The Whole Seed Catalog: A World of Heirlooms

The Whole Seed CatalogThe Whole Seed Catalog is a compendium of news and information about the growing of heirloom vegetables and flowers.

This time of year, the joys of outdoor gardening are often reduced to time spent indoors going through seed catalogs. It’s always an exciting day when one arrives in the mail or pops up fresh online (we applaud those seed and gardening companies who push their online catalogs as a way to stay in touch while saving paper — trees! — and the fuel burned to distribute them). The catalogs are all well-thumbed — or clicked through — by the time orders are placed. Seed and gardening catalogs can be a valuable source of information — that’s always been behind the philosophy behind our business — as well as a spark to the imagination and an instigator of dreams.

The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company has taken the notion of a seed catalog a step further. Baker Creek — we carry many of their heirloom seeds — is probably the most active commercial heirloom seed business serving the home gardener. (The Seed Savers Exchange, an important player in the heirloom seed scene is a non-profit . . . we carry some of their products as well). In addition to their regular seed catalog, a massive tome as is, they’ve published The Whole Seed Catalog for 2014 as well.

Those who remember The Whole Earth Catalog from the era when some of us were first becoming “homesteaders” and gardeners, will recognize the concept. The Whole Seed Catalog contains more than just seeds. There’s interesting background on heirlooms, first-person stories of seed programs in exotic places, lots of how-tos and where-fors, as well as statements of the heirloom philosophy: why heirlooms are important in this world of increasing corporate control, shrinking biological diversity, and the spreading of genetically modified seed.

The Gettle family — masterminds behind Baker Creek — state the catalog’s reason for being right up front: “It is our goal to preserve not only our seed culture, but also all the amazing stories and traditions that make heirloom seeds so special. These seeds bring history alive — literally! Seeds tell a story about our cultures and our families, our states and our nation.”

But the articles also transcend our nation’s borders. The Gettles provide a fascinating profile of committed heirloom seed growers and collectors. There’s a full-page photograph showing a “Bedouin buffet,” an array of exotic fruits and seeds gathered from the Arabian Peninsula by explorer Joseph Simcox. There’s a feature on Asma Eschen who carries heirloom seeds to remote parts of Afghanistan, a job that is not only dangerous but critical in light of recent reports of starvation among Afghani children.

There’s also a lot of practical, hands-on information. An extensive section on canning, freezing, drying and otherwise preserving the harvest, including specific direction for safe canning at high altitude. There are recipes — butternut curry, pea pesto, ground cherry crisp — and short profiles of small farms and farmers. And the catalog often sends you to other (online) places. A two-page spread directs you to Los Angeles gardener Linda Ly’s award-winning blog gardenbetty.com.

We’ve always found seed catalogs to be inspiring. The Whole Seed Catalog is particularly so. Unlike most seed catalogs this one isn’t free (Baker Creek does offer their usual seed catalog as well). But there is a lot of interesting information here. All done with your seed ordering? Turn to the back page to read about efforts to save Syria’s heirloom seeds under the difficult and deadly circumstances the country now faces. Talk about dedication to heirloom gardening!

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All heirloom seed varieties offered by PlanetNatural.com are non-treated, non-GMO and NOT purchased from Monsanto-owned Seminis.
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