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Seeking produce diversity


gfron1
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I just came back from a week in the San Francisco area and the highlight turned out to be my trip to the Berkeley Bowl grocery store.  What was most impressive was the produce.  I counted 30 types of tomatoes.  10 types of pears.  12 plums.  And on and on.  I returned home to my lame grocery produce and extremely limited farmers market selections.  

 

Interestingly, a few days ago I had a customer at the restaurant who turned out to be a professional seed grower for a business owned by Mars inc (we know them as the candy bar company).  He started rattling off name after name of tomatoes, lettuce, squash, beans that are "the best flavors" among their type.  And then he would tell me what company carried his seeds...all companies I had never heard of.  I asked him about Seed Saver Exchange since its an amazing catalog that I'm familiar with and he said that they were just "okay."

 

Now I'm meeting with an architect to put in a large greenhouse behind the restaurant.  My goal is to try out seeds and the ones that work best in our high dessert climate will be turned over to our farmers market growers to do their magic.

 

So my question is twofold.  First, among various produce are there any superstars that you would suggest I look at.  And second, which seed companies do you prefer?  Thanks.

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I don't know how finicky this variety is to grow - much less whether it would like your high-altitude desert - but I think Mountain Pride tomato is an outstanding full-size tomato in terms of its flavor. Someone else mentioned Mountain Magic as an excellent cultivar in the most recent Tomato topic.

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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Are there adequate pollinators in your area for the crops you're looking at, or do you also need to think about adding some bees (and collecting the honey)?

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

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Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

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For an astounding combination of color spectacle and stellar flavor I love Berkeley Tie-Dye. I purchase the starts from Laurel's Heirloom Tomatoes. She ships nationwide I think. 

 

http://www.heirloomtomatoplants.com/  The site says she orders her seeds from these folks http://www.tomatofest.com/

 

 

002.JPG

 

The interior mirrors the surface in terms of the tie-dye look

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Have you considered incorporating more E/SE (even S) Asian vegetables into your menu? 

 

Two seed companies to consider:

http://www.evergreenseeds.com/asveglis.html

http://www.kitazawaseed.com/all_seeds.html

 

There are others.

 

I've bought from Evergreen before and have been happy with their seeds; not entirely sure (don't remember) if I've bought from Kitazawa.

 

p.s. "The Curious Kumquat" could sort-of imply an E Asian flair, no? ;-)

Edited by huiray (log)
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I can't help you with suppliers, Rob, but try to find Montserrat tomatoes.  We discovered them in Spain and rapidly became addicted.  Huge, ugly things (similar to the one Heidi posted but more evenly coloured and even wrinklier), and the tastiest tom you're likely to find.  They like a bit of heat, but we've still had fairly good results in temperate Wellington.

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Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
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I have no idea what will grow in your locale. These are vegs and herbs that might be of interest to you. I've encountered them through restaurants, farmers mkts, and my CSA (which also supplies some local restaurants).

 

gypsy peppers, Jimmy Nardello peppers (difficult to de-seed), padron peppers

 

watermelon radishes, black radishes (very spicy), French Breakfast radishes, daikon

 

rainbow chard, broccoli raab, sugar snap peas (the short fat kind with plump peas inside, like this pic

http://www.thekitchn.com/5-ways-to-eat-sugar-snap-peas-144936 )

 

karinata kale, mustard greens, mizuna, tatsoi

 

Tokyo turnips. Harvest them when they are small, tender, and cute. Greens taste good too.

 

chiogga beets, very showy and sweet

 

savoy cabbage, my favorite cabbage for cooking

 

French haricots, my favorite kind of green beans

 

Sorrel, chervil, celery root (for remoulade of course, also good in mashed potatoes).

 

Little Gem lettuces (see them everywhere in local restaurants), frisee (curly endive), red endive, Belgian endive, treviso radicchio, escarole. I think escarole is often overlooked. It tastes great with duck.

 

Lemon cucumbers, Persian cucumbers

 

Purslane. I'm not sure I like purslane. It's trendy and showing up in restaurants perhaps more than it deserves.

 

Thai basil, holy basil, lemongrass, shiso

 

Salsify, or oyster plant, if you want to grow something really unusual

 

Meyer lemons, if you can grow them in containers in a protected environment. Lemon verbena, also in a container and protected.

 

Lemon thyme, lemon balm

 

Culinary lavenders (lavandula angustifolia). I'm growing Melissa, a peppery pink variety, and Buena Vista, a sweet-tasting blue variety.

 

Green garlic, fresh onions and new potatoes always say springtime to me.

 

As for Asian herbs and vegs, Andrea Nguyen has very good descriptions of common varieties in her cookbooks.

 

good luck, keep us posted!

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My favorite potato is Sangre, a red variety that is very flavorful. I used to get organic starters for it from Irish Eyes, but they no longer carry them. A quick search finds them being sold by several organic sources. If your soil is poor or tends to be hard, you can grow potatoes in straw. Some people even grow them in raised wire mesh circles for easy harvesting and prettier skins.

 

I also like cinnamon basil a lot, it's best served cold, like in a salad. It becomes more ordinary basil-flavored when cooked.

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Lemon cucumbers

I grew them once quite a while back. I found them to be nice looking and not bad tasting but extremely seedy. The seed area to flesh ratio was too far off balance for me to want to continue with them. But that's with the disclaimer that I have no idea what is currently available. They may have improved or there may be varieties available that weren't at that time.

 

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I grew them once quite a while back. I found them to be nice looking and not bad tasting but extremely seedy. The seed area to flesh ratio was too far off balance for me to want to continue with them. But that's with the disclaimer that I have no idea what is currently available. They may have improved or there may be varieties available that weren't at that time.

 

I agree with your observations. I once bought some lemon cukes at my local farmer's market. They're mostly seeds. If you think "Oh, I'll just de-seed them", think again. You'd be left with very little cucumber flesh in the end. Live and learn.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I emailed my CSA and asked for seed catalog recs. My CSA's farm supplies some restaurants around here. They replied, "There are a number of really good seed companies.  Here is a short list of just a few of them -- there are many others."

 

Johnnys Selected Seeds
http://www.johnnyseeds.com/

 

High Mowing Organic Seeds
www.highmowingseeds.com

 

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
(mentioned upthread)

 

Territorial Seed Company
http://www.territorialseed.com/

 

Snow Seed Company
http://snowseedcompany.com/

 

Vitalis Organic Seeds
http://usa.vitalisorganic.com/

 

White Seed Company
http://www.whiteseed.com/
Their price list has all the varieties they sell.

 

I've only eyeballed a few of the sites. These are amazing.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'll start with a couple that the seed guy suggested:

 

One of his favorite catalogs - Seeds of Change

 

His favorite tomato - Matt's Wild Cherry

 

I love Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes; I think of them as the gardener's treat.  I eat them by the handful when I'm in the garden.  The vines are indeterminate and usually are very prolific in Tennessee.    They return as volunteers for the next year here in Tennessee (from dropped fruit).    

 

The tomatoes are tiny;  think large-raisin-sized, not grape-sized.    They grow in clusters, and not all tomatoes in each cluster will be fully ripened at the same time.   While I think every garden should have a Matt's Wild Cherry plant in it, to reward the gardener, the skins are tender and may peel from the stem if you pick individual little tomatoes.     We generally eat as many as we want while in the garden, and then cut entire clusters to bring into the kitchen, to keep the skin whole.

 

Johnny's has always been good to deal with, on the small personal order scale that I have interacted with them.

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I may or may not have been the one who mentioned Mountain Magic.  This is the third summer I have grown them.  Unfortunately they have not done that well for me this year.  They have been OK, certainly, both in taste and yield -- but not like in past years.

 

I attribute this to the cool (if not cold) summer we have been having.  Very atypical weather for New Jersey.  Lots of fruit rot on the vine before they fully ripen.  In defense of Mountain Magic, no one I have spoken with has had good tomatoes of any kind this year.

Cooking is cool.  And kitchen gear is even cooler.  -- Chad Ward

 

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I love Matt's Wild Cherry tomatoes; I think of them as the gardener's treat.  I eat them by the handful when I'm in the garden.  The vines are indeterminate and usually are very prolific in Tennessee.    They return as volunteers for the next year here in Tennessee (from dropped fruit).    

 

The tomatoes are tiny;  think large-raisin-sized, not grape-sized.    They grow in clusters, and not all tomatoes in each cluster will be fully ripened at the same time.   While I think every garden should have a Matt's Wild Cherry plant in it, to reward the gardener, the skins are tender and may peel from the stem if you pick individual little tomatoes.     We generally eat as many as we want while in the garden, and then cut entire clusters to bring into the kitchen, to keep the skin whole.

 

Johnny's has always been good to deal with, on the small personal order scale that I have interacted with them.

Those wild cherry tomatoes don't sound like cherry tomatoes. If they're the size of raisins then they're more likely to be currant tomatoes.

Here's a picture of one from my Mom's garden a couple years back:

gallery_9387_874_7334.jpg

They're great for little rugrats and grandkids to pull from the plants and eat...they're a pain to harvest otherwise since they're so plentiful but scatter-shot on the plant. We didn't get clusters...just a bunch of individual tiny tomatoes growing everywhere.

 

edited for spelking

Edited by Toliver (log)
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“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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