Ooohhh … there’s purple beans and white cucumbers; blushed red lettuce and ‘diminutive, spoon-shaped’ greens; bi-color sweet corn with ‘soft-crisp texture and ambrosial flavor’ and don’t forget those ‘perfectly round’ pumpkins with ‘fine-grained flesh and superb flavor.’ Nix the sugar plums – they’re yesterday’s dreams – I have visions of freshly picked salads dancing in my head.
I spent a few hours last night curled up on the couch with John Scheepers – and my husband didn’t even react when he walked in and found us there. All he saw was a bunch of seed and plant catalogues spread about, and since he’s been through this process with me for a few years now I’m pretty sure he knows my brain is already conjuring up visions of spring and summer gardens. And what better way to cultivate a gardener’s imagination than to read through the descriptive passages of the peas and beans and tomatoes and flowers sold by Kitchen Garden Seeds. I went though 14 separate sticky notes to highlight a vegetable variety I either must have again or want to try anew.
The must haves include Purple Queen and Sequoia Bush Beans. Last year I tucked a few of each in a perennial bed and in pots – but not till late in the growing season – and I still picked enough of these tender purple beauties to combine with other bean varieties and give us many delicious bean-laden meals. I can’t wait to see how well they will do when I get them planted early enough to reach their full potential.
Then there’s Blushed Butter Oak Lettuce which grew extremely well in last year’s cold wet conditions. I wholeheartedly agree with Scheepers’ description: open, butter-soft, broad, oak-shaped leaf tinged luminous brick-red with the best flavor of all the lettuces their testers tasted. I found its beauty matched by its flavor. I also can’t pass up Snowflake Pea Pods. I managed to pick a few of these sweet, crisp pods before the voles pulled all the vines into the ground for fodder. This year I’ll grow Snowflake Peas in pots.
For 2010 I’m considering Purple Podded Pole Beans, described as an heirloom discovered in an Ozark garden in the 1930’s. I’m intrigued by the idea of growing purple-tinged vines and I’m really stuck on the beauty and flavor of the purple beans I’ve already tried. Can anyone give me some feedback on experiences with this variety of purple pole beans – especially those living in zone 6?
Other lettuce varieties I’d like to try include Jericho and Rouge d’Hiver Romaines and Rough Grenoblois Batavian Lettuce. Sheepers’ White Wonder Cucumbers also tweaked my interest, as did the thought of a large pot holding tall bamboo poles covered with tall vines showing two-toned purple flowers and lemon yellow pods of the Indian heirloom Golden India Edible Pea Pod. Doesn’t that just sound delightful? Again, anyone with past experience growing these lettuce and pea varieties, please share your experience with me.
Kitchen Garden Seeds is one of my favorite winter reads. The illustrations, by artist Bobbi Angell, are delightful. Plus, the verbal sketches of their seed offerings are interspersed with planting tips from Barbara Damrosch of The Garden Primer and Four Season Farm fame, as well as delicious sounding recipes. Kitchen Garden Seeds is truly a garden-to-table reference, and if you’d rather save the paper and read it online, you get the same dreamy seed descriptions there.