February 3, 2009

1) Fantasize 2) Order Seeds 3) Fantasize

February has begun on a somewhat warm note, like a little appetizer before spring. Next week however is going to be the starter salad; and not a delicate bowl of greens but a Cobb salad. With croutons. (Sorry about the food theme. I’m hungry.)

We’re going to have temperatures in the forties beginning on Saturday, lasting pretty much throughout the rest of next week. And I, personally, cannot wait. Not only will the ice melt away, overwhelming our combined sewer overflows with salty runoff, but some of this spring’s first flowers may just be visible in the mud, and I can finally start my full-fledged fantasizing about all the plans and schemes (more on that later) I have for the garden. Not that I haven’t already been fantasizing. It’s just that I try to keep it in check during the depths of winter so as not to, how do I put it, overexcite myself (Yes, I get excited about plants).

I’m all about four-season gardening, and to me planning one is just as much a part of the process and experience as sowing and weeding. Spending an afternoon in January or February browsing seed catalogues, and making a list of delicious heirloom tomato varieties with which I’d like to make homemade puttanesca, is my own version of winter gardening.

In a way, it does take some abstract thinking. For example, choosing what seeds to order now, in February, will ultimately affect what food I will be eating next February (If I’m successful in my canning ventures, that is. But more on that some other time.) And while I can (and do) buy canned tomato products for making excellent homemade sauces, with proper planning I’ll be able to open up jars of my own practically garden-fresh preserves (and nothing store-bought can compete with that).

My housemate and I are bulking our seed orders together (except for one special variety that I’m purchasing for myself). Here is some of what is being ordered:

· Woodle Orange tomato
· Black Cherry tomato
· Tigerella tomato
· Chocolate habanero pepper
· Chichiquelite huckleberry (actually related to the tomato)
· Honey Rock melon
· Early Hanover melon
· Japanese ‘White Egg’ eggplant
· Romanesco Italian brocolli
· Amish Snap Peas
· Hidatsa Shield Figure bean
· Calypso bean
· Any many more…

It will be my first time growing these varieties, so feel free to comment on your experiences if you’ve cultivated any of them before. As for the “special variety”, it is Six Nations bush bean, which I’ll be ordering from Ozark Seed Bank. It apparently originates from the Six Nations (Iroquois) agricultural tradition, and being a member of Slow Food here in Syracuse, it makes sense for me to try growing this locally indigenous bean.

For anyone placing their order soon, I would highly recommend the Riesentraube tomato and the purple tomatillo, for the mere fact that they last a long time. I’m not kidding you when I say that I made two different salsas from them last week (tomato-eggplant salsa and salsa verde). Yes, from fresh ones that were harvested last summer, sitting on my dining room table. The tomatillos were flawless, and the tomatoes were at worst a tad wrinkled from the dry house air. Of course, I made cooked salsa; I wouldn’t have wanted to eat them raw at that point, but I probably could have.

As for the rest of the seeds, they’re coming from Baker Creek and Seed Saver’s Exchange. And after taking a look at the total cost for our order, I’ve decided that this year I will start trying to save seeds from my own harvest. :)