Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Seed Savers Exchange Catalog: Beautiful Heirlooms
No contest: At Meadow Glenn, the Seed Savers Exchange catalog of heirloom seeds wins the “most beautiful catalog” contest. Take a close look at the cover photo. Beautiful. And then look at the photo of one of the inside pages featuring tomatoes. Beautiful.
Seed Savers Exchange is a not-for-profit, member-supported organization with an 890-acre Heritage Farm near Decorah, Iowa, with display, trial, and preservation gardens. If you do buy seeds, a portion of the price of each packet sold helps underwrite the Exchange’s many educational activities. Warning: You may open this catalog to look for seeds but you may happily detour into sidebars describing the Exchange’s programs, such as its preservation herd of ancient White Park cattle, which originated 2,000 years ago in the British Isles.
New gardeners may want to know what an “heirloom” variety is. Heirloom aficionados might argue, sometimes vigorously, over a definition, but in general it refers to variety that has been handed down by growers for several generations and is open-pollinated. Open-pollinated means that if you save a seed from the heirloom variety and plant it, it will produce the same plant, assuming, of course, that the plant wasn’t cross-pollinated by another variety when it was flowering. Clear as mud?
Page 3 of the catalog contains an index of contents, from arugula, bean, and beet to transplants, turnip, and watermelon. Some of the larger sections are bean (6 pages), lettuce (4), pepper (6), squash (4), tomato (8), and flowers (9). About 200 of the 600 catalog varieties are certified organic.
One danger of reading the catalog descriptions is that you might become so intrigued by new information that you begin reading just for the fun of it. That happened one time when I got hooked by the description of Red Fig tomato: “Philadelphia heirloom documented to 1805…. Used as a substitute for figs years ago by gardeners who would pack away crates of dried tomatoes for winter use.”
Price of a sample seed order: Packet (100 seeds), Detroit Dark Red beet, $2.75. Packet (50), Italian Heirloom tomato, $2.75. Packet (250), Jolly Jester marigold. Shipping: $6.00. Total: $14.25.
Confession: I’m a member, but you needn’t be a member to buy seeds or transplants or to receive a catalog.
To go to the Seed Savers Exchange website, CLICK HERE. You can request a print catalog on the home page.