Last week on the Local Food Report I learned about seed libraries. This week, I visited one—one of the first of its kind in our area. This March, a group called the Cape Cod Food Hub put together a seed catalog at Sturgis Public Library in Barnstable, and another one at the Brooks Free Library in Harwich. So far the two libraries have about 60 participants planning to grow and save seed this summer.
Tara Laidlaw is one of the organizers, and here are here top three picks for home gardeners from the seed library this year, in her words.
Rattlesnake snap bean — Green pods have streaks of purple, beans are mostly tan with purple-brown flecks but some have the opposite coloration. They have a vining/climbing habit so they're great for smaller garden spaces, as opposed to bush beans which take up more real estate in a garden bed. They have good drought tolerance which is great in our fast-draining sandy soils.
E.H. Note: We planted these last year and loved them, both for their taste and their looks. Their vining habit also makes them great candidates for a bean teepee! We just put our structure up and are planning to plant as soon as the soil warms up to about 70 degrees F. Thank you to Gail Ferguson who recently showed me how to get reports on Cape Cod soil temps here by clicking on the Current Landscape Message in the upper right corner. You can check out the temps that different plants like for germination on this handy chart.
Goldie ground cherry — Large sprawling bushes bear a ton of yellow-gold fruits in their own little lantern-shaped husks, and when the husk is dry and papery (not green and leafy) you know the fruit is ripe. They have a pineapple-tomato flavor and make a great crumble/crisp, preserve, or chocolate fondue dipping item. They'll self-sow pretty prolifically. Seeds are slow to germinate and need lots of warmth.
Red Russian kale — I promise I'm not just suggesting this because I have so much seed!! Overwinters great on the Cape, I didn't even mulch in the fall and they popped right up last month. Beautiful purple stems and veins in green leaves. Makes a great full-size leaf in the fall, produces sweet leaves from frost til serious snow (and sometimes even through a layer of snow!), looks dead through the deep winter, then comes back with delicious tender baby leaves in the spring. They were the first green thing in my garden this year!
There's also a new seed library at the Brooks Free Library in Harwich and a seed swap at the Truro Public Library. Happy planting!