusters similar to grapes and can be made into juices, jams, tarts, or pies.
Gherkin (West Indian), Cucumis anguria, Annual
Gurke (G); Gummer, also Guckgummer (PG)
West Indian gherkins grow on vines and look like cucumbers, except they are smaller and covered in small spines. This variety was introduced to America from Jamaica in 1793.
Gooseberry, Ribes uva-crispa, Perennial
Stachelbeere (G); Grusselbeer (PG)
Gooseberries have tart skin and sweet flesh, and are good for eating fresh or making into jellies and pies. The berries look like grapes, but with a thorn on the end (as well as thorns on the stems). Our garden has two of the Pixwell variety, the fruit of which turns a blush pink when it is ripe.
Ground Cherry, Physalis pruinosa, Perennial
Physalis or Erdkirsche (G); Yuddekasch (PG)
Ground cherries are native to South America and produce small, round fruits in paper husks similar to a tomatillo. These low, spreading plants were popular among the Pennsylvania Germans to eat raw or make into pies and jams. The fruit has a mildly tart, tomato-like flavor with a sweet aftertaste and should be eaten only when it has matured to a golden yellow color.
Leek, Allium ampeloprasum, Biennial
Lauch (G); Lauch (PG)
Leeks are a relative of onions; the stalks and leaves are used in soups and on pasta and meat. Earth may be mounded around the stalks while growing to blanch them.
Lettuce (Black-Seeded Simpson), Lactuca sativa, Perennial
Salat (G); Selaat (PG)
Black-seeded Simpson lettuce is an early loose leaf lettuce with light-green, speckled leaves good for early harvesting. It is slow to bolt and can withstand heat, drought, and light frost.
Lettuce (Cimmaron), Lactuca sativa, Perennial
Salat (G); Selaat (PG)
An heirloom dating to the 1700s, this lettuce has deep-red leaves that are crisp, juicy, and slow to bolt. It is also known as Rouge d’Hiver, or “Red Winter.”
Lettuce (Landis Winter), Lactuca sativa, Perennial
Salat (G); Selaat (PG)
Landis winter lettuce is a Pennsylvania German variety, bred from a now extinct variety known as “White Tennisball.” It is a butterhead lettuce, which means the leaves grow in a loose head.
Lettuce (Speckled), Lactuca sativa, Perennial
Salat (G); Selaat (PG)
This variety produces a loose head of green leaves speckled with red. The seed is said to have traveled from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to Ontario, Canada, with Mennonite families.
Onion (Egyptian Walking), Allium cepa, Perennial
Zwiebel (G); Zwiwwel or Winderzwiwwel (PG)
The Egyptian walking onion or top onion grows from a bulb, but unlike most onions, each plant also grows a cluster of small onions at the top of its long stalks. If not harvested, their weight causes them to bend over and touch the ground, which enables them to root and eventually “walk” across the garden. The plant yields an early harvest of onions in the spring, hence the Pennsylvania Dutch term Winderzwiwwel or “winter onion.”
Pepper (Hinkelhatz), Capsicum annuum, Annual
Spanischer Pfeffer or scharfe Paprika (G); Peffer (PG)
This rare heirloom plant produces an abundance of wrinkled, 2-inch long peppers that resemble chicken hearts, or “Hinkelhatz” in Pennsylvania Dutch. The peppers turn bright red when mature and are intensely hot. It is often stuffed or used in pickling dishes.
Pepper (Weaver’s Mennonite), Capsicum annuum, Annual
Spanischer Pfeffer or milde Paprika (G); Peffer (PG)
A Lancaster County variety, this plant produces small, 1.5-inch-diameter red peppers that are sweet and may be eaten either plain or stuffed.
Radish (French Breakfast), Raphanus sativus, Annual
Rettich (G); Reddich (PG)
A pre-1885 heirloom, the French breakfast radish is a mild, tubular radish with a red top and white bottom that matures in only 20-30 days. It can be planted and harvested regularly from June to November.
Radish (German Giant), Raphanus sativus, Annual
Rettich (G); Reddich (PG)
An Amish heirloom, the German giant radish is a globular radish that grows to the size of a baseball but can be harvested when it is much smaller. It matures in 30-40 days and has a sweet, mild taste.
Rhubarb, Rheum x hybridum, Perennial
Rhabarber (G); Barberaa or Boigraut (PG)
Rhubarb stalks have a tart flavor and are used in jams and pies, hence the Pennsylvania Dutch term Boigraut or “pie plant” for rhubarb. The leaves are poisonous to some people.
Snow Pea (De Grace), Pisum sativum, Annual
Erbse (G); Arebs; also Aerbs, Aerebs (PG)
The De Grace snow pea has a long growing season and is frost-hardy. This variety of pea is good for eating fresh or for freezing, and is less stringy than other varieties.
Strawberry (Alpine), Fragaria vesca, perennial
Erdbeere (G); Aebbeer, Aebier (PG)
This heirloom German strawberry produces small but very flavorful fruit.
Swiss Chard, Beta vulgaris, Annual
Mangold (G); Mangelwatzel (PG)
Swiss chard is a leafy green plant; its stalks come in a variety of colors including pink, yellow, orange, red, white, and purple.
Watermelon, Citrullus lanatus, Annual
Wassermelone (G); Wassermelun (PG)
Introduced circa 1910, the moon and stars watermelon is an old Amish heirloom named after its yellow speckled leaves and rinds. The flesh is pinkish-red and very sweet.
Tomate (G); Temaet; also Bommerans (PG)
Although not a common plant in colonial America, tomatoes were cultivated in Virginia gardens by 1782 according to Thomas Jefferson. Pennsylvania Germans grew many different types of tomatoes, which were eaten raw, pickled (especially when the fruit was still green), and cooked.
Black Prince, Lycopersicum esculentum, Perennial
The black prince tomato is mahogany-red with orange-red shoulders when ripe; the fruit is medium size, soft, and juicy.
Costoluto Fierentino, Lycopersicum esculentum, Perennial
The name of this variety is Italian for “Ribbed Tomato of Florence,” which means it is heavily lobed. The plants mature in 75–80 days, and the tomatoes are good for preserving, making into sauces, or eating raw.
German Strawberry, Lycopersicum esculentum, Perennial
As the name implies, the German strawberry tomato looks like a giant strawberry, with a red, heart-shaped body and shoulders that ripen slower than the rest of the fruit. A pre-1900 heirloom, these tomatoes grow up to a pound, are meaty, and have very little juice.
Green Zebra, Lycopersicum esculentum, Perennial
The green zebra tomato ripens to green stripes on a pale-yellow fruit; the inside is a vivid green. Its taste is often described as sweet and tangy.
Marmande, Lycopersicum esculentum, Perennial
The Marmande tomato was brought to America by Pierre Andrieux in 1742. It grows well even on cool summer days and has slightly ribbed fruit.
Pink Brandywine, Lycopersicum esculentum, Perennial
Slightly lobed in shape and admired for their delicious flavor, pink Brandywine tomatoes need a long, mild growing season to ripen. This variety was introduced c. 1889 by Johnson & Stokes, a Philadelphia seed company.
Purple Calabash, Lycopersicum esculentum, Perennial
This heirloom tomato yields dark, reddish purple, deeply lobed fruit about 3 to 4 inches in size.
Red Pear, Lycopersicum esculentum, Perennial
The red pear tomato produces bright-red, 2-inch pear-shaped fruits. It is an indeterminate variety that produces well until the first frost and should be harvested when its shoulders are still green. This heirloom variety comes from Italy but has been grown in America since colonial times.
Riesentraube, Lycopersicum esculentum, Perennial
The name of this variety is German for “giant bunch of grapes.” A prolific grower, the plant produces clusters of 1.5-inch, pointed cherry tomatoes. It has a rich, complex, meaty flavor and was first grown in the United States by the Pennsylvania Germans.
Yellow Pear, Lycopersicum esculentum, Perennial
This small, lemon-yellow, pear-shaped tomato dates to at least the early 1600s and was used by colonists for pickling and preserving. This variety is easy to grow and produces all summer but needs staking. It is indeterminate, which means that it produces fruit multiple times in a season rather than all at once.