Sometimes, when I’m overcome with the heady aroma of a 26-pound Thanksgiving turkey cooking in the middle of May (occupational hazard), my mind wanders out the window and into the nearest garden. Today, this daydreaming was made easy by the arrival of the Seed Savers Exchange Catalog. The catalog is a 101-page testament to the work of the Seed Savers Exchange, an organization that works tirelessly to protect, promote and share our country's valuable farming heritage.
Specifically, they're dedicated to preserving the thousands of heirloom varieties of flora that date back before the turn of the 20th century. And they're a close ally of the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx, where we will be planting our next Good Food Garden this June as part of their summer-long Edible Gardens exhibit.
Heirloom varieties, much like heritage breed animals (like the Berkshire pig or Bourbon Red turkey), are a window into the history of food, marking a vegetable’s migration, immigration and crosspollination from land to land with their names and stories.
The catalog includes 6,200 kinds of tomatoes, 5,100 varieties of beans, and 2,400 peppers. But it isn’t the sheer numbers that delight me. It reads like an epic storybook whose heroes like Russian Giant (garlic) and Hungarian Heart (tomato) live in utopian harmony with the King of the North (pepper) and Sultan’s Golden (beans). And that’s just the beginning of the Edenic paradise. Seed Savers houses the seeds of flowers in every shape and shade, 200 vintage varieties of grapes and 700 different antique apple varieties.
As they say in the catalog, “not bad for a program that started as a little garden in mid-Missouri.” Not bad at all.