If you have been around vegetable gardening for any amount of time, you may have heard the term "heirlooms" tossed about a time or two.

Heirloom vegetables are typically those that are open-pollinated and been around for 50 years or more.

These varieties have been passed down from generation to generation, and are typically the vegetables our grandparents, and their parents, grew in their vegetable gardens.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Although I've been growing some type of edibles since I was a child I never even knew about heirloom vegetables until about six years ago when I attended a vegetable gardening workshop at a local nursery.

From that point on, I was intrigued by heirlooms and the stories behind their existence.

Recently, a new book by author Chris McLaughlin was released on nothing but heirloom vegetables.

The title of the book is, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Heirloom Vegetables (Alpha).

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Heirloom VegetablesIt is divided into three main parts, and covers a vast amount of knowledge on heirloom vegetables.

Here's a short summary of each part:

Part One

Part One delves into the definition of an heirloom, why they are important to us as gardeners and as a society, how heirlooms get their names, and the benefits of growing them in your vegetable garden.

There are explanations of the differences between heirlooms, hybrids, and GMOs. You will also learn how to choose the right heirlooms for your vegetable garden.

You will also pick up some valuable gardening practices.

There is information on the importance of using compost, how to implement companion planting, mulching, and how to attract beneficials insects to your vegetable garden.

Part Two

Part Two delivers information on pollination and tactics you can use to help prevent your heirlooms from cross-pollinating with other varieties.

This is very important for making sure your heirlooms stay true to seed, if you intend on saving the seeds for the following season.

And that brings us to one of my favorite chapters in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Heirloom Vegetables - Chapter 6.

Chapter 6 is all about how to save your heirloom seeds for future use in the vegetable garden, or for sharing with other gardeners.

This chapter goes over why you should save your own heirloom seeds, how to collect and clean them, how to dry and store them, and how to store your precious heirloom seeds.

Part Three

Part Three includes the best section of the book, in my opinion, The Heirloom Vegetable Directory.

The Heirloom Vegetable Directory makes up about two-thirds of the entire book, and lists hundreds of different heirloom varieties from Artichokes to Watermelons.

If you are searching for an heirloom variety of just about any vegetable, you'll find it in this comprehensive directory.

Each variety is listed with a brief description and approximate growing time.

I guarantee that just a few minutes of flipping through the directory, and learning about all the different heirloom varieties, that you will be adding some to your seed list!

Companion Website

The author also compiled a nice website to accompany the book that features a photo gallery.

If you want to goggle over some great images of heirloom vegetables that are talked about in the book, head over to cigheirloomvegetables.com to check them out.


The Complete Idiot's Guide to Heirloom Vegetables is the definitive guide on heirloom vegetables and is written in a very down-to-earth language that bypasses the technical jargon.

It very easy to read and comprehend, whether you are brand new to growing vegetables, or a seasoned pro.

If you have a love for heirloom vegetables, or want to learn more about growing them in your vegetable garden, I highly recommend you grab a copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Heirloom Vegetables.

If nothing else, you will definitely gain a new appreciation for the goodness that heirlooms have to offer!

You can also read my review of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composting, which was authored by Chris McLaughlin as well.