Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Green Girl Gives a Seed Lecture (yawn)

Gardens. Not my priority these days with the snow blowing and the ground frozen, but the seed catalogs call and I'm getting ready to crack them open and begin making lists (you know, things I need, things I want, things I lust for but will never grow in Zone 5...).

But before we begin the annual foray into garden catalogs, I'm impelled to speak on the subject of seeds. Heirloom seeds, that is. The au natural, free range, cage free organic seed.

Most seeds on the market are hybrid seeds. Hybrid means they've been tweaked genetically to perform a particular way. Hybrid seeds are native plant seeds adjusted to:

* produce their fruit faster
* tolerate cooler/warmer climates
* resist pests and diseases
* produce MORE than their granola-crunching, hemp-wearing Heirloom cousins

Hybrid seeds are also genetically altered to be used only once for that year's growing season, so you have to buy new seeds every season and remain a constant customer to Monsanto.

The benefits of hybrid seeds sound pretty great, and in many cases they are, but often the genetic alterations bring on other side effects such as:

* blander, less flavorful fruit
* one huge harvest time (1-2 weeks) and then the plant is spent
* sometimes less productivity as the plant's strength is disease/pest resistance, not fruit production

I've been planting Heirloom Seeds, seeds native to our planet, seeds best suited for where I live and seeds that produce wonderful tasting food for me throughout the growing season. The Heirloom Seeds are the same sort our ancestors planted in their gardens and the seeds keep from season to season, as long as 3-5 years sometimes.

I harvested the Improved Tendergreen beans I planted last spring every week starting in July through October. I've never heard of a hybrid bean plant with that capability--usually they produce a bushel of beans in a 1-2 week period and then they're done. Late afternoon when I wanted a side dish of beans with supper I'd head into the garden with a bowl and pick until it was full. I did this as often as I wished and I still had plenty to freeze for using in the winter. I'd rather eat freshly picked all summer and into the fall than eat fresh picked for a week or two and have so much at one time that I start hating it. This is a problem many gardeners have (hence the Zucchini and Cucumber Assaults from well-intended and desperate neighbors every August) and a good reason to quit vegetable gardening altogether.

If you want a garden that produces a harvest for a few months, in amounts that don't bring you to your knees begging for mercy, Heirloom Seeds are the way to go. Unlike my neighbors who were buried in bland-tasting zucchini plants for a couple of weeks, I had one or two to harvest every week over a few months and mine had a bright, crisp flavor the hybrid zucchinis lack. Mine weren't as big, but as is the case with many things, bigger isn't better. Especially with zucchinis!

The Red-Cored Chantenay carrot also treated me pretty well last summer, coming up in a gradual fashion. I've enjoyed Turk's Turban and Delicata squashes that have unique flavor and excellent staying power when stored in a cool dry place. Progress No. 9 peas performed just like their bean cousins, coming in slow and steady all summer and early fall. I can't rave enough about the Bloomsdale Long Standing spinach or the Mr. Stripey tomato's fabulous flavor. My taste buds woke up when I ate the produce from Heirloom plants and the variety available--over fifteen varieties of tomatoes, a dozen kinds of squash--it's really astounding.

Try planting Heirloom Seeds or Plants this spring. You'll enjoy a more flavorful harvest and a longer season of fresh produce from your garden. And you'll continue a tradition that goes back thousands of years.

In closing, an old garden joke: What do you call a man with no arms and no legs sitting in a hole? Phil.
(groan)

7 comments:

  1. I tried so hard to read this post. But something about the words "germinate" and "seeds" send me into Charlie Brown mwah mwah mwah mode.

    But I'm trying because my kids LOVE to grow things and we can year round here. We just started some vegetable seeds and now need soap something because of aphids.

    They got carnivorous plant seeds at Christmas (what can I say...kids can be bloodthirsty AND love the earth).

    I will read this until it sinks in.

    (Here because you said you liked Taye Diggs at Anastasia's blog and then your blog is named Green Girl. Clearly, kindred spirits.;) )

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  2. What? You're not going to share the names of your favorite seed catalogs?

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  3. We've got more outside space than we really can cope with, so No 1 child does the veggie garden. We use organic seeds, and she gets such a thrill from producing things to share and eat. Her highlight was producing the Christmas Day brussel sprouts!
    Last spring I bought Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook - it's beautifully done, laid out seasonally and is just things which you could grow yourself, or collect from hedgerows - I think you'd like it.
    Keep up the good work - you are what you eat!!

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  4. Green Girl, you need to use this stuff in your next Mona novel! Now my seed catalogues are here and you've got me psyched to go thru them. I was toying with not having a garden this year since we have so much of a tough time with salt spray, but I just may go for a few rows of heirlooms and see how they grow!

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  5. O, GG, you've got me at Derfwad Manor and now Domestically challenged, and I must say, I really, REALLY want to go to Mr. B's Emporium in Bath. Why can't we just twitch our noses and head over there? I've caught up on all of your blogs whilst away (check that out, you Anglophiles out there) and find I've missed several goodies and have nothing on mine to show for it. However, I DID get to see TWO movies while in the Big Apple on the the big screen whilst away (oops, I did it again) even though they were $12 a pop, can you believe that?? I'm either a sucker or devoted to cinema...plus, in "Curtains" David Hyde-Pierce singing and dancing was just so darn cute it made me wish he wasn't gay. Did I just say that?

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  6. Funny you should write about this, but I just recently placed a seed order with Seeds of Change -- all heirloom varieties and I can't wait to start planting!

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  7. All right-- you got me. Heirlooms R Us. We usually just do tomatoes because we get BOUNTY from our fabulous CSA, which resides in your fair state: Foxtail Farm.

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Spill it, reader.