What to Plant Now: 3 Hot Heirlooms for the South

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

It's that time of year when many Southern gardens are just beginning to come alive, so we were curious what seeds we could plant now. 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 that work in hot, humid climates.

"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 those things. "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 south to be planting now." 

Here are Fendley's top picks for June planting in the South:

1. Musquee De Provence Pumpkin is a French heirloom that was introduced to this country in 1899 by Vaughan's Seed Store. Musquee loves heat and will do well in the South. This distinct pumpkin has deep ribs and a skin tone that could only be described by an artist. The flesh is deep orange with a very rich complex flavor. It typically grows to be about 13 pounds but can get much bigger. Grow it for the sheer beauty, and you'll grow it again for the taste.

2. Silver Queen Okra stands out from the crowd. While nearly every garden in the South has some okra growing, Silver Queen is the most graceful. Extremely tender, the 7-inch pods make a fantastic addition to soups or taste great breaded and fried. For an unusual dish, sauté the okra with citrus juice and papaya and serve over broiled fish for a mouthwatering dinner.

3. Hearts of Gold Melon is an American favorite. It was developed by Roland Morrill around 1895 and was once the most popular cantaloupe in America. Known for its sweet flesh and reliable quality, Hearts of Gold thrives in Southern heat. A deep orange-red flesh with a rich delicious flavor, these cantaloupes range from 2-3 pounds.

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 Southern garden. 

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