Welcome to Plants with Stories, where every plant has a story.

We...

      Are located in West Michigan.

      Are a small family business that grows heirloom and open pollinated vegetable plants for sale.

      Have plants for sale at local farmer's markets and at our roadside stand at home.

      We do not currently ship plants but they are available for pick up at our roadside stand during planting season.

      Love to research the stories behind each plant's history, whether old or new.

      Specialize in tomato and pepper plants and will be adding lettuce and more.

      Grow our own plants and take seed saving seriously.

      Are always searching for new varieties.

      Buy seeds only from the most trustworthy sources.

      Have been gardening and canning for over 40 years so have lots of experience we are happy to share.

What is an Heirloom?

Heirloom plants are open pollinated. An open pollinated plant is one that you can save the seeds from and the new plants will grow true to their description.

Heirloom Tomatoes can be divided into 4 categories: Family, Commercial, Created and Mystery.

Family Heirlooms are those handed down through the generations of a family, for example Brandywine or Soldacki. Many of these have been discovered by enthusiastic seed savers like experts Carolyn Male and Craig LeHouiller. Crnkovic Yugoslavian, Neves Azorean Red, Opalka, Eva Purple Ball, Anna Russian and Cherokee Purple would be examples.

Commercial Heirlooms are those developed before the advent of the hybrid Big Boy in 1949 by Burpee. Most older commercial tomatoes were open pollinated and worth saving the seeds of. These would include Watermelon, Winsall, Abraham Lincoln, Marglobe and of course, Rutgers.

Created Heirlooms are those great tasting open pollinated tomatoes created by enthusiastic plant breeders in the last 40 years or so. This would include Green Zebra by Tom Wagner and Black Cherry by Vince Sapp and the newer varieties Liz Burt and Chocolate Stripes.

Mystery Heirlooms are those there is no explanation for – natural crosses by possible bee pollination or mutations. Examples would include Lucky Cross, Cherokee Green and Ananas Noire.

Why grow Heirloom Tomatoes?

Flavor:   In today’s world of hybrids and mass produced plants, it seems that flavor has many times been left out. The tomato industry has created tomatoes that are picked green (unripe) to ship well and then gassed with ethylene gas to help “ripen” or color up. Naturally, an unripe tomato has very little flavor. The world of heirlooms has an incredible variety of flavor. You could try growing 10 new varieties a year and never run out of flavors to try! Some of them are Listed on Slow Foods Ark of Taste. “The US Ark of Taste is a catalog of over 200 delicious foods in danger of extinction. By promoting and eating Ark products we help ensure they remain in production and on our plates.”

Flavor is difficult to describe and complicated when it comes to how people react to different components of flavor. The two main components of tomato flavor are sugars and acids and the combination of them determines “flavor”.  Most people characterize tomatoes that have high sugar and high acid levels as having great flavor. They also tend to rate tomatoes with low sugar and low acid levels as mild or bland. Contrary to public opinion, yellow tomatoes are not lower in acid nor are red tomatoes higher in acid. It is just how our mouths perceive the balance of acids and sugars. However, we all interpret these flavors differently. Part of this is based on how we perceive the smell of over 400 different volatile compounds or oils that are present in tiny amounts. So even though someone doesn’t like a particular tomato, you might love it. icon_smile.gif Come explore the many flavors heirlooms provide.

Color and Variety:  They come in all kind of colors. Red, Pink, Purple, Orange, Yellow, Green, White, Brown and even Blue, And then there are the bi colored ones and striped ones. There are over 7000 known varieties of open pollinated tomatoes with many new ones being created each year by enthusiastic tomato breeders. Growing heirlooms helps keep seed diversity alive. Plants with Stories currently carries over 200 varieties of heirloom and open pollinated tomatoes with more being added every year.

Stories:  Older heirlooms can have interesting stories that are a snapshot of a time and region and maybe even a person. It is incredible to think of growing a tomato that has been around for 50 or 100 years or even longer. We owe much to the seedsavers and seedsmen of old. Here is a valuable link to some of their histories.

We are grateful to Tatiana Kouchnareva of Tatiana’s TOMATObase for allowing us to use her wonderful informative site for adding to many of the stories on this site.

Innovation:  Try the new Indigo or “blue” tomatoes being developed that have high levels of anthocyanin, a naturally occurring antioxidant. Beautiful and good for you. One of the newer tomato categories being developed is dwarf tomatoes. They are smaller growing plants with the flavor of the heirlooms. The Dwarf Tomato Project has hundreds of volunteers on two continents that have developed many varieties over the last few years. Click on the dwarf button for more information. If you think you have little room to grow tomatoes, try the dwarf tomatoes or other determinates that will easily grow in containers. We even have grow bags for you that are biodegradable but will last for 5-6 years. They are made of recycled water bottle fibers and other natural fibers – no petroleum products wasted!

Why grow Heirloom Peppers?

Second to tomatoes in popularity for home gardeners, heirloom peppers come in a huge range of colors, shapes, and heat. When you grow your own a whole new world opens up. Colors range from the usual green and red to orange, yellow, white, purple, lavender and even chocolate brown. It is amazing to watch the peppers turn color as they mature. Some varieties will have 3 or 4 colors on the plant at the same time. The flavors change depending on when they are picked, so experiment a little! There are peppers for frying, canning, pickling, drying, freezing and of course for making salsa and hot sauce. Peppers come from all over the world and it is fun to try ones from different areas: Mexico, Thailand, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Italy, Africa, Jamaica, and many other places.

Many peppers came to America with immigrants. They have interesting names like Jimmy Nardello’s, Melrose, Beaverdam, Fish, Sigaretta Di Bergamo, Corno di Toro, Buldog Paprika, and Elephant’s Ear. And for all you pepperheads out there, you will have to grow them yourself to experience the heat of the super hots like Fatalli, the White Jolukia Ghost Pepper or the newest Carolina Reaper. Come experience the world of flavor Heirloom Peppers have to offer.