Seeding Change

Lora “Homegrown Neighbor” Hall is in the New York Times this week in an article by Michael Tortorello, “Packets Full of Miracles.” Tortorello asks six gardeners to pick out their favorite seed varieties. Homegrown Neighbor chose New Zealand spinach, Nero de Toscana kale, Red orach, Sugar Ann snap pea, Crimson California poppy and Verbena bonariensis.

I’m sure Homegrown Neighbor would appreciate a reminder that if you buy seeds from Botanical Interests using the link on the right side of this blog, 40% of your purchases will go to supporting the ag program at North Hollywood High. Let’s get that chicken coop paid for! Fellow Angelino Caitlin Flanagan be damned!
It’s also a good moment to point out the reasons it’s best to grow from seed rather than buying seedlings at your local nursery. You get many orders of magnitude more selection, it’s much cheaper and you prevent the spread of soil diseases. Last year a fungal disease, late blight, infected gardens due to seedlings grown at large nurseries in the south and sold at big box retailers up and down the east coast (read more about that in an excellent editorial, You Say Tomato, I Say Agricultural Disaster) . Plant seeds and you help keep your garden disease free.
Spring is just around the corner. Time to order those seeds! Leave a comment with your favorite varieties.

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  1. NZ spinach is great chook food, for really yellow yolks. I cook it and add it to a macaroni cheese dish with bacon. Really good in all creamy type pasta dishes. Disappears into nothing if you add it finely chopped to spaghetti bolog (good for fooling kiddies). You can add it to salads and coleslaw……I could go on, but then I am a NZder!

  2. My favorite varieties:

    * McCormack’s Green Glaze collards. Those things you see in the supermarket aren’t collards. Garden-fresh collards are sweet, and tender (this time of year). Here in So Cal you can coax them into perennial status. Cut-and-come-again, they’ll look like a mini palm tree for a while and then you lop them off at the ground level and they’ll resprout for you. I got mine from Traditional Medicinals, but I let them go “feral” now.

    * Christmas lima beans. They’re on the slow food movement’s Ark of Taste, and for good reason. Absolutely delicious! Here in So Cal, leave them out all year – the second year they’ll resprout from the existing vines and your harvest will be better than ever. I got mine from Seed Savers Exchange.

    * Salsify (no variety names). My dh’s favorite. A root veg, grows like carrots, tastes smoky like smoked oysters. Great roasted.

    * Miner’s lettuce. A Calif native, it has naturalized on my property, it’s unusually-shaped and pretty, and its bland succulent flavor is a salad mainstay after the rains. I get mine from Bountiful Gardens.

    * Mesclun mix – anyone’s mix that doesn’t contain lots of lettuce. I’ve called it “edible weeds.” I find that from the same envelope of mix, seeded at different times of the year, different things decide to sprout. Always something comes up. A guaranteed success, tastes gourmet, and often pretty in its varieties as well.

    * Currant tomato (Victory seed). This one is incredibly prolific, and the tiny toms are great in salads … if they ever make it into the house past the Gardener’s snacking! Intense tomato flavor, they yield through November around here, on 6′ vines. I grow them up my baker’s racks. If your critter pests take a bite into your beefsteak toms, the whole beefsteak rots — a high % of your total year’s yield. With these, the critters only get a tiny tom or two, not a high % of your crop. If you allow the currant toms to reproduce unhindered on your property, the ones that sprout in late summer will start bearing in late February, resulting in nearly year-round tomato goodness. I think I got mine (years ago) from Victory Seed, but I let them go “feral” now.

    * Daikon radish. I use the tops to make soup. Follow Homegrown Evolution’s awesome recipe for lacto-fermenting the root. The young green pods are great spicy additions to a salad. The flowers attract “good bug” pollinators. The dried seedpods attract all kinds of birds (great birdwatching). The plant is great for no-effort breaking up of tough garden soil, plus it’s a bioaccumulator, pulling nutrients from deep within the soil to redistribute to other plants. A Fukuoka favorite. I got mine years ago from Bountiful Gardens, but I use my own seed now.

    Vote with your buying dollar: always check that your vendors have signed the “Safe Seed Pledge” to not sell any GMOs.

  3. We made our flower and herb order through your Botanical Interests link, it wasn’t huge, but it’s a little something. And I ordered some Nero de Toscano to try out this year!

    Joanne-I’m really interested in the idea of letting some currant tomatoes go wild and reproduce on their own. I wonder if it would work in our climate–zone 7a.

    Our best crop from last year was Extra Dwarf Pak Choy. I think we had 100 percent germination with it and pretty high germination with Ching Chang Bok Choy as well. Arkansas Travelers grow better here than any other tomato I’ve tried. They are tasty, productive and don’t crack from all the heat. Of course, I love green zebras, too.


  4. My vote is for Cisneros tomatillos. You get more than you can use for a year from 8 compact plants.

    Western Ma. gardener here: the tomato blight has been terrible for the last two years. The rain has been too. I assumed they went hand in hand. I’ve had to give up on bush variety tomatoes. They hold too much humidity in the canopy. With daily downpours in the first two months of the growing season, the ground becomes saturated. For the bush varieties, the ground never dries. Vine types do ok, but you can’t let any vine types grow suckers or the same problem with humidity happens. Grew everything from seed too, but still got belted. Broccoli has suffered from the humidity too. For two years I’ve had to compost the spring plants. Rain-rain-rain, that’s New England spring and early summer for two years now. Hoping for a break this year.

    For what it’s worth, my Yukon Gold potatoes seem to love the wetness.

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