Just when I thought today couldn’t get any worse and that I might waste the day away wallowing in a pity party for one, seeds arrive in the mail. It’s amazing how such a small thing can cheer me up so fully.
I’m very determined to experiment with melon varieties this year. I ordered three more varieties from Seed Savers but will probably have to narrow my choices down to 2 or 3 varieties in total for want of space. I tend to order seeds with the kind of ambition best reserved for a sprawling country farm.
A stack of lettuce seeds, the fruit of my first attempt ordering via the complicated Seeds of Diversity system arrived from Vicki’s Veggies a CSA located about an hour or two away in Prince Edward County. As soon as the ground thaws I plan to get outside and sow some ‘Drunken Woman’ lettuce. It’s encouraging to know that at least some of my seed money was not diverted towards a disgruntled postal worker luncheon. Who knows what else will make it to my mailbox this week. I put through a lot of last-ditch seed orders recently.
Sounds like meat, as opposed to accompanying meat.
- ‘Bacon’ Bush Bean – I am guessing it doesn’t actually taste like bacon although meat lovers everywhere would like for someone to get on that, stat!
- ‘Caseknife’ Bush Bean
- ‘Bloody Butcher’ Tomato – Don’t hurt me!
- ‘Jack Rabbit Kidney’ Snap Bean
- ‘Deer Tongue’ Leaf Lettuce – Has got to be a delicacy somewhere in the world.
- ‘Goose Liver’ Bush Bean
- ‘Butter and Bull Heart’ Tomato – This variety is even described as “meaty.”
- ‘Lea’s Supersteak’ Tomato – Sounds like a steak eating contest.
- ‘Top Sirloin’ Tomato
- ‘Bull’s Blood’ Beet – I really love growing this variety. The dark burgundy leaves are gorgeous paired with silver and chartreuse plants.
For the gardener with an unsophisticated sense of humor. Myself included. Tomato’s tend to dominate this theme.
- ‘Black Seaman’ Tomato – No matter how I say it “seaman” always gets a snicker from the audience when I mention it in presentations and workshops.
- ‘Blow Fleisch’ Tomato – Huh?
- ‘Janet’s Little Sugar’ Tomato – Somehow putting “sugar” in the name leads to an unintended conclusion.
- ‘Magnum’ Tomato – I tried to stay away from the countless big, huge, giant etc jokes.
- ‘Pik’s Yogo’ Tomato – I don’t know what it means but it sounds like I’m getting too much information. Sort of like Oprah’s va-jay-jay.
- ‘Amateur’s Dream’ Tomato
- ‘Cream of Saskatchewan’ Melon
I recently sent off seed requests via Seeds of Diversity Canada, a seed exchange organization dedicated to the preservation of heritage varieties that I joined last summer. In the face of online ordering, the ease of PayPal transactions, and good ole’ email the whole experience felt downright old-fashioned, involving about three hours of painstaking reading and rereading instructions cross-referenced against further instruction. Having mastered that challenge I’m thinking about doing my taxes on paper, just for fun.
The process went as follows:
- Highlight selections. I chose yellow this time around. With a five-colour brick on hand I take my highlighting needs seriously.
- Next, decipher confusing abbreviated code and cross-reference abbreviated names and locations with a full list at the front of the catalogue to ascertain who to send money to and where.
- Address an envelope and affix appropriate postage. I can do this. This is familiar.
- Make copies of the printed form found in the middle of the catalogue. You will need copies if you plan to request from more than one grower or if you are prone to making mistakes on written forms yet insist on using indelible ink. I used the “copy” feature on my ancient and nearly useless fax machine. Surprisingly this was my second time turning it on in the same day. Hello 1993!
- Fill out the form. Oh crap, I do not know my membership number. Apparently I was supposed to keep the envelopes containing all correspondence from the organization since my membership number is printed on the mailing sticker. Apparently this was all outlined on my introductory membership letter. The introductory membership letter I filed away without reading because I do not care to read instructions. Write long-winded explanation for lack of membership number in supplied tiny space.
Was it worth it? Absolutely! The catalogue that arrived in my mailbox last month contained more plant names in one place than I have ever seen in my life. Making my way through it with the highlighter was a gardener’s wet dream, so-to-speak. Imagine 37 letter-sized pages of single-spaced text and no photographs dedicated entirely to tomatoes. From such an exhaustive list I bought only one variety, a purple cherry called ‘Haley’s Purple Comet’ that I fell in love with at a Tomato Tasting Party last August. I had not been able to locate seeds for this genetic fluke — a delicious love-child derived from tasty favourite ‘Cherokee Purple.’ And from another grower I ordered four lettuce varieties I have not seen available anywhere else: ‘Cheetah Oak’, ‘Devil’s Ear’s', ‘Ibis’ and ‘Drunken Woman.’ Surprisingly I ordered the last one for more than the name alone!
Placing completed forms and envelopes containing cash money into the mailbox this morning felt about as certain as making a dandelion wish and releasing it into the wind. Will my seed selections actually arrive or did I just buy lunch for some disenfranchised postal worker? Only time will tell.
This turn-of-the-century seed catalogue, John A. Bruce & Co.’s Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue of Seeds, 1884, was perfect reading this morning as I prepared to make my final seed choices and orders for the 2008 growing season. The gorgeous illustrated book (do not miss the cover on page 6), reproduced in full and made available online as a part of the Ontario Time Machine project is fascinating to explore including vegetable varieties many of us still enjoy today (they sold my favourite dwarf pea ‘Tom Thumb’!). Reading through the book sent me off on some wild but fruitless chases for interesting varieties like ‘Alpha’ a blue wrinkled pea, and ‘Black Portugal Musk Rock’* (page 13) a fascinating, bumpy-skinned cantaloupe.
As you turn through the pages be sure to click on descriptive photos, text definitions and audio files that provide further insight and historical context.
I’ve got to include an additional shout-out here to my spouse Davin who designed the Ontario Time Machine website.
*Cantaloupes or musk melons were called “rock melons” around the turn-of-the-century due to their hard, rock-like rinds.