Three Hot Heirlooms for Midwest Gardens -- What to Plant in June

Sustainable Seed Company's "Farmer John" Fendley shares his favorite vegetables for the Midwestern region.

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After a late spring, many Midwest gardens are just beginning to come alive. We caught up with "Farmer John" Fendley of Sustainable Seed Company; an online heirloom and organic seed company, and asked what three seeds we could plant in June in the Midwest.

"There are a lot of options now that spring is in full swing," Farmer John says. "Before you plant, I always remind people to ask themselves what they like to eat. Otherwise, you'll be wasting a lot of time and effort for the compost heap."

According to Farmer John, many people plant the same things year after year out of habit, and it's not always about what they like to eat. "Food prices are on the rise and quality is on the decline, so it makes sense to grow as many things as your family enjoys."

Fendley suggests taking a good look in your refrigerator and spice rack to see what you eat and cook with, and grow as much of that as you can. "I'm originally from Texas, so I've always grown a lot of okra, melons, and pumpkins -- all of which are great choices for folks in the Midwest to be planting now." 

Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin

Farmer John's seed company offers more than 1,600 varieties of seed, many well suited for Midwest soil and climate.

1. Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin is one of the best baking pumpkins around.  Averaging about 6 pounds, it's actually just the right size for two pies. The brilliant orange flesh is exceptionally sweet and creamy when cooked in pumpkin pies, cheesecakes, puddings, muffins, and pancakes. Plus the small seed cavity means more flesh for its size. If you store the pumpkin unblemished in a very cool, dark, dry room, it will keep into early winter -- hence its name. This pumpkin first appeared in 1893 in the Johnson & Stokes seed catalog.

Jing Orange Okra

2. Jing Orange Okra produces loads of bright, red-orange tender pods, making it look more like an ornamental plant than a vegetable. It takes heat and dry conditions, making it perfect for the Midwest. For a continual crop of tender young pods, harvest often, just as you would a bean plant. Fried, pickled, added in soup, or stewed with tomatoes, okra is a great vegetable to grow from seed.

Navajo Yellow Melon

3. Navajo Yellow Melon is a real piece of history. This muskmelon is an old Native American heirloom from the people of the Navajo Nation, farmers of crops of corn, beans, squash, and melons. The word "Navajo" actually comes from a Pueblo Indian word for "planted fields" or "farmlands." The melon is an oval shape with a smooth yellow skin and deep orange flesh. It does amazingly well in heat and drought and keeps well in the winter.

No matter what you have in your garden, Farmer John says the important thing is to grow your own food. "We're only one generation removed from when almost every backyard had a garden," he says. "It's important for our children to see where they get their food from -- and the backyard is the perfect place to start."

Visit Sustainable Seed Company's website for more hot heirlooms to grow in your Midwestern garden. 

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