Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook
Each of the smaller seed seed companies (no selling to big box stores) started somewhere and usually with a fresh personal story. The four seed companies below are the major seed suppliers for Homestead Gardens who (by the way) is putting out their seeds packets and gardening accessories as I write this blog. By the weekend of January 6, 7, 8 the growing goodies will be out to supply us with visions of our gardening sugar plum fairies. As I spoke to Michelle Cordrey the seed buyer, she told me their orders are in by August of the previous year. They will consider requests if you have a special flower or produce that you get from a certain company. For instance, I asked if Zephyr Summer Squash seeds could be available for the oh-so-sweet summer half green/half yellow squash.
Seed Savers Exchange is a common name to me and is in the Eco news frequently as the nonprofit continues the invaluable work of preserving heritage, heirloom and common plants. Their mission is to save North America’s diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, while educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity.
- Maintaining thousands of varieties of different plant types-from amaranth to watermelon-in one of the largest seed banks of its kind in North America.
- Regenerating seed in isolation gardens and storing them in ideal conditions.
- Documenting valuable cultural information on varieties and their histories.
- Distributing heirloom varieties to members and the public through the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook and the Seed Savers Exchange Catalog.
- Storing varieties in back-up locations at the USDA Seed Bank in Fort Collins, CO and at Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. These off-site deposits remain the property of SSE.
Lake Valley Seed was founded in 1985 in the confines of a small garage in Boulder, Colorado. Seed packets were filled by hand using small “teaspoon” like measuring devices. Constantino Pagano, an accountant and lieutenant in the Italian army, started the company in 1925 in Scafati, Italy. After his death in 1930, Almerico Pagano, an agronomist, and his brothers continued the work Constantino began. The company continues to produce and market a wide range of seed for national and international markets.
The philosophy at Lake Valley Seed has held true: quality products at competitive prices, servicing passionate gardeners and independent retailers.The company has developed into a high paced, automated production facility, which annually produces nearly 9 million packets of seed, consisting of over 800 different varieties of flower, vegetable and herb seeds.
The Pagano line includes vegetables like Ciliegino Pomodoro tomatoes, Broccoli Romanesco S. Giuseppe, Cicoria Spadona Da Taglio (cutting chicory), Melanzana (eggplant) Violet Napoli, Zucchino Bianco di Trieste (white squash), and many other vegetables that are an important part of a Mediterranean diet.
A fine selection of Italian herbs is also offered, including Dente di Leone (dandelion greens).
Botanical Interests leads seed sales for Homestead Gardens . The beauty of their marketing is that recipes and tips are printed right on the seed packets.
Curtis Jones understands the enchantment of nurturing plants from seed. “Once you try it, you get hooked,” he says. “It’s so magnificent that you can take something that small and grow something you can eat. It’s different from buying plants and transplanting—a whole different ball game. It’s very rewarding.”
Jones is the founder and co-owner along with his wife, Judy Seaborn, of Botanical Interests, a 15-year-old Broomfield company that sells vegetable and flower seed packets to garden centers and other retail outlets. The company grew out of Seaborn’s passion for gardening and Jones’s background in plant science. The couple thought other gardeners would be eager for better quality seeds as well as an education in growing those seeds.
Botanical Interests sources seeds from around the world, which allows for a year-round supply as well as insurance against an unproductive growing season for seed producers. Every batch of seeds i tested for germination rate and purity before packaging. Even if it falls just shy of the USDA’s standard 85 percent germination rate, it’s returned to the supplier. All of the seed stock is untreated and non-GMO and much of it is organic.
Renee Shepherd is widely regarded as a pioneering innovator in introducing international specialty vegetables and herbs for home gardeners and gourmet restaurants. After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of California in Santa Cruz and teaching in the Environmental Studies department there, she founded Shepherd’s Garden Seed in 1985. Renee left Shepherd’s Seeds in 1996. The company has since ceased operations.
In 1997 she founded Renee’s Garden, offering seeds through garden centers and nurseries and online, to offer fellow gardeners access to the high quality varieties otherwise available only to mail order shoppers.
She has authored two kitchen garden cookbooks, Recipes from a Kitchen Garden and More Recipes From a Kitchen Garden and is working on a third.