Monday, 25 January 2016

Annual Seed Catalogue Highlights

Here it is, the moment you all a few of you have been waiting for!  My annual list of most Canadian seed companies that sell organic and/or untreated seeds, and some of their new and/or interesting listings. Interesting to me at least - it's hard to believe I am still finding new things I would like to grow, but I am. You can also look in the Canadian Seed Catalogue Index at Seeds of Diversity if there is something specific you are trying to track down - that is the most comprehensive list of varieties sold in Canada that you will find. Here is the post from last year which will then take you to all the previous reports.

Agro Hai-Tai; Ontario's own specialist in Asian (mostly Chinese) vegetables, but frustratingly heavy on the f1 hybrids. How about Red Beard bunching onion, Dah Ye garlic chives, Chuan green beans, Petch Siam eggplant, Song Hua Choi F1 cauliflower (might have CMS though), White Ball and Szechuan Red radishes, Welcome Hon Tsai Tai choi sum, and many, many more. Wa Wa Gaichoi (Tsubomina) and North Round stem-mustards strike me as really intriguing.

Annapolis Seeds; from the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, after just a few years in business is now up to offering nearly 500 varieties. This years new items include North Georgia Candy Roaster squash, Montreal melon, Jamaican burr cucumber, Glass Gem popcorn, Fireball tomatoes, Blue Lake pole beans (our fave!), Standfast sunflower, Rainbow Inca sweet corn (an Alan Kapuler variety), Black Beluga lentils, and lots more. Returning items include Early Moonbeam watermelon, Squisito spaghetti squash, Swedish Red (Biskopens) dry pea, Tonello yellow romano bean, and Creola Sella (baccatum) hot pepper. 

Burt's Greenhouses: Sweet potatoes are a hot item, and here is an Ontario (Kingston) supplier, with a good selection and good prices. It looks like the same selection as last year (which is to say the best we've found anywhere so far). We tried their sample pack (3 or more varieties, pot luck, with a special request for no Georgia Jet, since we already had our own) and they all did reasonably well. In addition to our old favourite Georgia Jet, they have Toka Toka Gold from New Zealand, Covington and Beauregard (most popular varieties in the southern U.S. at this time), Cuban Red (not Cuban, as far as I can tell), and several Japanese and Korean varieties.

The Cottage Gardener: A great source for some really useful seed. From their list of new introductions, Amethyst Cream tomato immediately caught my eye. Indigo "Blue Berries" tomato would make a great partner for them. I see they have MacGregor's Favourite Beet (mine too!) Fish pepper may be new to them, but it's a staple for us. Garden of Eden romano bean looks excellent. Returning favourites include Arikara and Hidatsa beans; Early Hanover melon; Suyo Long cucumber; Tom Thumb lettuce; Tom Thumb and British Wonder peas; Orange Thai, Alma paprika, Chervena Chushka, and Jimmy Nardello peppers; Paul Robeson, Jaune Flammé, Bellstar (sic), and Stupice tomatoes.

Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes: It looks like Eagle Creek is roaring back from a terrible year last year, with a bigger and better selection than ever. They have 4 different variety packs for those who just can't narrow it down. I still have my eye on Amarosa, with bright red skin - and flesh! Pink Fir Apple is one I've been growing for a few years and get more and more interested in. Ruby Gold is highly recommended by Duane Falk, and Purple Viking, Warba, German Butterball, Russian Blue, and Russet Burbank are all varieties I've tried and liked.

Edible Antiques: New this year are Kabuli Black and Orion chickpeas, Moon & Stars watermelon, Filius Blue pepper, Don Ross's kale, and Dr Wyche's Yellow tomatillos. Returning items include Skunk pole dry beans, Dutch Brown Winter lettuce, Delicata squash, d'Espelette peppers, Algonquin pumpkin, and lots and lots of tomatoes. Possibilities include Black Crick, Crimson Sprinter, Fruit Punch, Morado, and their own White Calabash.

Greta's Organic Vegetable Garden: Greta doesn't indicate which items are new; but her list is so large and so wide ranging that even things that have been around for a while will suddenly strike you as surprising. I'm not a smoker, but I'm fascinated by Samsun Turkish tobacco. Actually, she has a lot of different tobaccos. Other fascinating things: Bozeman and Mountain Sweet watermelons, Chicago Pickling and H-19 Little Leaf (hard to find!) cucumbers, Ching-Chiang pak choi, Red Dragon mustard greens, Wong Bok cabbage, Gajo de Melon, Winterkeeper, Kenosha, and Romeo (another one hard to find these days) tomatoes, Zapallito del Tronco, Gem, and Longue de Nice squash, Korean Kim-Chee peppers, San Christoforo peas, Tall Green purslane, Tom Thumb popcorn, and Valencia onion. And more, much more...

Harmonic Herbs: have a good little list of herbs, including sea buckthorn, borage, Sunshine Flashback calendula, licorice mint and Mexican tarragon (actually anise flavoured) which I came across recently for the first time and intend to try this year. They also have garden-sized packets of seeds and grains including hulless oats and barley, amaranth, buckwheat, golden flax and quinoa. Vegetable seeds include Gaucho Argentinian beans, Turga Hungarian parsnips, Pink Beauty radish, and Midnight Lightening zucchini amongst other things. They also do some nice combo packs.

Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds:  Very local for us, with a fine selection. We visited them a while back. Offerings this year include April Green cabbage, Purple Peacock broccoli (brocco-kale cross, actually), Cosmic Purple carrots, Macuzalito dry beans, Fortex beans (you may recognize that photo!), Tango celery, Iowne's True Blue corn, Green Wave mustard - a favourite of veggie breeder Carol Deppe - Matchbox Hot pepper, Principe Borghese drying tomatoes, and Cosmonaut Volkov, Moonglow, Indigo Rose, and Green Zebra tomatoes. Hawthorn is strong on lettuce, and their offerings include Brown Goldring, Red Sails and Jester amongst a good selection of others. Our standards each year include Cylindra, Early Wonder Tall Top, and Touchstone Gold beets, Ping Tung eggplant, Giant Musselburgh leeks, New Red Fire lettuce, Meeting Place Organic Farm snow peas, and Tatume Mexican zucchini.

Heritage Harvest Seed: New offerings here include Lena Spraybash's broad (fava) bean from northern Manitoba, Heirloom Dutch snow pea, Banana Melon, Mammoth Sandwich Island salsify, Gold Medal, Puck, and Soldacki tomatoes, and Yokohama squash. Last year's trend for home-grown grains continues; they have 5 new ones listed. Our standard varieties from Heritage Harvest include Anellino Yellow, Deseronto Potato, Dolloff, and Grandma Nellie's Yellow Mushroom beans (their bean collection is epic), Collective Farm Woman and Gnadenfeld melons, Chieftain Savoy and Copenhagen Market cabbages, and Jaune de Doubs carrot. Very strong listings for cucumbers, peas, spinach, peppers... almost everything, really. 

Hope Seeds: Specialists in Maritime heirlooms, they have a lot of things generally suited to short seasons as well. New items include Honeynut squash, Butterflay spinach, Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled cress, New Hampshire College Red popcorn, January King cabbage, and Strawberry Blonde calendula. Old reliables include Tante Alice cucumber, Listada de Gandia eggplant, Small Shining Light watermelon, Bennie's Red onion, Golden Sweet snow peas, Melford rutabaga, Tribe's Tobique and Bernardo's Paste tomatoes. They have 4 kinds of Jerusalem artichokes, and a good little selection of potatoes. Looks like later in the season they will have several varieties of garlic as well.

Mapple Farm: The original Canadian supplier of sweet potato slips, located in New Brunswick. They recommend Georgia Jet as the best for Canadians, but they have a good selection of other possibilities. Their selection doesn't change much from year to year, but the things they carry are well considered and tried and true. They do mention Honeyboat squash and Italian Heirloom paste tomato as new. Speaking of tomatoes, they have their own Mystery Keeper tomato if you want to try keeping fresh tomatoes well into the winter. French Scorzonera, Turkish Rocket, or Shosaku Gobo can be grown from seed, or Volgo 2 Jerusalem artichokes, Chinese artichokes (neither of which are actually artichokes) and Horseradish can be acquired as roots.

Ontario Seed Company: One of Ontario's oldest remaining seed houses, OSC carries a mix of conventional and heirloom seeds. New items this year include Atomic Red and Solar Yellow carrots, Ailsa Craig onion, Zlata yellow radish, and Mouse Melon "cucumber". Old stand-bys include Chieftain savoy cabbage, Valencia peanuts, Alaska and Tall Telephone peas, Cubanelle peppers, Laurentian rutabaga and Crimson Sweet watermelon.

Prairie Garden Seeds: Here you will need to order by mail and pay by cheque. It is well worth the effort to do so. Jim Ternier has a very large list of Canadian and cold climate seeds. He doesn't indicate what is new and what isn't. I notice this year though, that he has 2 kinds of dwarf scarlet runner beans; a thing I have never seen before (Dwarf Bees and Pickwick Dwarf). They have the delightful French Flageolet bean, and an amazingly large collection of fava (broad) beans. Knight is a pea I have been looking for for a while; there it is. Amish Snap is one of our staples for summer eating and freezing; ditto Carouby de Maussane. This year he has 7 different kinds of corn, up from 5 last year. I see one of them is Carol Deppe's Cascade Ruby Gold. How about Kazakh Honeydew melon, or 1805 Smoothies and Super Zagross cucumbers? Sweetheart beet or Rote Reisen carrot? Pfalzer Yellow is a carrot that has done consistently well for us, and Kral parsnips have some real advantages. Lorelei and Prickly-Seeded spinaches look interesting. Flashback mixed calendulas are lovely. There's a heartstopping little collection of rare ornamental and edible alliums.

If you are looking for a Canadian bred tomato, this is the place. Also, Jim lists 60 kinds of wheat alone, never mind all the other grains and cereals. In short, wow!

Richter's Seeds: Quite possibly the most complete herb catalogue in the world. In particular they have a startling number of variations on the theme of basil. Offerings include Good King Henry, Nepitella, Trinidad Scorpion, Bhut Jolokia, and Hot Portugal hot peppers, Stevia (several strains), White Soul strawberries, Sweet Trefoil, Blue Lake pole beans, Early Purple English broccoli, Cardoon, Muncher cucumber, Huizontle, Jicama, Molokhia, Wasabi arugula, Yellow Moon and Stars watermelon, and much - much - more.

They are the only Canadian company that I know of still listing genuine French, and Grey shallots - pretty much everyone else has the seed-grown ones now, which are really not the same. Unfortunately, the prices reflect this fact.

Salt Spring Seeds: Located on Salt Spring Island, they are a well-established and substantial operation. New items this  year include Andover parsnips, Spello chick peas, Jack In the Beanstalk beans, Licorice, Red Legion onion (Torpedo shallot), Purple Cape cauliflower, and Yukon Chief corn. Of interest to me are Gold Harvest dry peas, Harry Burton's shelling pea, Mrs Van's, Sapporo Express, and The Pilot shelling peas, Zeghdulet Fluted squash, Darcy's Purple leek, Kakai oilseed pumpkin,

They are very strong in peas, pulses, and grains; second only to Prairie Garden.

Solana Seeds: Located in Quebec. In line with their interests, new items this year are mostly hottish to hot chiles. Green Tiger and Orange Banana tomatoes are new, as are Piaozinho, Mulato, Guajillo, Hot Paper Lantern and Chilhuacle Rojo peppers. St Valery carrots, Kamo eggplant, Zatta and Emerald Gem melons, Superschmelz kohlrabi, and lots of tomatoes (and other things) on the regular list.

Quantities per packet can be small, but prices are generally very reasonable.

Stellar Seeds: Located in the Kootenays. Promising looking offerings include Lutz Green Leaf beet, Goldette turnip, Sweet Granite canteloup, Amsterdam Gold carrot, Coastal Star and Hilde lettuces, Yellow Bedfordshire onions, Padron peppers, and Belstar Black scorzonera.

Sunshine Farm: located in the Kelowna Valley, B.C. They have a good standard selection plus some unusual items such as Azufrado Mexican bean, Rouge Sang Violette carrot, Rollison's Long English cucumber, Louisiana Long Green eggplant, German Winter leek, Guernsey Half-Long parsnip, Rocotillo peppers, Hilds Blauer radish, Whangaparaoa squash, and northward of 170 varieties of tomato.

Tatiana's TomatoBase: Last year I pointed out that she had one thousand and fifteen varieties of tomato seed for sale. This year it's one thousand, seven hundred and seventy eight. I don't mention any by name because where to even start? But if you want a rare tomato, look here first is what I am saying. Seed prices and quantities are fine, seeds may not have been grown last year but dates are noted and you should have a several years of good germination left.

Tatiana has an excellent selection of lettuces, peppers, squash, and melons, as well as a sprinkling of other vegetables. She has access to many varieties from Russia, which as it shares a similar climate with Canada means there are very interesting things here for the Canadian gardener. As a bonus, Tatiana maintains an encyclopedia of tomato varieties, so this is the place to do research on anything tomato.

Terra Edibles: I still have a soft spot for this company, one of the first of the small seed-company renaissance that I came across. They have a good selection of tomatoes and beans, and a smaller but well-chosen selection of other vegetables. Beans may be a bit short this year so order early. Prices remain very reasonable. Don't seem to have new offerings but I sure recognize the names of many of their tomatoes that have been grown in my garden, including Yellow Striped Roman, Stupice, Principe Borghese, Opalka, Matt's Wild, Ildi, Gardener's Delight, Garden Peach, Costoluto Fiorentino, Red Brandywine, Black Cherry, Banana Legs, and Amish Paste tomatoes.

Ferme Cooperative Tourne-sol: have been around for a while, but somehow have not made this list before. Oops! New this year I see Sugaree snap peas, Kew Gardens Purple pole bean, Rio San Lorenzo amaranth, Cream of Saskatchewan watermelon, and Black quinoa. Also of interest, they have Kahnawake Mohawk beans, Chufa Nuts sedge, Painted Mountain corn, Selection Tourne-Sol cucumber, Opal Creek snap peas, St. Hubert dry peas.

Tree and Twig Heirloom Vegetable Farm: Here is another seed farm we have had the pleasure of visiting. No online seed sales this year, although it sounds like she is still selling tomato plants.

William Dam Seeds: One of Ontario's 2 remaining old establishment seed-houses. They sell untreated seed, but much of it is still f1 hybrids. Nevertheless, they still have a very good selection of well-priced basics. Their Dutch heritage means they carry many old Dutch varieties. Look for Namenia turnip greens, Goldana turnip, Lucullus Swiss chard, Viroflex Giant Winter spinach (by far our fave), Strike peas, Early Yellow Globe and Red Tropeana onions, Telegraph Improved cucumbers, Amazing cauliflower, Groninger Blue kale, Miner's Lettuce claytonia, and lots more. Best source I know of for all the physical accoutrements other than metal tools required for gardening.


Karen said...

Happy to see my two favorite suppliers made your list, Richters and Gretas. If you ever have an opportunity to visit Richters greenhouses, you will just be gobsmacked! What a wonderful, and sometime weird, selection of plants and whatnot to be found there. (They arent far from the north end of Toronto for folks in the city)

Ferdzy said...

I've been there, Karen, but not in the last few years; maybe 10, actually. I'd like to make a trip out to them in late summer this year, if I can pick up those shallots in person - they're going to be pricey to ship, and maybe I can get another blog post or two out of a trip. Thanks for commenting.