Scouring the seed catalogs and other sources

March 2, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Vera Videnovich


I’m finally pulling out the seed catalogs. There’s a box full of saved seeds on the farmhouse kitchen table, including many, many packets I purchased last year and never got into the ground. Last year’s weird weather (first cold, then dry, then hot, then the floods) kept me busy and the greenhouse can only fit so many flats. As soon as some of this snow and ice melts I’ll take a look at building some new cold frames, which are great for giving cabbages and other cole crops a head start. For now I’m enjoying the indoor work (spinning) and when the weather goes above 40 I’ll have to take a deep breath and start doing some of the heavy lifting on the farm, including getting those fruit trees trimmed before the buds develop.

Seeds catalogues are such a tease, especially when there’s still snow on the ground. . . Seed Savers is the most delicious and the pages’ rich colors tempt me to buy more varieties to play with. It’s sort of like eating out an an expensive restaurant when you usually cook at home. When I do need bulk items (radishes, cabbage seeds, edible flowers) I buy from Baroda City Mills, a feed store a bit off the beaten track in the tourist-heavy area near our farm. Baroda is a small town and their main street is a dead end. But it’s a beautiful street that still has cobblestone and some wonderful false-front storefronts that would make a great backdrop for a Western.

Back to the seeds. I’m still looking for more pepper varieties to try out. My dad grew a lot of the “roga” types, which just means horn-shaped. “Super Shepherd” was the best type from last year. If they were fully ripened on the plant the roasted skins peeled easily and the walls weren’t too watery, which means you don’t have to cook down the peppers as long if you’re making ajvar. A friend mentioned he was looking for Habanero that had more flavor and wasn’t red in color (orange? chocolate?). I was just given seeds for a Peruvian chili named “Mirasol” which a quick Google search describes as spicy (similar heat to JalepeƱo or Poblano) with a fruity flavor. I wonder about the Scoville chili heat ratings when peppers grown in our hot, dry sandy spots (we’re a mile east of Lake Michigan) can be incredibly hot compared to farmers growing in clay west of Chicago.

My own tolerance to hot peppers is pretty low so at market I’m always warning about the heat. Last summer a friend came by and bought both sweet and hot banana peppers (almost identical in appearance) and threw them into the same bag. I gasped and told him he was playing Russian roulette. He survived to come back for more.