Food of the (near) Future

Despite the fact that I haven't seen but a mere patch of ground at our home since prior to Christmas, despite the fact that we still have a foot of snow almost everywhere I look, despite the fact that just looking at flip flops gives me chills, the eternal optimist in me spent the balance of the weekend ordering thousands of heirloom vegetable seeds for this year's crop at our little micro farm.

Ideally, if the sun and rain cooperate, (and the sheep don't bust through the fence and help themselves to beds upon beds of gorgeous heirloom kale, leeks, peppers, brussels sprouts, beets, salad greens, and herbs, as happened briefly on one unfortunate day in October), those seeds and their resulting crop will then become a huge percentage of our food for the coming year, and many of the ingredients that I will cook for you here.

If you are bitten by the promise of dirt under your fingernails and eating within a five minute radius bug too, here are a few of my best resources for heirloom seeds and plants.  Each offer a mind-bloggling assortment of vegetables, fruit, and herbs.  They also fiercely protect seeds of endangered heirloom varieties so generations to come will have a vast diversity of produce available as well.

Now is the time to start many kinds of vegetable seeds indoors for transplant outside when it gets warmer.  Also, some of the more popular varieties tend to sell out as it gets closer to summer.  So take a look and dream of warm tomatoes.

Seeds Savers Exchange: www.seedsavers.org
A non-profit organization started in 1975, it is a collection of farmers and gardeners committed to sharing, and rescuing, rare seed varieties. I get the majority of my vegetable and herb seeds from here each year. I love supporting them, and the selection is thrilling.

Territorial Seed Company: www.territorialseed.com
A small family-owned seed company out of Oregon, they have an impressive array of vegetable, flower, and herb seeds and plants, as well as a great selection of unique and useful tools and equipment. My seeds from here have always done exceptionally well.  They also offer that any of their customer service staff can and will answer any of your gardening questions.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds: www.rareseeds.com
With over 1,400 kinds of seeds offered, their impressive catalogue is sure to help you discover something you never knew existed. However, I will add that I received a certified letter from the federal government two seasons ago, threatening me with a $250,000 fine for transporting the seeds of a pea-sized green Thai eggplant I ordered from their catalogue, apparently not allowed in New York, over state lines. Let's hope they've better organized their files, and are no longer endangering any other unsuspecting gardeners.

The Maine Potato Lady: www.mainepotatolady.com
I just placed my first order with them yesterday. They have come highly recommended from trusted friends, and have one of the best selections of seed potatoes I've seen. Many varieties have already sold out.

Silver Heights Farm Nursery: www.silverheightsfarm.com
If you are in New York State, this exquisite heirloom nursery, owned and run by our friend Trina Pilonero, has one of the most magnificent selections of plants imaginable. Going there to pick out my order is my favorite day of the year. We generally grow about 40 different varieties of tomatoes alone from Trina (some shown above). The nursery, is located in Callicoon Center, NY and is a gem of a field trip, but Trina is also at the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan on Wednesdays and Saturdays. She has a wealth of information, in addition to a treasure trove of plants, and if you have the opportunity you should absolutely visit.

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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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