This is not just any seed catalogue...this is from Heritage Harvest Seed. Even just to look at the cover is a treat with it's 1800-ish style black and white illustrations of flowers and a horn of plenty. These folks from Manitoba, out here in Canada, specialize in rare and endangered heirloom species of vegetables, flowers and herbs, but even better there are no GMO's (genetically modified organisms), no hybrids and it's all natural and untreated! What a treat to stroll leisurely through their catalogue last night while snugged down in my warm bed! It's not often I'd like to have business owners over for tea, but Tanya Stefanec, Jessy Friesen and Iris Stefanec would certainly be welcome at my table! Listen to these descriptions...
"Arikara Yellow Bean: A very historic yellow bean that helped the Lewis & Clark expedition through the winter of 1805 at Fort Mandan! Lewis obtained seeds from the Arikara Indians and brought seeds to Thomas Jefferson and in 1809 Jefferson planted the Arikara bean at Monticello. Bernard McMahon also offered it for sale in his 1815 catalogue. The pods can be harvested very young as snaps but this bean is at it's best used in the dry state for soups, stews or baking. Oscar H. Will carried the Arikara bean in his catalogue in the early 1900's. Productive, very early and an excellent baker. 80-85 days. Bush"
I feel like I've just sat in on a short but fascinating history class!
11 pages later we leave the beans and head into beets for a couple of pages, and the descriptions there are no less captivating. Including the Mangel Colossal
long Red, from the 1800's. "An heirloom Mangel that can reach up to 15 lbs and 2 feet long. Can be eaten when young." Can you imagine the pickled beets!
I've just been handed a bulletin...the record for the largest radish is held by Israeli gardener Nissan Tamir, Ripley's Believe It Or Not says that "Nissan has been growing organic vegetables for years, In 2006 he was amazed to discover two radishes that have been growing non-stop-each one weighed a staggering 22 lbs, or 10 kg)"!!
Turning our attention back to the catalogue, these folks offer beans, barley, beets, corn, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower and wait...RED celery?
"Red Stalk - (1700's) Red Stalk Celery has been grown since the 1700's. It has more of a robust flavor than regular celery and is excellent for soups and stews. the stalks are thinner than modern celery but the red color of the stalks is very eye catching."
Cool, have to get some of that!
There is also 9 different types of heirloom corn, 2 pages of cucumbers, eggplants, garlic, gourds, ground cherries, Jerusalem Artichoke, kale, and kohlrabi, which I am completely unfamiliar with. Anyone have experience with this one? What's it like? What could I do with it? They also offer leeks, 2 pages of lettuce varieties, muskmelons, mustard greens, onions (including Welsh onions), parsnips, peas, peppers, and radishes that will make your head spin.
"Round Black Spanish - 1600's - One of the oldest heirlooms still available, dating from the 1600's. The 3-4" roots are black with a white interior. this old variety is a winter radish so it can be stored in sand during the winter with good results. It must be planted in the summer or early fall since it will bolt if planted in the spring."
Alas, there is no info to tell me how many days to maturation, but Google soon resolved that. (55 days to maturation) A quick trip over to the Milkweed Diaries reveals this,
"I've been growing Black Spanish Round radishes for three years now, with both Spring and Fall plantings. I love them. They are reliable, they last forever in the garden and in storage, and are one of the easiest things I've ever grown.
The Black Spanish Round is a very old heirloom radish, grown in Spain since at least the 16th Century and probably long before. It was brought to the new world by conquistadors and grown by early white settlers in North America.
The skin of the Black Spanish Round is so rough and thick that the black root almost seems inedible at first glance. But that craggy, tough exterior is what protects the tender, spicy, crisp, and pure-white flesh of the Black Spanish Round. The thick, tough skin protects the Black Spanish Round for months of storage in the ground, in the root cellar, in the fridge, and apparently even in the holds of ships crossing the Atlantic."
The catalogue goes on to list spinach, 4 pages of squash varieties, swiss chard, tomatillos, and a mind-blowing 21.5 pages of different tomato types! So many of those were impressive, some I'd heard about before (I have a thing for heirloom veggies) but one above all the rest screamed 'PLANT ME!', the Pink Peach.
"Pink Peach (aka Landreth's Peach, the Wonderful Peach, Red Peach) Introduced into the seed trade by D. Landreth and Sons of Philadelphia in 1885. the 2 1/2 oz pink red fruit have a fuzzy skin like a peach and the flesh is quite sweet. 75 days from transplant."
Even after the turnip and rutabaga, after the watermelon and herbs, after the annuals and perennial flower offerings, after all the charming history tidbits and exquisite black & white illustrations...I want more! I'm not ready to put this little 74 page catalogue down...so I turn back to page one and start again.
If you garden or know someone who does, it is a wonderful way to pass a grey winter day by meandering leisurely through this impressive catalogue.
Pop on over to Heritage Harvest Seeds and order a catalogue. You won't be disappointed!