It feels like I’m going to be able to be more forthcoming with the garden projects I’ve got going on this year so I thought I would take advantage of the freedom by posting all the seeds I buy or acquire by trade, gifts, etc.
When I bought bean seeds the other day I also purchased some assorted vegetable seed but decided against posting about them there to keep the post on topic. In the meantime a pack of Gourmet Mesclun Asian Baby Leaf (Phew that was a mouthful) seeds arrived in a press packet from Renee’s Garden. Packets of lettuce and greens never go to waste around here! I’ve had “Get some greens started on the windowsill” on my to-do list for over a week now. It’s way too early to get them going outdoors around here just yet, but there should be enough sunlight to pull off a crop of micro-greens.
When I think about it, it’s kind of amazing that I’ve managed to acquire this many seeds so early without having given barely a thought to what I will be doing in the garden this year. Perhaps this garden season will take inspiration from my trip to Cuba and just be about going with the flow.
What I Got:
- ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’ Tomato – This is a classic, super prolific and easy to grow wild variety. I’m fairly certain I’ve been growing these in my community garden plot where I inherited a crop of tomatoes that self-seed every year. This is most likely the plant I have permanently tattooed on my arm so I figured it was time to try and solve the mystery once and for all. I could have easily acquired these in trade if I’d had the patience to wait half a second, but…. I don’t. So I didn’t.
- ‘Sparkler’ Radish – I’m always on the lookout for a good radish contender for container growing and figured this round ‘French Breakfast’ alike might just fit the bill. And since I’m a fan of that elegant two-tone variety it was hard to pass up a rounded version.
- ‘Golden Detroit’ Beet – I generally don’t grow beets since we can get them cheaply enough at the farmer’s market but how could I pass up a variety with such a glam rock vibe about it? Come to think about it, these last two plants could fit into a disco theme seed collection. Anyways, this variety is golden with golden veining. It kind of reminds me of ‘Golden’ Swiss Chard, another beauty.
This last trip to Cuba was one of many firsts including a few from my life to-do list, one of which was to ride on a horse. And now that I’ve done it I probably won’t do it again. My ass thanks me in advance. I definitely will not do it again in a place where there are no certainties about the care of the animals. I worried for my little horse and wondered about all the heavy tourist butts she had been forced to bear in her lifetime of servitude.
The horseback trip we took was a short, but painful jaunt to a waterfall up in the mountains. The waterfall itself was interesting, although not remarkable. What was amazing were the plants! I particularly loved the wall covered in epiphytic plants (air plants) shown in the photo above. Wouldn’t you love to have that in your living room? Those strange snake-like plants on the left side are epiphytic cactus. And the big-leaved vine in the foreground and left background? Philodendron!
If what’s on television is any indicator The Brits are clearly more progressive than us when it comes to gardening. Here in North America broadcasters like HGTV are still fumbling around in the dark trying to figure out the “garden” in Home and Garden, often deciding to just forgo the garden part entirely. Apparently, garden equals slabs of expensive stone pavers, a fancy seating area with loads of pillows that can’t be left outside or they’ll be moldy and gross before lunch, with some kind of no-work coniferous bush slapped in here and there.
Meanwhile, over in the UK they are making some relevant garden programming that people like me can actually almost, sort-of relate to. A few months back I was asked who I looked up to in British gardening and the first person that jumped to mind is Charlie Dimmock. I know she thinks too much has been made of the fact that she often didn’t wear a bra on Ground Force, but, HELLO, that would NEVER be allowed on TV here. It is a big deal! And a woman getting down and dirty in the rain and mud with the guys. Another big deal. It shouldn’t be, because after all, women go bra-less and work as hard as men in home gardens everywhere, everyday, all of the time. Sadly, this is not the reality North American television presents us with. Nope, instead we are force-fed a gaggle of women gardeners with perfect teeth who look like they smell fresher than roses, and are somehow able to maintain pristine French tip manicures while hosting a garden show.
Further case in point: this spin-off project, LandShare, from a food program called River Cottage. Landshare doesn’t seem to be working quite yet but will eventually hook up would-be gardeners looking for space to grow with people who have surplus space that they are willing to share. Because, OH MY GOD, there are people who want to grow but don’t have the space to do it in. Who knew?
We need something like this here. When you get on that please put me on the list as a grower looking for space.
This is what happens to a basil plant when it is allowed to continue on with life well past one year. I wish I had a context shot to really show just how big and woody this plant had become. The bush came up past my hips and was so huge I didn’t even recognize it as a basil plant. I passed by it several times, and on a couple of separate occasions without giving it a second glance.
I don’t know which variety this is. The look and size of the leaves remind me of a variety called ‘Lesbos’, but the plants I have grown have never developed a purplish hue like this one. ‘Lesbos’ has a strong smell, but the leaves of this particular plant were very strong with an even deeper, spicier scent. When I asked, my host said it was medicinal and not used in cooking.
Whenever I get a new pack of bean seeds I am always immediately compelled to open up the packet and inspect the beans. I used to play out this ritual with all seeds but years of seed purchasing and collecting has garnered a familiarity with certain seeds. It’s not that I’ve lost my love for seeds, but that it gets a bit repetitive. After all, while every tomato is different, the seeds are virtually identical. Yes, of course there are variations in size, shape, fuzziness, etc but those differences aren’t exactly interesting. At least to me they’re not.
Beans on the other hand are like beautiful jewels, each is unique in size, shape, color, pattern, and texture. Some are naturally shiny, others dull. There is even variation between seeds of the same variety. I’m a little embarrassed to guess at how much time I have clocked fondling a pack of 20 seeds, turning each one over in my hand. Actually, no I’m not. I think a lot of gardeners will confess to this same ritual. Beans are pretty.
And that is why I was able to spend an inordinate amount of time yesterday afternoon stewing in my own sweat inside a gigantic winter jacket and chatting with Colette of Urban Harvest about beans. She had some new varieties for sale this year, some of which she brought back from Slow Food’s Terra Madre Conference in Turin, Italy this past fall. And even though I already have more packs of beans than I can get into the ground within the next few seasons, I couldn’t help buying more.
Here’s what I got:
- ‘Christmas’ lima bean – You know, I’ve never grown lima beans. I’m kind of on the fence about them. I like them well enough, just never enough to bother growing them. Colette also confessed to a leave it attitude towards lima beans so when even she could speak so enthusiastically about this variety, I knew I had to try them. ‘Christmas’ is described as having a “nutty, chestnut-like taste and the texture of baked potatoes.” SOLD! They are also drought tolerant, which is handy since I will probably try growing them in a large bin on the roof. I probably would have hesitated and waited until Seedy Saturday in a few weeks to get them had Colette not mentioned that she only had two packs left and was probably going to save the last pack for herself. And once I had one pack of seeds in my hand the ball was rolled. And I rolled with it like the sucker I am.
- ‘Blue Jay’ bush bean – I’m not yet sure about the pods but was sold on this variety by the blue and white seed description. That and a general fondness for blue jays. Remember The Green Forest? That’s basically it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: tell me a good story and I’ll buy your seeds. Although, this wasn’t even much of a story, but more about a personal sentiment that hit my weepy heart in the right place.
- ‘Tiger’s Eye’ bush bean – Another bean described as having a creamy, mashed potato texture. And… sold. I rarely worry about adding to my bush bean collection since I can usually find a container to grow them in.