Still, it's seed ordering time. I placed my order on Sunday. While the wind howled outside, I paged through my mom's Fedco catalog, circling Rattlesnake Pole Bean and Nantes Fancy Carrot OG. I read the descriptions while Alex entered the quantities into the computer, and by bedtime we had a very impressive list. Very soon we should be receiving seeds for four kinds of beans, sugar snaps peas, dark star watermelons, two kinds of cucumbers, a zucchini, a radish, a beet, some winter squash, and much, much more. I always over order, except for the one year I under ordered, and I now over order on purpose. Running out of seed is a terrible thing.
My friend Victoria subscribes to the same philosophy. "Always order twenty percent more than you need," she tells me. "You never know when a row's not going to germinate or you're going to plant too early."
She runs a market garden, H & H Farm, with her husband. They grow for the farmers' market in Wellfleet, and I went over to talk with her about her seed order the other day. She told me she likes three catalogs: Fedco, High Mowing, and Tomato Fest (which she calls "a candy store for tomato growers"). I asked her what she's excited about growing this year, and here's what she told me:
1) Okra. Okra is a southern crop—"a trip," Victoria says. She grew it last year but planted too early and lost a few rows to a cold snap, and then too late for the 90 day variety. This year she's trying a dwarf called Cajun Jewel which only takes 65 days. As for eating, she says okra's good for frying or cooking in gumbo.
2) Fish Pepper. Fish is a mutation of a Serrano pepper that's shaped like...you guessed it! A fish. Apparently it was popular in African American communities near Baltimore and Philadelphia in the early 1900s. The peppers are green and white striped, turning to orange and brown striped, and finally to red. They're about two inches long and fairly spicy, and they're supposed to pair well with shellfish. Victoria's thinking they'd be good in a mignonette sauce to serve with oysters.
3) Rainbow Lacinato Kale. This is a cross between your traditional Dinosaur kale and Redbor. Redbor is all red, Dino is green, and together you get red, blue, and purple with the usual bumpy Dino leaf. The variety is cold-hardy, productive, and slow to bolt. Victoria says she's sold!
4) Sunchokes. Sunchokes are tubers. Apparently the first European to spot them was Samuel de Champlain, who saw them in a Native American garden on a visit to the Cape. They're native, but they're also invasive in the sense that they'll take over, for years on end, wherever you plant them. Victoria says she's okay with this, because not only do they produce beautiful yellow flowers, but the roots are also good food. They're starchy, like potatoes, and can be sliced thin and pickled for sushi, mashed, or made into gnocchi.