More Seeds and Such That Will Need to Be Stuck into Some Soil, Somewhere

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

Last week I traveled to Montreal to speak at the Montreal Seed Fair and sign copies of the “Grow Great Grub” book in support of the collective food gardening group, Action Communiterre.

Toronto’s Annual Seed Fair is coming up this Sunday and is expected to be packed to the gills. I find it difficult to shop at this event since I am a vendor and need to focus on working, so I took the opportunity to get some seeds for myself at the Montreal event.

Shopping for seeds in French turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. Here in Canada we are taught French in the public school system, but despite years of lessons, none of it has stuck. I can say, “I don’t speak French” and ask “Where’s the bathroom?” and that’s about it. Most seed packets had the Latin botanical name on them so that helped. But they were often organized according to the common name, which was in French.

I basically felt like a total idiot most of the time, especially when I launched into Spanish when I meant to reply in French. I’m nowhere near fluid in Spanish (I speak it on an infant level) but the language seems to come more naturally to me. As you can probably predict, mistakes were made. For example, I bought morning glory seeds thinking they were something else. I won’t tell you what that something else was — it’s too embarrassing.

That said, I did come out with some good stuff, even if most of it wasn’t on my mental list for this year. Not that I had a mental list, or any sort of list at all for that matter. Year after year it is always the same with me. Try as I might, I am not a planner. I am an experimenter. I pick and choose for the season based more on impulse and the possibility of an interesting experiment than planning. Sometimes plants choose me. For the most part I just go with what comes.

And then I try to stick it all somewhere appropriate in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. Below are the items I bought that I will be attempting to stick somewhere this spring.

Top Row (left to right):

  • Seed Potatoes ‘All Red’ – I was amazed by how many vendors sold potatoes at this event. Thank you! I bought this small bag of seed potatoes for $3. I’m a small space gardener — I don’t require pounds and pounds of seed potatoes. So every year I buy my potatoes in the quantity I want from a local organic produce store that I know carries decent stock. The only drag is that some of those potatoes probably come from… who knows where, and aren’t adapted to this climate. These seed potatoes were produced in Quebec. Close enough. And now, I FINALLY get to grow the ‘All Red’ variety that I’ve had on my list for years. Hooray!
  • Jerusalem Artichoke ‘Red’ – I bought this red variety because I was under the impression that I have only been able to grow the yellow variety. I’m not so sure now. I guess I’ll find out in the spring when the soil thaws. These were also $3 a bag.
  • French Shallots – As you can imagine, several vendors in French Canada had shallots for sale. This is something I rarely see in Toronto so I bought a bag for $3.

Middle Row (left to right):

  • Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfolita) – Residents of California will think it strange to purchase claytonia seeds since it grows like a weed there. Here in Toronto claytonia is a rare sight in edible gardens.

    The next four packages were bought from La Société des Plantes who happen to make very nicely designed packages. I didn’t REALLY need more claytonia seeds but I will eventually… and look how nice the package is! That’s my excuse. I showed someone the packages and her response was, “Does that matter?” Hell, yes! Not only does it show that they have great taste but demonstrates that they put an extra bit of effort into their product. Some might say that’s just superficial, but I think it is Classy (with a capital ‘C’).

  • Shungiku (Chrysanthemum coronarium) – Shungiku is an edible chrysanthemum that I have grown a few times. You can eat both the tender leaves and the flowers. The flavour is hard to describe but I’d say pungent and a bit how chrysanthemum flowers smell.
  • Purple Plantain (Plantago major ‘Purpurea’) – One day I’ll tell the story of plantain and what it means to me, but in the meantime I’m very excited about this purple variety.
  • Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea) – Embarrassing mistake. Let’s never speak of it again. I’m going to give these away or trade.
  • Chufa Nuts aka Tiger Nuts (Cyperus esculentus) – The description of this plant is so interesting I couldn’t help being intrigued. The seeds are tiny little tubers that grow into a grassy, sedge plant. At the end of the season the tubers are dug up and dried. Apparently they taste like coconut and can be made into a Spanish drink called Horchata that is different than the Mexican rice drink of the same name. I think this will do well in medium-sized containers.
  • Red and Black Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor gr. Saccharatum ‘Black African’) – I first came across black sorghum last year on a trip to the Montreal Botanical Gardens so how fitting that I bought seeds there less than a year later. I was told that the red variety grows to be as tall as 12 feet while the black variety is much shorter. I’m planning to try growing these in the street garden. If they don’t get destroyed or urinated on, I might just try pressing out the juice for homegrown sweetener. I also recommend the film “Red Sorghum” by Zhang Yimou.

Bottom Row (left to right):

  • Morelle de Balbis (Solanum sisymbrifolium) On the night before the event, my friend Gwynne was telling me about her experience growing this plant on her farm and I was intrigued. The next day I found seeds! It reminds me of naranjilla, but even thornier and more dangerous looking. Do you think this might keep the urinators out of the street garden? If you’re looking for seeds, Solana Seeds carries a wide variety of interesting and exotic tomato family plants.
  • Blue Flowers – These were from the trade. They were listed as “fleurs bleues” and can’t for the life of me recall the name. The flowers eventually turn to seed pods that look like tiny Chinese Lanterns. Does anyone know the name? Update: Thanks to Dan of Ferme Coopérative Tourne-Sol for identifying these as Shou Fly (Nicandra physalodes).
  • Ginkgo Biloba – This is the third time someone has given me ginkgo seeds. If I believed in The Secret and manifesting from the Universe and all that jazz I would be getting the distinct message that I am supposed to grow this plant. I will admit that it is a gorgeous tree and if I had the space I would indeed grow it. Who doesn’t love ginkgo leaves? But I don’t have space, so growing one is not likely to happen anytime soon. I’ve got to find a spot for that 12 foot red sorghum first! I’ll happily send these to the first person in the comments who is interested in growing them. Bonus points for making it this far down in the post.
Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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25 thoughts on “More Seeds and Such That Will Need to Be Stuck into Some Soil, Somewhere

  1. Love all of the ineresting seeds. So many possibilities for a very exciting garden! I just moved this winter to a house on a 2+ acre lot. I had to leave all of my beloved perennials behind since we moved during the winter. I would love a chance to grow the ginkgo tree in my new space if the seeds are still available. Thanks!

  2. I found shungiku at a farmers’ market a few years ago. I really liked it, and would love to grow it someday!

  3. … love those little tomato-ish naranjilla-like Morelle de Balbis’ – just because (and also because they might hurt someone peeing on them someday in all the wrong places for all the right reasons)!

  4. I’ll trade you for the morning glories. The seeds I saved from the old garden got lost in the move and I feel so bad I am thinking of visiting the old apartment with a paper bag in the fall and stealing some.

  5. I bought Morelle de Balbis seeds from Baker Creek this year! I’m a sucker for different nightshade plants. Have you ever grown any of those “garden huckleberry” plants?

  6. I’ve been curious about growing Jerusalem Artichokes ever since I came across a recipe using one.

    Sorry about the language snafus. As a vegetarian it has made eating at restaurants when traveling abroad a bit of an adventure. I’ve learned “no meat, please” in nine languages.

  7. Gayla, could the “Fleurs Bleu” Be Nigella, or what we call “Love in the Mist”? They have blue blooms and then the balloon-shaped seed pods.

  8. How fun! I’m so looking forward to this Sunday… I hope I make out as well as you did in Montreal. I can’t wait to see the Superfantastico garden goodies!!

  9. Jessica: Jerusalem artichokes are super easy to grow. The plant is invasive in the ground so beware because once you have them they’re hard to get rid of.

  10. I LOVE YOUR NEW BOOK!!!! (Just had to say that)…and I can’t help myself from buying seeds and seed potato’s (did that last weekend). Thanks for all your inspiration :)

  11. I tried the All Red Potaotes last year with all the rain nothing happened this year im trying Green Mountain Potatoes this cool place in Alberta you can order online and they send you Seed Potaoes when your season starts

  12. I think I know what you thought the morning glory seeds were, if you were going by the Latin, but I won’t press it. As for the Ginkgo, you should TOTALLY give it a shot. I know space is an issue but Ginkgoes can be trained as small bonsai, which could add a really interesting visual element to one of your garden plots. If you’re really set against growing Ginkgo right now though, I’ll gladly accept any seeds you might have left over. I love the seeds because they remind me of tiny turtle shells.

  13. Harvest Man: Yes I bet you could guess at my mistake that way. It’s really for many reasons probably the dumbest mistake I’ve ever made and all because I second-guessed myself… which I guess is a good thing. It’s important for me to stay humble and open to the fact that I don’t know it all and could be wrong about stuff.

  14. Lucky you being gifted with Ginkgo Seeds!!
    If you have 2 to spare,I would love to try my hand
    at growing them. Loads of room for them to grow.

  15. Gayla,
    You are definitely right about the Société des plantes’ classy packagings: it gives you the [right] idea that they take good care of their seeds. I know because I bought my very first organic seeds from them last year and – maybe that was beginner’s luck – the big majority of them gave strong, tall, nice, flowery and fruity plants; I then bought Phaseolus Coccineus (also called Sunset Spanish beans, with its small pink flower preceeding the arrival of long ) and Cyclanthera (code-named “Fat Baby”, a 2-to-4meter-high plant that gives small green 4cm-long fruits that taste like cucumber) … but I guess you already know that, right?
    Too bad we didn’t meet at the MTL Fair; could’ve help you with your “français”. Great book; only at page 14, and I love it.

  16. You got a lot of great seeds there!

    I am a seedaholic. I freely admit this. This year I tried to keep seed trading and collecting down to a dull roar, but I still have way more seeds than I think I can plant. I am going to give it my best shot and try to get them all planted.

    I will plant all the veggies seeds I have, its the flowers and shrubs that will get left behind.

  17. I’d love to know where you got the tiger nuts from. I travel semi-regularly to Ghana where Tiger nuts are a common snack. My friends have told me they are useful in the strengthening of men’s libidos… as they would say,”It makes men strong!”. Tee hee… In any case, they are so delicious and I love them so much! I’ma some cited ’bout local tiga nuts!

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