Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Physalis Peruviana-Cape Gooseberry

An interesting plant that I am selling seed for is Cape Gooseberry, or physalis peruviana.
I fell in love with the taste of the fruit this plant bears many years ago when I received seed from the incredible Kokopelli organization in France.
Up until then I was familiar with the physalis pruinosa varieties, as in ground cherries, but this one blew me away.
This intensely flavoured fruit has a tropical taste, tart but highly addictive; it is really not at all similar in comparison to it's milder flavoured ground cherry counterpart.
The plant as well has different requirements. As one would expect from a plant that is native to Peru, it does require a long growing season. I generally start these indoors in mid-March, and the harvest pay-off is not until September in our climate.
But I do consider myself lucky. I think in many other parts of Canada, growing these would just be a pipe-dream, so I am glad I live in the banana belt I do.
They do however have some degree of frost resistance, and once picked will sit on your kitchen counter for months- and remain awesome!
Great to just pop in your mouth, they are also delish as preserves. If you can resist eating them before you get to the stage of making preserves.
Add an international flair to your garden this year-try this Peruvian gem!

Friday, January 22, 2010


Time to mark your calendar! Yup- I've set the date for my annual "Tomato days" sale and it will be the long weekend in May, May 22 and 23, 2010.
I'm starting now to assemble my seed and put it some kind of order, although with so many different varieties of tomatoes it does sometimes feel like a mind boggling job.
I have upward of 700 varieties, and again this year have a few newbie oldies I have located and am excited about.
Like what, you ask?
Okay well, we already have red, yellow and white a pink peach I have found from France. Is this the same as Fuzzy? I don't know, but don't think so. Time will tell. That is the thrill of the tomato hunt (and capture!) Can't wait to see!
I am also patiently waiting for my Seed Savers Exchange year book , to see what my friend Bill Minkey is raving about this year. Bill offers hundreds of kinds of tomatoes in the yearbook and has sent along some fantastic recommendations to me-like Black brown Boar, Striped Furry Red Hog and Marz Yellow Red Stripe, works of art each and every one.
Many, many of these varieties will be here at my scavenger hunt -type sale. I organize the plants by colour,, and you need to look-no question about it.
I do get busy talking to people, but be patient and we can talk tomatoes.
Will I be organized enough to get them into alphabetical order? It is my goal!
And I'll grow lots more of the ones I sold out of last year; the very popular Costoluto Genovese, Stupice and Federle (which I am also selling seeds for!)
Looking forward very much to this weekend and finding out what YOUR favourites are!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rat Tailed Radish

If you would like to try something a little bit different in your garden this year, look no further than the Rat tailed Radish!
This is such a fabulous plant, and yes! I am selling the seed for it this year.
Unlike other radishes the root on this plant is not what you are after, it is the seed pod that makes it so special. The root is tough and nondescript, but ahh- the young seed pod is fresh tasting, crisp and oh so radish-y!
Pods are an eye pleasing mix of green and purple, but harvest them while young or they will become pithy and tough.
This variety of radish is exceptionally easy to grow throughout the season. Unlike radishes grown for the root, it is fine in the hotter weather, but for a steady supply of pods, plant a bit more every two weeks. And of course, saving the seeds from it couldn't be easier. Simply let the pods dry on the plant, and harvest when dried and brown.
Growing this has inspired me to try harvesting the seed pods of other plants and I have found that some chefs are quite interested in this experiment. Particularly good are brassica and mustard green seed pods- particularly red cabbage which has gone to seed, with it's pretty burgundy pods, picked while still young and tender. Maybe the era of microgreens is ending, and edible pods are the way of the future. I say it is a tasty and novel experiment!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Green Zebra

The picture that accompanies this entry is a source of great joy for me- I met one of my tomato heroes!
I had the wonderful fortune of travelling to Decorah, Iowa in the summer of 2007 to attend the Seed Savers Annual Convention at Seed Savers Exchange headquarters, Heritage Farm.
And the reason this trip was so important to me was because I wanted to meet Tom Wagner and hear him speak.
Tom Wagner is a tomato and potato breeder extraordinaire. He began cross pollinating tomatoes as a child, it was in his blood and his families blood. He has created hundreds of tomato varieties, thousands of potatoes, and his work continues to this day from his base in Washington State. He's the Tater Mater man!
The Green Zebra tomato is perhaps his most well known and loved creation. Open up countless seed catalogues and there it is. Not a true heirloom but what Tom would call a created heirloom( as are all Tom's tomatoes) dating back to 1985, when Tom stabilized this variety.
To meet Tom was priceless: he is a character. He loves to talk, tell stories and explain his life's work. What surprised me the most though was he fact that so many people are making money from Tom's hard work by reproducing and selling seeds, but Tom himself continued to teach high school science to eek out a living. He had made nothing from his creations although many people have and he lives in virtual poverty.
It is hard for me to imagine how this can be.
I am selling seed for Green Zebra tomatoes this year and plan on helping Tom out a bit-see how by reading my 2010 seed listing.
I also sell the Green Zebra seedlings and they always sell out, no matter how many I grow.
If you don't know the Green Zebra, make this your year to love it too! It is of course green, a bit bigger than a ping pong ball with beautiful yellow striping. It has a distinctive zing-y taste.
Although I do grow hundreds of striped tomatoes now, it was my first (!) and it is the one people always ask for by name. You'll love watching it develop and turn into one of the prettiest tomatoes you can imagine.
Bless you Tom for your inspiration!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Niagara Seedy Saturday

Dreaming of a great garden this year? Well now is the time to dream — isn't that what winter is for?
No place better to dream here in Niagara, and perhaps make that dream garden come true, than the fourth annual Niagara Seedy Saturday.
This year, this wonderfully popular event is being held at Ball's Falls Conservation Area Visitor Centre, Vineland, on Feb. 13th (my Mollie's birthday!!!), from 10-4 p.m.
I have confirmed most of the attendees at this point. Selling seeds are The Cottage Gardener, Urban Harvest and Tree and Twig (that's me!)
Ann Brown will be back selling her popular sea grass baskets and I am awaiting confirmation from Acorus Restoration (native plantings).
As usual there will be free coffee and tea, but also this year a light lunch by The Wildflower will be available for purchase.
Displays by Garden of Eating (that's Tiffany), the National Farmers Union (yay!), Ecological Farmers Association, Seeds of Diversity and Master Gardeners round out the roster.
The speakers will be Mary Brittain of The Cottage Gardener, who will discuss saving your own seed, Wendy Dunnville, Master Gardener, discussing starting your own seeds, Linda Crago (me), showing a power point tour through an Heirloom Garden (mine), and Tiffany will do a talk on her very worthwhile Garden of Eating — Niagara project, through which hundreds (or is it thousands?) of pounds of fruit, which would otherwise have gone unpicked, was donated to area food banks in 2009. We will also show the short film, USC's "The Story of Food" throughout the day.
There will be a small charge for admission this year, $1 or a donation, to help me cover the cost of the beautiful venue.
BUT of course there will be FREE seeds upon admission, a FREE seed exchange and garden exchange (bring your unwanted gardening magazines, clean pots, etc), FREE coffee, and FREE and wonderful camaraderie! It is really such a great event and I hope to see lots of people there... and bring your friends. Spread the word. Please contact me if you have any questions.
And never stop dreaming!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year and a New garden to Consider-Stupice.

Now all the rush of the holidays is nearly over and done with , it is time to start considering the 2010 veg garden. Before long some indoor planting will be a necessity...for me onions and leeks are the first things to start indoors, before setting out in April.
But of course I would like to first talk about tomatoes when I look at some of the varieties of seed (and plants ) that I am selling this year.
So let's talk about one of the best little tomatoes there is-Stupice,(pronounced STOO_PEACH-KA)
This fine Czechoslovakian potato leaf tomato is a gem, and if you grow it once, you will probably always want to grow it. It has such a wonderful tomato flavour for a small flattened golf-ball size fruit, and is it early! I have had it produce fruit in 50 days, so if I am clever and plant in the hoophouse early, say April 15, and cover it with Reemay, I will most certainly have fruit in June. And it continues to produce steadily and reliably all season,being both the first to produce, and the last.
When I have my big "Tomato Days" sale in May, I consistently sell out of this one. So this year I will plant more Stupice for my sale, but you can try planting it from seed and I do have the seed for it this year.
My website will have my 2010 Seed Listing up within a week. Please continue to check back to my blog for a bit more info on some of the varieties I carry. I have grown them all and will review them here!