Mean Girl to the Rescue!

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Rooting for the little guy

I recently read Barbara Kingsolver's new non-fiction book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about her family's decision to leave the Southwest and go live on a Virginia farm, eat locally exclusively, and raise chickens and turkeys. Oh, man, it was awesome. I'm not generally a non-fiction fan, but this was interesting (and inspiring) reading, and it might be for you, too, if you're a big food nerd like me.

Now, I'm not about to go live on a farm (though I won't pretend that it's not something that Booby and I have discussed at great length -- the stumbling block right now is the lack of high-speed internet available in rural areas, which would prevent him from working from home), but that book renewed my interest in having a real vegetable garden that works for me on a year-round basis. And that means fall planting.

Fall planting means garlic, delicious anti-vampire food that it is. According to Ms. Kingsolver, there are bazillions more varieties of garlic in this world than you'd ever see in the supermarket, being that such varieties are grown for their ability to travel well. I would lament for the poor, lost varieties of produce that we'll never get back again, but that's another post, and I'd rather focus on the exciting world of heirloom seeds and the like.

You may not know this (I didn't), but the chances are good that your faithful old seed company is either owned or supplied by corporate giant Monsanto. Yeah, the same Monsanto who gave us rGBH, which is partially responsible for our lowered resistance to bacteria and the early puberty of millions of little girls, is now the largest seed corporation in the WORLD. I don't want to give them my money, I want them to go pound sand, as my dad would say. So I had to do a little research and find some little seed companies.

My travels led me to a nice list at Casaubon's Book. Sharon has put together a thoughtful list of seed companies and some warnings about the more popular ones. She mentions checking out Dave's Garden to see who owns what, but I didn't see any mention of Monsanto there. In fact, I couldn't find a complete list of exactly which seed companies Monsanto owns anywhere, not even on their website. However, when you're blogging while your baby sleeps, time is of the essence, and maybe someone does have a list somewhere. Anyway, further trawling revealed another nice list of organic seed sources, listed by state (always good to buy local when you can). I'd figured I could buy from Burpee (local to me, and a trusted name), but it seems that though they are independently owned, they are supplied, in part, by a Monsanto-owned company.

I also remembered hearing about a rare seed catalog on You Bet Your Garden on NPR sometime last year. That's where I found J.L. Hudson, Seedsman. You can order their print catalog, but as I recall, there are no pictures in it, so it's probably best to just order online and save a tree. I couldn't find any garlic there, and it occurred to me that garlic is maybe best grown from the bulb, so off I went to Fedco, notable because they ceased business with Seminis Seeds after that company was bought by Monsanto (unlike Burpee). That's my kind of company. Sadly, Fedco stopped selling garlic bulbs on August 31st. What was a lazy gardener to do?

Keep googling, apparently. I quickly found Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, which supplies heirloom organic garlic packages, one of which is listed as a "beginner" set for $11. I also found Hood River Garlic, which is certified by Oregon Tilth, and seemed to have a larger variety. It also seemed that "seed" in reference to garlic does in fact refer to bulbs. Duh. I have bought packages of onion seed before, so I assumed that "seed" meant seed, you know? Ah well, live and learn. I opted for the Susanville softneck variety, because softnecks are apparently easier to grow, and it stores for a long time. I was sorely tempted by the Chesnock Red, because it's hot and Georgian and the flavor is supposed to be wonderful, but I figured I'd start small (and easy).

My garlic bought, I can now think about clearing up the remains of my veggie garden, which is still producing a few measly tomatoes. The cucumber plant seems to be pulling a Lazarus, and the eggplant suddenly has a profusion of purple flowers (each one with a thin black spike near the stem, as I found out the hard way). Now, on to winter sowing ...



At 6:02 PM, Anonymous TB said...

Good for you for doing the research. Not everyone would.

I envy your green thumb. We're getting ready to join a co-op for a local organic farm now that Myles is about to start solids. I figure if there's anywhere in the US where we'll get the most variety for our money, this is the place since we grow year round. Now I just need some good recipes for Kolrabi.

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous wordgirl said...

How does doing all of this research NOT bum you out? How do you know all of this stuff? Why don't I??

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Arabella said...

I'm with Wordgirl; your research skills are awesome.

And, how I'm salivating. Garlic and eggplant, oh my. Almost enough to crowd out my memories of your little strawberry...but not quite. A woman's got to have dessert.


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