With the wind howling outside and highs below zero predicted for tomorrow, it seemed just the right time to make my vegetable seed order. This is the day of the year when my time to garden seems endless and my energy high. Reality will no doubt set in sometime between April and June, but seeds are cheap so I’m inclined to be generous in my expectations.
In the past, I’ve ordered tomato, pepper and basil starts (little plants) from catalogs. The advantage is you can get unusual or new varieties. However, these plants have generally performed in a disappointing way, either because they arrived at just the moment when I did not have time to put them in (see paragraph above), or because they started their life in an ideal environment, not at all like my backyard where the sun is hot, the water sometimes scarce, and the wind blows constantly. Inevitably, I end up buying replacement plants at the farmers’ market, the local nursery, or the hardware store. This year, I’m skipping the middle-man and just planning to buy starts from local sources.
Vegetables that grow from seed are another matter. I like ordering them from a catalog because you can get more unusual varieties at very little extra cost or risk. So, this morning I mapped out my vegetable beds, and ordered seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I’ve gotten the Baker Creek catalog for several years, but haven’t ordered before. I checked the company’s reputation at Dave’s Garden, and it gets excellent ratings for service and seed quality. As the name suggests, Baker Creek specializes in heirloom and rare seeds. Looking over the varieties, I realized they must sell to market gardeners; several of the plants were familiar to me from buying at the farmers’ market, including the delicious French squash my friend, Penny, blogged about late in the fall. Many of the varieties Baker Creek sells have been around since the mid-19th century, so they should be reliable.
Here’s some of what I ended up ordering:
Golden Wax Beans: My family loves beans, so I bought three types. These yellow ones are bush-style beans that mature in only 55 days–good thing since you really can’t plant beans until late May, even early June. They need a warm soil to germinate and don’t like it too wet either.
Cherokee Trail of Tears: This is a bean brought from Tennessee by the Cherokee people as they were marched to Oklahoma in 1839 by the U.S. government. I love a plant with a story, even a sad one. Trail of Tears is known to be very hardy and excellent for dry beans. This will be my first attempt to harvest dry beans.
Taiwan Black: This is my risky bean. It’s a long bean (38 inches!) that was brought to the U.S. in the 1970s. It’s only for stir-frying, which I love to do. My concern is that Taiwan Black is recommended for the South. The catalog does not say how long a growing season it requires, but we’ll plant it and hope for the best. It’s a pole bean so I’ll be setting up a trellis for it. The photo is the one used in the Baker Creek catalog.
Golden Beet: Maybe it’s because I have a sweet-tooth, but I love beets. I roast them in the oven and dress them with olive oil, vinegar, and lots of salt and pepper. This is a yellow beet that’s been around since the 1820s and its color doesn’t run like other beets. Its greens are also flavorful.
Chioggia Beet: This is a well-known Italian beet, which I’ve bought many times at the Northfield Farmers’ Market. It’s sort of striped and very tasty.
Poon Kheera Cucumber: I like the pale color of this cucumber from India, which is supposed to have a sweet, mild flavor.
Little Gem Lettuce: I’ve not had much luck growing romaine lettuce, but Little Gem is a variety recommended by the Minnesota Master Gardeners. In addition to Little Gem, I’ll buy a mesclun type lettuce mix locally.
Pink Beauty Radish: Not many people really like radishes, but they grow fast, and early in the season I want to harvest something, so radishes it is.
Nimba Zucchini: This zucchini originally came from Poland and is reportedly tasty fried. Watch out, friends and neighbors, it’s advertised as producing “great yields.”
I ordered some berries and a neat seed-starting gadget, but more on those in another post.