Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hopes Springs Eternal In The Garden

Hello! It's a well-known fact that it's all too easy for a gardener to get seduced by the lavish photos and copy found in gardening catalogs. In the dead of winter, the trials and tribulations of the previous growing season have been forgotten. 

I'm no different - in spite of having a small plot, barely enough sun and visits from various critters who like to eat my produce before I can pick it, I still am looking forward to putting a garden in again. Yes, hope does indeed spring eternal! And this year I have two new-to-me catalogs to peruse:

High Mowing Organic Seeds is based in Wolcott, Vermont. Rare Seeds is the catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds of Mansfield, Missouri. High Mowing features 100% certified organic and non-GMO seeds, and Rare Seeds' emphasis, of course, is on heirloom seeds. Both catalogs are free and both make for great reading. 

I first encountered Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds' inventory when we visited the Petaluma Seed Bank in Petaluma, CA last month. I don't think I'd ever seen seen so many seed packets in one place in my life! It was really hard to pick among such variety, especially since we had just a short time in Petaluma. We came home with four seed packets:

For our stir fries: Long Bean Chinese Green Noodle (green beans that grow up to 20" long) and Salad Blend Siamese Dragon Stir-Fry Mix(a mix of Asian greens for salads and stir fries).

Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli (will supposedly overwinter) and Leutschauer Paprika Pepper. Never have seen paprika plants sold in garden centers, so one time I ordered seeds online. There weren't many seeds in the packet, however, so eventually they were used up. Didn't ever get around to ordering any more, but now I can grow them again. Our homegrown paprika tasted way better than commercial version of this spice! 

On the back of these seed packets was a plug for the seed catalog, so I emailed my request. Rare Seeds arrived earlier this week and I haven't even looked at it all the way through yet - at a little over 200 pages long, there's a lot to read! 

I enjoyed the information given about many of the seeds, such as "a Roman heirloom that was sent to us by Mr. Barbetti, from Italy" (Pantano Romanesco tomato), "Sent to us by a seed saver in Sweden" (Ivory Egg tomato), "...found in a clay pot in a cave in the southwest USA (Ancient #WM187 watermelon) and so on. 

And it turns out that the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, for all its down-home-sounding name, is actually a rather ambitious business. They actually own the Petaluma Seed Bank store and have recently opened a second shop, Comstock, Ferre and Co. in Wethersfield, Connecticut. Meanwhile, at the headquarters in Missouri, their farm, pioneer village, and restaurant welcome visitors. They host festivals at these three sites as well. 

By comparison, High Mowing Organic Seeds is much more low-key, but when I saw it written up on the Gardenista website, I ordered their catalog as well. At a little over 100 pages, it's easier to keep track of the different varieties, and there's a more-than-adequate variety for a small-space gardener like me. 

But without recalling that I'd done so, I'd already purchased a seed packet produced by High Mowing Organic Seeds:

Above, the type of "gardening" I'm doing this time of year -  sprouts. This trio of alfalfa, clover and Sandwich Booster Mix are drying after their final rinse/dehulling. The Sandwich Booster Mix is from High Mowing Organic Seeds; purchased at a food co-op in Lexington, KY last March. Wonderful yield from just 1 tablespoon of sprouting seeds per tray; the only problem is waiting for the seeds to grow long enough! It's worth the effort though. I might order some more sprouting seeds from these folks, as their catalog offers other interesting sprout blends. 

Sprouts are fun to grow and very nutritious to boot, but just the same, I'll be as glad as this tomato when it's time for outdoor gardening:

Image from a vintage magazine. I do love tomatoes in season!


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