The ‘Ronde de Nice’ is a rounded ball-shaped zucchini, which comes from either France or Italy, depending who you ask. Photo by Leslie Cox

Duchess of Dirt: There is something to be said for heritage

With a large family reunion coming up this month, heritage has very much been on my mind. Many who will be coming to the event are fourth-generation descendants from our ancestors who arrived in Victoria from England in 1888.

Naturally, I have been delving into the family archive files to refresh my memory of the many branches stemming from that particular ancestral family of 13 children. There is a whack of cousins, to be sure.

Genealogy is a fascinating hobby I find – whether it be human or plant. It is equally interesting to read about a great-uncle’s military career and the story behind a favoured pole bean called ‘Lazy Wife,’ which I often grow. (It is also known as ‘Lazy Housewife.’)

This bean dates back to 1810, and that is the date when it was first known to be grown in America. German settlers who arrived in Pennsylvania brought the seeds with them so who knows how far back in time this bean variety actually goes.

Know how it got its name? Apparently, it was one of the very first beans which did not need de-stringing. You know that tedious job to get rid of the tough cord that runs the length of the bean pod. Hooray to evolution when it makes a woman’s job in the kitchen a little easier.

Another favoured old variety I grow is ‘speckled’ lettuce. This one predates 1799, which is when the seed arrived in Ontario from Pennsylvania. A little more research and I find this lettuce actually dates all the way back to 1660 where it was grown in Holland. Imagine – a lettuce that has been grown continuously for over 350 years.

And how about that dinosaur kale, also known as ‘Lacinato?’ It might not be as old as the dinosaurs themselves but pretty impressive that this kale dates back to the early 1700s. It is a perennial favourite in our garden since we eat a lot of kale salads throughout the season. (If you have not tried my Best Kale Salad recipe yet, you can find it here:

Another heirloom favourite is ‘Ronde de Nice’ – a rounded ball-shaped zucchini. There is some discrepancy as to which country this zucchini originated from. Most say France, but a few say this is an Italian variety. And I have not pinpointed an exact year for this heirloom zucchini so the best guess it is at least 50 years old, but more likely 100 years or older. No matter its nationality or antiquity, this is a delicious zucchini and worthy of a little garden space.

When it comes to tomatoes, there is much hybridizing happening so lineage gets a little blurry. But there are a few favourites such as ‘stupice,’ a cold hardy type native to the former Czechoslovakia. The seeds thankfully became available worldwide in 1976. Great for growing in cooler regions as well as in pots for balconies and patios, this is a tasty tomato with decent yields.

As for my family lineage, every once in a while I pick up the Internet search for relatives and just over a year ago, I found a treasure trove. Turns out there is a third cousin in Quebec who has a doctorate in genealogy and she has done extensive research into our family and been kind enough to share her information.

And thanks to her, this Pauline family reunion is happening in Victoria. Seventy-odd cousins are arriving from across Canada, the U.S. and England. Various events have been planned for this momentous gathering, not the least of which will be a recreation of the original family photo taken in 1890 on the porch of the historic Tod House in Oak Bay. Pretty darn cool.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at and her column appears every second Thursday in the Record throughout the spring and summer months.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

VIDEO: Fire departments salute health care staff at hospital in Comox Valley

Trucks large and small drove by facility in procession, with siren and flashers on

‘An extra $220 every 90 days’: B.C. patients pay more dispensing fees due to prescription limits

Kelowna woman says it’s outrageous to charge for refills every 30 days

Courtenay Easter Promenade has a homemade theme this year

Decorate your house; chance to win prizes

Woofy’s now selling Girl Guide Cookies

Another business has stepped up to help the Girl Guides sell their… Continue reading

Comox Valley handyDART offers free grocery delivery

The handyDART service in the Comox Valley is offering free deliveries for… Continue reading

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

Comox Valley grocers going extra mile during coronavirus

We have had numerous requests to post a fluid article directing consumers… Continue reading

Two inmates found positive for COVID-19 at federal prison in B.C.; other tests pending

15 staff self-isolating waiting results, refusal to work notice sent, says correctional officer

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

Federal NDP suggests universal benefit to streamline aid payments

Those who do not need money will repay at end of tax year

Saanich mayor receives his foster bees through pollinator rental program

‘I feel like I’m an adoptive father,’ Fred Haynes says of his rented mason bee colony

Nanaimo’s Harmac mill works to fill doubled pulp order for medical masks and gowns

Mill’s president says extra cleaning in place and workers are social distancing

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Most Read