It feels like I’m going to be able to be more forthcoming with the garden projects I’ve got going on this year so I thought I would take advantage of the freedom by posting all the seeds I buy or acquire by trade, gifts, etc.
When I bought bean seeds the other day I also purchased some assorted vegetable seed but decided against posting about them there to keep the post on topic. In the meantime a pack of Gourmet Mesclun Asian Baby Leaf (Phew that was a mouthful) seeds arrived in a press packet from Renee’s Garden. Packets of lettuce and greens never go to waste around here! I’ve had “Get some greens started on the windowsill” on my to-do list for over a week now. It’s way too early to get them going outdoors around here just yet, but there should be enough sunlight to pull off a crop of micro-greens.
When I think about it, it’s kind of amazing that I’ve managed to acquire this many seeds so early without having given barely a thought to what I will be doing in the garden this year. Perhaps this garden season will take inspiration from my trip to Cuba and just be about going with the flow.
What I Got:
- ‘Matt’s Wild Cherry’ Tomato – This is a classic, super prolific and easy to grow wild variety. I’m fairly certain I’ve been growing these in my community garden plot where I inherited a crop of tomatoes that self-seed every year. This is most likely the plant I have permanently tattooed on my arm so I figured it was time to try and solve the mystery once and for all. I could have easily acquired these in trade if I’d had the patience to wait half a second, but…. I don’t. So I didn’t.
- ‘Sparkler’ Radish – I’m always on the lookout for a good radish contender for container growing and figured this round ‘French Breakfast’ alike might just fit the bill. And since I’m a fan of that elegant two-tone variety it was hard to pass up a rounded version.
- ‘Golden Detroit’ Beet – I generally don’t grow beets since we can get them cheaply enough at the farmer’s market but how could I pass up a variety with such a glam rock vibe about it? Come to think about it, these last two plants could fit into a disco theme seed collection. Anyways, this variety is golden with golden veining. It kind of reminds me of ‘Golden’ Swiss Chard, another beauty.
This is what happens to a basil plant when it is allowed to continue on with life well past one year. I wish I had a context shot to really show just how big and woody this plant had become. The bush came up past my hips and was so huge I didn’t even recognize it as a basil plant. I passed by it several times, and on a couple of separate occasions without giving it a second glance.
I don’t know which variety this is. The look and size of the leaves remind me of a variety called ‘Lesbos’, but the plants I have grown have never developed a purplish hue like this one. ‘Lesbos’ has a strong smell, but the leaves of this particular plant were very strong with an even deeper, spicier scent. When I asked, my host said it was medicinal and not used in cooking.
Whenever I get a new pack of bean seeds I am always immediately compelled to open up the packet and inspect the beans. I used to play out this ritual with all seeds but years of seed purchasing and collecting has garnered a familiarity with certain seeds. It’s not that I’ve lost my love for seeds, but that it gets a bit repetitive. After all, while every tomato is different, the seeds are virtually identical. Yes, of course there are variations in size, shape, fuzziness, etc but those differences aren’t exactly interesting. At least to me they’re not.
Beans on the other hand are like beautiful jewels, each is unique in size, shape, color, pattern, and texture. Some are naturally shiny, others dull. There is even variation between seeds of the same variety. I’m a little embarrassed to guess at how much time I have clocked fondling a pack of 20 seeds, turning each one over in my hand. Actually, no I’m not. I think a lot of gardeners will confess to this same ritual. Beans are pretty.
And that is why I was able to spend an inordinate amount of time yesterday afternoon stewing in my own sweat inside a gigantic winter jacket and chatting with Colette of Urban Harvest about beans. She had some new varieties for sale this year, some of which she brought back from Slow Food’s Terra Madre Conference in Turin, Italy this past fall. And even though I already have more packs of beans than I can get into the ground within the next few seasons, I couldn’t help buying more.
Here’s what I got:
- ‘Christmas’ lima bean – You know, I’ve never grown lima beans. I’m kind of on the fence about them. I like them well enough, just never enough to bother growing them. Colette also confessed to a leave it attitude towards lima beans so when even she could speak so enthusiastically about this variety, I knew I had to try them. ‘Christmas’ is described as having a “nutty, chestnut-like taste and the texture of baked potatoes.” SOLD! They are also drought tolerant, which is handy since I will probably try growing them in a large bin on the roof. I probably would have hesitated and waited until Seedy Saturday in a few weeks to get them had Colette not mentioned that she only had two packs left and was probably going to save the last pack for herself. And once I had one pack of seeds in my hand the ball was rolled. And I rolled with it like the sucker I am.
- ‘Blue Jay’ bush bean – I’m not yet sure about the pods but was sold on this variety by the blue and white seed description. That and a general fondness for blue jays. Remember The Green Forest? That’s basically it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: tell me a good story and I’ll buy your seeds. Although, this wasn’t even much of a story, but more about a personal sentiment that hit my weepy heart in the right place.
- ‘Tiger’s Eye’ bush bean – Another bean described as having a creamy, mashed potato texture. And… sold. I rarely worry about adding to my bush bean collection since I can usually find a container to grow them in.
It’s the tall plant in the foreground with what looks like red flowers, but are actually bracts (modified leaves).
While in the Cuban countryside, we came upon a number of very old cemeteries that always sat right next to the ocean. I was told that one cemetery dated back to 1919. How they managed to survive the hurricanes when so many homes with much more distance from the ocean haven’t is beyond me.
This particular type of euphorbia seemed to skirt the edges of all but one of them. That one was fenced by a much tougher euphorbia. This plant looks very similar to Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) and I’ve been struggling to decide if it is or isn’t since our trip. Here’s a closer shot.
My argument FOR identifying it as Poinsettia are:
- It gets very scraggly and vine-like when growing in tropical countries. Nothing like the potted plants North Americans display and then subsequently toss every holiday season.
- Let’s compare. Here’s a picture I took in Mexico years ago. This particular plant was growing in the tended garden of someone’s backyard. Plants were being watered with hoses through the duration of our stay. So the difference here is a tended plant versus a plant that is left to fend for itself.
- It was the dry season, which would account for extra straggliness.
- It was growing in sand literally just off the beach. The beach was right on the other side of the cemetery. There were some trees providing a bit of shade but many plants were fully exposed. Let me tell you, it was HOT and the sun was punishing. That’s a lot for a poinsettia to take. They prefer a bit of shade coverage.
- Look at the leaves and the little red bracts. They look right, albeit on the small side. But numbers 2, 3, and 4 could account for that.
My argument AGAINST identifying it as Poinsettia are:
- I find it shocking to believe that poinsettia could survive that degree of extreme heat, sun and drought. See #4 (above).
- There are gazillions of euphorbias in the world. I’ll admit my experience of them barely begins to cover the myriad of species out there. There is a very good chance that there is a plant very similar to poinsettia.
- I am not an authority on poinsettias. I can barely stand the plant. Although I will say that I much prefer it growing wild and straggly. The cultivated potted varieties do little for me.
What do you think? Yay or nay?
As an aside, here’s another shot of the same cemetery. It was pretty incredible. Sigh. Let’s all get on a plane right now and go to Cuba together. I hear it’s warm there.