Thursday, December 29, 2011

Of Record Radishes and Pink Peach Tomatoes

I was thrilled to get the mail yesterday, which normally I'm not. Not only was there a birthday card from my folks (thanks Mom and Dad!), but a seed catalogue I had sent away for arrived!
This is not just any seed catalogue...this is from Heritage Harvest Seed. Even just to look at the cover is a treat with it's 1800-ish style black and white illustrations of flowers and a horn of plenty. These folks from Manitoba, out here in Canada, specialize in rare and endangered heirloom species of vegetables, flowers and herbs, but even better there are no GMO's (genetically modified organisms), no hybrids and it's all natural and untreated! What a treat to stroll leisurely through their catalogue last night while snugged down in my warm bed! It's not often I'd like to have business owners over for tea, but Tanya Stefanec, Jessy Friesen and Iris Stefanec would certainly be welcome at my table! Listen to these descriptions...
"Arikara Yellow Bean: A very historic yellow bean that helped the Lewis & Clark  expedition through the winter of 1805 at Fort Mandan! Lewis obtained seeds from the Arikara Indians and brought seeds to Thomas Jefferson and in 1809 Jefferson planted the Arikara bean at Monticello. Bernard McMahon also offered it for sale in his 1815 catalogue. The pods can be harvested very young as snaps but this bean is at it's best used in the dry state for soups, stews or baking. Oscar H. Will carried the Arikara bean in his catalogue in the early 1900's. Productive, very early and an excellent baker. 80-85 days. Bush"
I feel like I've just sat in on a short but fascinating history class!

11 pages later we leave the beans and head into beets for a couple of pages, and the descriptions there are no less captivating. Including the Mangel Colossal
long Red, from the 1800's. "An heirloom Mangel that can reach up to 15 lbs and 2 feet long. Can be eaten when young." Can you imagine the pickled beets!

I've just been handed a bulletin...the record for the largest radish is held by Israeli gardener Nissan Tamir, Ripley's Believe It Or Not says that "Nissan has been growing organic vegetables for years, In 2006 he was amazed to discover two radishes that have been growing non-stop-each one weighed a staggering 22 lbs, or 10 kg)"!!

Turning our attention back to the catalogue, these folks offer beans, barley, beets, corn, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower and wait...RED celery?
"Red Stalk - (1700's) Red Stalk Celery has been grown since the 1700's. It has more of a robust flavor than regular celery and is excellent for soups and stews. the stalks are thinner than modern celery but the red color of the stalks is very eye catching."
Cool, have to get some of that!
There is also 9 different types of heirloom corn, 2 pages of cucumbers, eggplants, garlic, gourds, ground cherries,  Jerusalem Artichoke, kale, and kohlrabi, which I am completely unfamiliar with. Anyone have experience with this one? What's it like? What could I do with it? They also offer leeks, 2 pages of lettuce varieties, muskmelons, mustard greens, onions (including Welsh onions), parsnips, peas, peppers, and radishes that will make your head spin.

"Round Black Spanish - 1600's - One of the oldest heirlooms still available, dating from the 1600's. The 3-4" roots are black with a white interior. this old variety is a winter radish so it can be stored in sand during the winter with good results. It must be planted in the summer or early fall since it will bolt if planted in the spring."
Alas, there is no info to tell me how many days to maturation, but Google soon resolved that. (55 days to maturation) A quick trip over to the Milkweed Diaries  reveals this,
"I've been growing Black Spanish Round radishes for three years now, with both Spring and Fall plantings. I love them. They are reliable, they last forever in the garden and in storage, and are one of the easiest things I've ever grown.

The Black Spanish Round is a very old heirloom radish, grown in Spain since at least the 16th Century and probably long before. It was brought to the new world by conquistadors and grown by early white settlers in North America.

The skin of the Black Spanish Round is so rough and thick that the black root almost seems inedible at first glance. But that craggy, tough exterior is what protects the tender, spicy, crisp, and pure-white flesh of the Black Spanish Round. The thick, tough skin protects the Black Spanish Round for months of storage in the ground, in the root cellar, in the fridge, and apparently even in the holds of ships crossing the Atlantic."

The catalogue goes on to list spinach, 4 pages of squash varieties, swiss chard, tomatillos, and a mind-blowing 21.5 pages of different tomato types! So many of those were impressive, some I'd heard about before (I have a thing for heirloom veggies) but one above all the rest screamed 'PLANT ME!', the Pink Peach.
"Pink Peach (aka Landreth's Peach, the Wonderful Peach, Red Peach) Introduced into the seed trade by D. Landreth and Sons of Philadelphia in 1885. the 2 1/2 oz pink red fruit have a fuzzy skin like a peach and the flesh is quite sweet. 75 days from transplant."

Even after the turnip and rutabaga, after the watermelon and herbs, after the annuals and perennial flower offerings, after all the charming history tidbits and exquisite black & white illustrations...I want more! I'm not ready to put this little 74 page catalogue I turn back to page one and start again.
If you garden or know someone who does, it is a wonderful way to pass a grey winter day by meandering leisurely through this impressive catalogue.
Pop on over to Heritage Harvest Seeds and order a catalogue. You won't be disappointed!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Resolutions Masquerading As Goals and Cheesecake

On a knitting and crochet oriented social network that I am a member of, someone recently commented on her resolutions for the new year. Unconsciously I started thinking about resolutions. I don't normally make them, and even when I did, I never kept them. But now I understand why. The motivation, on my part, wasn't high enough to persuade me to stick to it.
So now, I see them not as resolutions, but self-improvement goals.

Here on my blog, I have a list of things I want to learn. Bike maintenance, sewing, making bagels from scratch and so on. I have already quit smoking long ago, I have already radically reduced my frivolous spending, I don't spend a lot of money on myself. So, instead of resolutions, I have decided to examine and expand upon my list. My "bucket list" if you will. Many of the items on that list to the right are self-sufficiency skills, some are there for fun, and still the list is incomplete. I see that list as a challenge, a way to keep my mind sharp, a way to keep the days from melding into one another and becoming boring. On my skills bucket list, the one in my head, is baking; I want to learn how to make bagels and English muffins from scratch, potato bacon soup, cream of broccoli soup, cheesecake and so on. These, if done correctly, will be tasty and appreciated by others (I hope). It will also mean that I will no longer need to rely on others for my bagels and english muffins. A little more self-reliance.

I would like to be able to to maintain our bikes so that I will not be scammed umpteen dollars for a basic tune-up. So that I can customize if I choose, for long rides along the highways up north. Then I will have the choice to ride my bike and visit friends, rather than require a drive. More self reliance.

I need to learn more about herbs and infusions and tonics and the like in order to keep my family healthy. This will mean less visits to the doctor, and less of a drain on our already frail medical system. Not to mention that soon we'll be an hour away from a doctor or health clinic. Besides, there's nothing wrong with more health, right?

I'd like to learn more about building with earth, clay and the like simply because those techniques have always fascinated me. There is an odd and depressing beauty in an old barn falling down from lack of use or age, and as interesting a picture as that makes, natural building has a beauty all it's own. I'd like to learn how to build with earth for it's ability to warm, cool and insulate from the harsh elements; and to learn something fascinating and brand new and yet an old knowledge too.

There are so many other things I want to learn more about. So it has become my goal (my resolution?) to learn how to do one of the things off my "bucket list" at least every two months. I'll be writing about those goals, the learning and the journey along the way here.
I hope you'll join me.
What would you like to learn in the coming year?