Growing red tomatoes. Ho hum. But what if you could find seeds for tomatoes that glow orange and gold like a burning sunset? Or almost-black toms? Or a tomato that looked just like photos of a galaxy? (That would be the aptly named Cosmic Eclipse tomato.) When I first laid eyes on The Whole Seed Catalog, I had a flashback to The Whole Earth Catalog, its placemat-sized pages seething with purpose and revolution (it was a product of 1960s Menlo Park, California, after all). The Whole Seed Catalog, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds based in Mansfield, Missouri, has the same heft, large format and strong sense of purpose (more on that later) but it’s a jewel of a book filled with wonders like the tomatoes described and so very much more.
A RAINBOW IN THE GARDEN AND ON THE MENU
The company offers over 1,800 varieties of heirloom vegetables, flowers, herbs, and fruit, not just from the U.S. but from 75 countries including Thailand, India and Morocco. Many are considered rare or endangered. To thumb through its 356 pages is to take a deep dive into a kaleidoscopic world of plants in extraordinary varieties of shape, size and taste and most especially colour. A tomato that looks like a tiny, exploding cosmos is just the beginning. Aqua-coloured squash, lavender radishes, pink corn, blue corn, corn that’s pink, blue, green and red, sunny yellow cucumbers, and pure white carrots give new meaning to “eating the rainbow“.
Wildly coloured vegetables might be reason enough to check out the 2016 catalog but there’s more. Information-packed growing guides include harvesting, seed saving and cooking tips with interesting points on history and nutrition for each group of edibles from amaranth to watermelon. Back stories on farmers, plant breeders and heirloom seed savers, illustrated with national-magazine-quality photography, underline the point that this is not your average seed company sales pitch. It’s a sumptuous invitation to enliven your garden, your dinner plate and maybe even your life. At the least, it’s a handy resource for garden planning and growing your own. That all this is available to Canadians for under $10 US is pretty impressive.
THE ELEPHANT IN THE VEGGIE PATCH
On the topic of GMOs, The Whole Seed Catalog does not shy away. In fact, opinions are enthusiastically expressed on the very first page and continue in an anti-GMO vein throughout various articles. This is a very complex issue and one I’m not going to get into here but I’d love to know your thoughts. Whatever your perspective on the matter, take a look at The Whole Seed Catalog, History, heritage, healthy eats, amazing new tastes and pure beauty are all on offer–essentially seeds of inspiration. Here are snaps of some pages: