03 January 2008

Local Seeds

I started writing a post inspired by an article I read today, but it is becoming way too long and befuddled, so it will just have to wait until some other day. Instead, let's do what everyone else is doing and talk about ordering seeds.

Yesterday I came across this post at Skippy's Vegetable Garden which featured wonderful-looking capucijner peas. I'd never heard of them before, and a Google search took me mostly to other garden blogs, including Bifurcated Carrots, who posted about capucijners and their place as a staple food in the Netherlands. Yum!

I was determined to try them in our garden this summer, because we're interested in amassing as much winter food as we can for next year. Dried peas that we can keep in a big jar and cook with would be great. The only problem is that none of the seed catalogues we've collected so far offer capucijners. The enormous Seed Savers Yearbook that's due to arrive in February will probably have some, but I wanted to find an alternate source just in case.

A little more searching, and I came across this one-woman, organic seed operation: Amishland Heirloom Seeds. Lisa, who lives practically down the street from us, specializes in heirloom seeds from Pennsylvania—especially Amish and PA Dutch varieties. Apparently she used to work at a Pennsylvania Dutch history museum, and is really interested in collecting the stories that go along with her seeds. Her site might not be the prettiest in the world, but in reading her description it's clear she knows her stuff. I emailed her last night to ask about the 2008 selection, and she replied that new seed availability will be up in a couple weeks. Now I'm kind of excited not only to try a new vegetable, but also to get local, organic seeds.


Anonymous said...

How wonderful! I found out recently that our farmer's market has winter hours now, so I'm going this weekend to see if they have seeds or potatoes, among other things...but a genuine seed company in town would be marvelous.

Rising Rainbow said...

I'm definitely not organized enough to be thinking about seeds in Jan.

Meg said...

@ Seeded:

I wish our farmers' market had winter hours! They close down between December and April, I think--you're right, it would be nice to stock up on some fresh local stuff during the winter. Next year we'd like to start growing most of our own, but still, shopping is nice. I'm definitely excited about finding this seed lady.

@ Rising Rainbow

I think the fact that we're planning our seeds is less about organization and more about winter boredom. We'll see what happens when we actually try to find our seed catalogues.

Anonymous said...

I haven't pulled the trigger and ordered from Amishland yet, but some of her beans and some of her other local stuff seems really, really intriguing to me. (I think the reason I haven't yet is the paltry quantity of her seeds: like, twenty or so in a packet for beans. That'll not even fill a row in my beds.) But I would be interested to hear what you two think, Meg & Kelly.

Anonymous said...

If this story isn't a tribute to the power of the Internet to build local community, then I don't know what is.
Love. It.

I have forbid myself to Get Real about seed catalogues until the garden plans are done. Which means I only read them at breakfast instead of every meal...

Meg said...

@ El:

I agree, my only gripe so far is the quantity. But since I'm really keen on the idea of of getting local, completely non-corporate seeds, I'm thinking of them kind of investment plants: grow ten this year, save the seeds and grow forty next year. We'll definitely blog about whatever happens...

@ Rob

I know! In two days we've found local seeds and local chicken food. We're doing good.

But you're doing better than us with seed catalogue restraint. They are everywhere around here.

Phelan said...

I found a localish woman as well. Still on the hunt for the one that is merely down the street. My order is being placed, and seeds have already sprouted. I love this time of year, second only to harvest (which I always start hating half way through)

I just got a post card from the farm I buy my meat from, seems that our farm market has winter hours as well. Learn something new every day.

Patrick said...

The best time to buy seeds is always Jan/Feb, this is when nearly all seed companies get fresh stocks in. Also, it's the best timing for seed saving gardeners too, which is why the SSE publishes their Yearbook in Feb. If you buy seeds earlier, you usually end up with the leftovers from the previous year.

Since you live in Pennsylvania Dutch/German country, if you know of a store that sells Dutch foods you may be able to buy capucijners in a can or jar. Of course what you grow in your garden will be fresher than what comes in a can, but it will give you an idea of what they taste like. The Dutch make good cookies too, so if you end up at a store like that be sure to check them out too.

Most people seem to really like the taste of capucijners, but some don't, so it might be good to try them first if you have the chance.

If you end up with a very small packet of seeds, keep in mind it may be two years before you can eat any, because you might have to save your entire harvest for replanting.

Meg said...

@ Phelan:

Isn't it funny how information starts coming in droves once you find out where to look?

@ Patrick:

That's a good idea; I know some of the smaller grocery stores around here sell PA Dutch stuff, so we will have to hunt down a jar and try them. We like just about everything so I'm betting we'll like them. And, yeah, we expected to have to grow them for seed at first--the photo you posted a while ago of the plants was so pretty, so at least they'll be looking nice while they're not feeding us.

Patrick said...

Like you guys, I always share my plants and seeds. The problem with sending seeds to the US is a permit is required:


If you are ever inclined to get the permit, and are interested in anything you see on my blog, just let me know.

I would have offered this for the capucijners, but you already found a local source, which is always the better way to go.

Meg said...

Patrick, thanks for the info! I knew there must be some process for mailing seeds internationally. I'm sure we will eventually take you up on that offer--and if you ever see anything of ours that you want, let us know. Very cool.

Patrick said...

The US is nearly the only country that restricts seed imports like this, and these restrictions are new. Most countries have some rules, but when it comes to vegetables at least, it's usually no problem. I suspect there will be something mentioned about this in the SSE Yearbook when it comes.

For Holland and most of Europe there are no real restrictions for importing seeds. This is really a good thing, because European seed laws make it almost impossible to legally purchase heirloom/OP seeds here.

You're lucky because not only are all fruit and vegetable seeds freely sold in the US, but because of all of the immigrants who have moved there over the years, and largely thanks to the SSE, you have the largest number of varieties available anywhere in the world.

Kelly said...

Patrick, Have you visited In the Toad's Garden? I believe their subtitle is Seed Saving in Denmark. I've only been reading the blog for a few months, but I was immediately impressed with the local organization to save seeds.

Patrick said...

Søren from In the Toad's Garden and I have been trading seeds for years now, and yes his blog is great! He and I are big fans of garlic and other allium (onion related) plants. I'm quite certain if you get the seed import permit, you could get seeds from him too.

Lieven (http://www.lusthof.org) in Belgium is another mutual friend and very important seed trading partner.

Rebsie of Daughter of the Soil, Miss Hawthorn of Mustardplaster, Emma of Fluffius Muppetus and John of Spade Work have all traded seeds with me. Also Ottawa Gardener is growing capucijners I sent her and I have now have several different seeds from her. I've also got some seeds from Skippy's Garden. All these links are on the front page of my blog, and between us we all have other friends who either don't speak English or aren't Internet savy. All the blogs with people who save seeds all know each other, and you'll see most of us have each other in our blogrolls.

You'll find this too with the SSE. A lot of SSE people know each other too. If you are ever looking for some special seed somewhere, someone can certainly find it for you, almost anywhere in the world. Just send an email and ask!

The seed saving world is small, and there are some great people to be found in PA too! The Internet is a great thing, and has really revolutionized seed trading.

Phelan said...

There are huge restrictions in a few states, like California, on what seeds can come in. I have heard stroies about people smuggeling walnuts into the state back in the 60's.

Kelly said...

Patrick, I started browsing through some of your blog links yesterday and there are a number of them that I would like to put on my reader. The fact that you could list off a healthy number of direct sources for seed sharing and saving speaks tremendously for the power of getting the word out and organizing.

Phelan, I have heard of those restrictions and for the most part I've got to agree with them. I'm just thinking of the example Bill Bryson gives about the American Chestnut in A Walk in the Woods. If I remember correctly, he said something to the fact that people had brought in some kind of chestnut from Asia which in turn introduced a virus that was harmful to the American chestnut. Sadly it didn't take long for all of the trees to get wiped out. However, because of past tragedies, like what happened to the American chestnut, I do think that some government agencies go a little overboard with their restrictions (I think--Meg and I still quite new at this). I'm really interested to read the blogs linked on Patrick's site to compare the strategies of seed sharing and saving in Europe and North America.