By Mark Barnes
This time of year gardeners are keeping warm and looking through the dozens of seed catalogs that fill their mailboxes. With their green thumbs stained with ink, they pick and choose between old favorites and the new ones that plant breeders either have created through select breeding or resurrected from extinction by dedicated seed growers. In the old days, neighbors would trade favorite seeds with each other, encouraging a proliferation of unique strains of plants and vegetables. While I would like to share with you my Texas hummingbird sage flower seeds, my hollyhock seeds and even some of my nasturtium seeds that I harvest in the fall from my garden, instead I’ll share with you some of my favorite seed.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds is not only a big player in the home gardener’s seed choice, but they offer bulk seed for the mid to large market gardener. They carry a variety of heirloom and organic seeds and every year have unique offerings. This employee-owned company has an amazing selection of cut flower seeds and has some varieties only available through them. Their catalog has lots of useful information in it too. You can shop online at www.johnnyseeds.com or you can request a catalog.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has grown by leaps and bounds over the years and when their 2014 catalog came in the mail I though I had received a phone book. As one reads the The Whole Seed Catalog, one discovers beautiful photographs of fruits, vegetables and lots of down-home folks holding said vegetables. The writing is great too. All of their seeds are non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented. They respect the tradition of seed saving and through their growers have saved many heirloom plants from extinction. They travel the world and bring back unique vegetables from around the globe and claim seeds from over 70 countries. The 350 page catalog will cost you $7.95 but they have a free 212 page one. Visit www.rareseeds.com where you can order a catalog.
If you have a taste for exotic vegetables then you have to have the Kitazawa Seed catalog. This catalog features no color photographs but it does have great illustrations of unique varieties of Asian vegetables. Especially unique is the wide array of Asian greens, many of which grow in cold weather. One of my favorites is misome that I use for my famous lettuce wraps. Visit www.kitazawaseed.com to order online or request a catalog.
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange mainly offers seeds for plants that do well in the southeast and mid Atlantic states, they do have some varieties that you can’t find anywhere else, especially cowpeas and over 20 varieties of okra. Just make sure you check the days to harvest to determine if we have enough growing days. You can get around this by starting some of them early in a greenhouse or sunny window. Visit
www.southernexposure.com to peruse their 700 seed collection or order a catalog.