Farmer in Winter
In the winter, while a young man man may longingly dream of cool parties on warm beaches, an old man's thoughts invariably turn to seed catalogs . . . and this year I have a dandy!
I stopped to peruse the magazine display on a recent trip to the grocery store, and during that brief interlude I happened upon a gem of a read. It was a seed catalog, and not just any seed catalog, but an enormous one that specialized in heirloom seeds. It was such a quality and colorful publication that instead of being sent to my home free-of-charge like most of its competitors, The Whole Seed Catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds was instead offered for sale for the rather proud price of $9.95.
After a couple of minutes of blocking the aisle while I thumbed through the publication, I knew that I had to have it. And now, a couple of weeks later, I continue to be amazed at what a smart buy it was.
Baker Creek Seeds is a large family concern located near the town of Mansfield, Missouri - roughly halfway between West Plains and Springfield on Highway 60. Mansfield was also the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder and the place where she wrote her famous "Little House" books. It is on the edge of Amish country, and a good portion of the staff pictured in the catalog look as though they might share in that Amish heritage.
The catalog, a 355-page affair, offers a wide assortment of seeds, including many with which I was totally unfamiliar. Who knew, for instance, that there was such a thing as blue potatoes - or edible gourds - or more than a dozen different and very distinctive types of eggplants? On one level the catalog is an encyclopedia of vegetables and flowers, with a heavy concentration of the older varieties - the types that did so well in Grandma's garden of yesteryear. But it is also a delicious picture book with dazzling color photographs on almost every page - as well as a family album of the people, many of them family members, who work at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
The publication is also a cookbook with an assortment of wonderful-sounding recipes along with color photos of the finished products. I've never grown an eggplant, but if I decide to try it, the catalog will guide me in the creation of eggplant cutlets - and they look mouth-wateringly good!
Colorful photographs abound throughout, and they are not just of produce, but of people as well, often posed in interesting situations. There is even one two-page spread of a gourd artist along with some gourd people and a gourd carousel horse that she created.
The best part, of course is, planning the small container garden that I will have next spring and deciding just what types of tomatoes and peppers and beans will be sprouting up out of the soil and making my little garden unique. That planning is of paramount importance right now because it's almost time to order the seeds - and this year I will have such a nice selection from which to choose!
Happy garden planning . . . and Merry Christmas!