Vegetables are sometimes referred to as "heirloom" or "heirloom variety." This basically means that it is a variety of vegetable that was grown before large-scale agriculture became commonplace. These days, most crops grown on a large scale are hybrids - combinations of various traits that lead to vigorous growth and disease resistance.
That isn't to say that heirloom varieties are hard to grow, although sometimes they can be. One way to ensure that you are picking a variety that will do well for you, is to choose one that is traditionally from your area. For me, the first year I grew heirloom corn I tried Roy's Calais Flint Corn, a variety that couldn't be more local to me and that was reintroduced by a seed grower in my community, High Mowing Organic Seeds. High Mowing is a great place to look for heirloom seeds!
Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste is a great place to check out some endangered heirloom varieties. The list includes "vegetables, fruits and berries, nuts, cereals, cheeses, fish, shellfish, game, livestock, poultry, beverages, honey, spices, syrups, vinegars, and more," says Slow Food USA. By choosing a vegetable or animal from the Ark of Taste, you're helping to keep traditional varieties alive. There are over 200 different foods in the Ark of Taste, so I'm sure you'll find something that appeals to you and that will work for your climate.
Check out some heirloom varieties and have some fun planning while the winds whip and the snow flies!
Photo © Flickr user stu_spivack