Garden Plot catalog picks: The heirlooms strike back

These babies are full of lycopene, which can help decrease risks of cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration. And orange tomatoes are even better, with 2.5 times more lycopene. A cup of orange tomatoes offers 338 percent of your daily vitamin A needs. (Courtesy psu.edu)

J. L. Hudson: Quirks, quality and rarity (but no phone)

It’s always anxiously awaited by rare plant enthusiasts, bargain hunters and social libertarians: It’s the latest edition of J. L. Hudson’s wonderfully quirky “Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds.”

Among their always-eclectic offerings are a couple of new selections, including the heirloom Brown Russian, described as “the strangest looking and best tasting cucumber on the planet”; the “Minnesota Midget,” an extremely early, sweet, golden softball-sized melon; and the “House Tomato,” a Russian/Canadian heirloom cherry that “comes indoors for the winter and is said to be able to produce for a decade if you keep cutting it back.” (A perennial tomato – what will they think of next?)

Their quality is high; their prices are low; their germination instructions are unparalleled and their shipping cost is ridiculously inexpensive – two-and-a-half bucks for up to 40 packets of seeds.

You can order online at www.jlhudsonseeds.net or request a catalog by writing to them at P. O. Box 337, La Honda, CA 94020. But you can’t call in your order, because they are proudly off-the-grid and have no phone. You gotta love these guys.

Get $25 more stuff from Gurney’s

It’s the new seed catalog season, and we’re diving for discounts!

In the lead going into the stretch is The Gurney Seed and Nursery Company, offering $25 off an order of $50 or more.

There’s a lot to choose from – Gurney’s offers a complete selection of seeds, plants, fruits and supplies, including a large selection of seed potatoes (one of my favorite home-grown crops) and a number of exclusive varieties, including the Whopper strawberry (producing fruits said to be as big as peaches) and a new green bean called “The Hulk.” (Don’t make it angry.)

Oh, and don’t forget to take that $25 off. Use the key code 0544437 when you order online or call 513-354-1491.

Note: Gurney’s treats all of their sweet corn seed with chemical coatings, which I do not recommend. So do take advantage of their discount offer, but get your sweet corn seed somewhere else.

Living the life heirloom

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is more a way of life than a catalog. Not content just to sell quality heirloom seeds by mail, they recently opened three retail stores (in Missouri, California and Connecticut), and each location runs an heirloom festival every year.

Among the ancient treasures offered in this year’s blindingly beautiful catalog are “Country Gentleman,” a milky and delicious white sweet corn from 1890; cucumbers that look like apples, lemons, and snakes; eggplants that look like hot peppers, pumpkins and actual eggs; the delicious little Alpine Strawberry (a favorite of mine); and the loofa gourd, which turns into a bath sponge when ripe. You’ll find 12 full pages of rare peppers, including a chocolate colored habanero. And what would an heirloom vegetable catalog be without tomatoes? Baker Creek offers a seemingly endless array of legendary love apples, with names like Tennessee Green, Kellogg’s Breakfast, Arkansas Traveler and Omar’s Lebanese. And that’s just a small sample of the beautiful and flavorful offerings in the 210-page, lavishly illustrated love letter to old, classic varieties that they call a “catalog.” Get a copy or gaze online at www.rareseeds.com.

The Ultimate kitchen garden with $10 off!

Since the beginning, The Cook’s Garden has been devoted to one thing: Offering seeds and plants of the absolute best-tasting varieties. This is a culinary catalog.

Cook’s Garden has selected what their experts feel are the best-tasting edibles in every category, including the famed French “Cinderella Pumpkin” (Rouge Vif d’Etampes); an heirloom radish named “Watermelon” (you’ll understand why when you cut one open); the famed Mortgage Lifter heirloom tomato; and a huge variety of herbs, including the intriguing Pinnacle line of spring-water fed herbs grown at altitude in the unpolluted air of the Alleghenies – conditions said to naturally increase their vigor, stamina and flavorful aromatic oils.

Cook’s also offers a line of organically grown seeds and plants; season-extension and raised-bed supplies; and even a line of flowers – but only “cutting varieties” that look good in a vase on the table. After all, who would dare to dine without flowers?

And mention my name and you get $10 off your order. Just use the code word “Mikey” when you order at www.cooksgarden.com or by calling 800-457-9703.

Bulbs aren’t just for spring

Time for a little flower talk; after all, man does not live by edibles alone.

Oops – he actually does.

But once the Garden of Eatin’ is in, let’s get blooming – and one of the most under-utilized categories in the world of ornamentals is the summer-blooming bulb. Sure, everybody knows caladiums, calla and canna lilies, gladiolas and the like, but they’re just a small sample of this wide and wild world of plants that begin blooming when spring bulbs are starting to look like the underside of your couch the day after a party.

One of the finest purveyors of summer bloomers is a Virginia couple who first made their name selling high-quality spring bulbs. Many experienced gardeners remember the astoundingly knowledgeable Brent and Becky Heath from their business, The Daffodil Mart. Today it’s known as Brent & Becky’s Bulbs.

But no matter what the name, you can be assured that your summer-blooming roots, shoots, corms and rhizomes will come with detailed directions on how to plant them (some of these things look the same top and bottom to the inexperienced eye), where to plant them (sun or shade, moist or dry) and what to do with them when the summer wind goes blowing back out across the sea. (Mulch them heavily? Lift and store them? Turn them into houseplants?)

These experienced and talented growers hold your hand from springtime planting to summertime compliment-taking. (“Is that a giant orchid growing out of the ground?!”)

Check it out for yourself at www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com. If the spring blooming bug bites, act fast


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