On a day when the high temperatures here in Minnesota will likely not get about minus-15 and the wind is making the garden look like an Arctic landscape, seed catalogs are like a cup of hot chocolate or a warm fire — comforting, reliable and cheering.
The seed catalogs have been arriving since just after Thanksgiving, but it’s in these early weeks of January that the mailbox gets especially full and the catalogs pile up, waiting for the time when gardeners start leafing through the pages, folding back edges, circling varieties that sound especially enticing. What looks interesting in this year’s catalogs?
The Burpee’s catalog arrived with a huge photo of its new ‘Steakhouse Hybrid‘ tomato on the cover. Advertised as the “world’s biggest beefsteak,” this new variety is supposed to grow to 3 pounds with an heirloom flavor. The seeds are pricey ($6.25 a pack) but it might be exciting to see just how big a tomato can get — and whether a big tomato is a better tomato. Seed ordering is all about taking chances!
Seed Savers Exchange’s catalog is gorgeous with a colorful mix of beans on the cover — many in shades of blue, purple and pink. This is always a favorite catalog, packed with old favorites and recently found heirloom varieties. One of the intriguing new offerings is Tall Utah celery. Celery is a challenge to grow in Minnesota and rarely has the thick stalks you see in the supermarket varieties — though it’s often more flavorful. That might be a plant worth trying this year. Or how about trying a new butterhead lettuce called ‘Gulley’s Favorite.’ I’ve had great luck with Seed Savers’ lettuces and a butterhead is a beautiful treat in a salad. Or, how about Mamie Brown’s Pink beefsteak tomato, which boasts large fruit with a perfectly balanced flavor.
The catalog from Territorial Seed Co. is not as slick as some others, but this is a favorite seed supplier among serious vegetable gardeners. Territorial is promoting grafted tomatoes. (Here’s a blog post by Meleah Maynard about the trend.) One of the Territorial offerings has two tomato varieties on one plant! Grafted tomatoes have the vigor of their rootstock but the flavor of the grafted variety. This is one way to get more production from heirloom varieties, which have great flavor but are sometimes less productive. Territorial also has a grafted basil that looks like a little bonsai tree — a fragrant addition to the patio garden.
I’m also eying the herb offerings from Richters, the gorgeous blooms from Bluestone Perennials, and the potatoes from Irish Eyes Garden Seeds. But there are more catalogs to come including the beautiful catalogs from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and the delightfully tomato-centric Tomato Fest. They all make great reading on a frigid January night.
What is your favorite garden catalog?