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The celery leaf plant that I grew in the winter of 2011/12 did so well that this past winter I planted four of them. 4 nice celery leaf plants in the garden.

Celery Leaf Feb 2013

Celery Leaf Feb 2013

It was very easy to grow and I used it a lot in our green salads. stir fry and egg salad.

When the weather starts to warm up  I usually let several plants go to seed so I can collect the seeds to use the next year. The celery leaf was no exception. In fact, it is still sending up flower heads even though I haven’t been watering it. The bees and the butterflies continue to appreciate it.

Some of the seed heads have dried up and a few weeks ago I went out and clipped a few to collect the seeds for planting again this fall. The others, I just left out there. I had plans to get it pulled up and in the compost tumbler, but just haven’t gotten around to it. I am glad.

The one thing I didn’t connect the dots on was celery seed is celery seed! Not sure how I missed that…. but luckily some of my brain waves were firing last week when I was making up the dilled green cherry tomatoes . Celery seed was the one thing I added to Nancy’s recipe… so I guess it was in the front of my mind. Celery seed is celery seed.

Celery seed

Celery seed

I dusted off one of the screens for the drying rack and I marched back out to the garden with the clippers. I clipped several stalks of celery leaf with lovely mature seed heads. We had a sprinkling of rain that morning so those seed heads are quite wet. They are now resting on the drying rack, drying out a bit. I left several mature stalks out in the garden and will let them dry naturally before I cut and bring them in to dry out a bit more.

I have been watching the celery leaf go to seed for a few months. Somehow I never connected “celery seeds” to “celery seeds”

Am I making any sense?

Has something every stared you in the face for a while before you had the “ah ha” moment?

Sincerely, Emily

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No matter how long I garden, I seem to find something new to love every day. Okra has flowers. Squash come in so many different shapes and colors. As do peppers. Corn will mature even if it’s lying flat on the ground (one of those, ahem, accidental discoveries). Healthy, happy water hyacinths (as opposed to the sad ones I’ve had in past years) develop upright leaves with fan-like blades.

There’s more life than plants in a garden, as well. Aphids are a different color, depending which plant they are on. Flies can eat a tomato hollow. There are at least a dozen different types of bees and wasps in my garden, and two or three species of flies. There’s a species of small fly (bee?) that loves the wild onions; there are so many of them you can hear the buzz from 20 feet away, and walking through them sounds like the Amityville Horror.

I’m fascinated by the plants that I know well. No matter how many years it happens, the morning that you get up and the sweet autumn clematis has exploded into blossom astonishes me every year. So does the vigor of a sweet potato vine, or the height of corn, or how a thunderstorm acts like fertilizer, making everything painfully green.

Even pests are fascinating-the tunnel dug by a cicada killer wasp, the jeweled ring of cucumber beetle damage on a leaf, the speed with which blight moves through the tomato patch.

Spring brings its own fascination, especially with our change of zone. Plants that were never perennial before are now coming back. Perennials whose seeds never survived the winter are reseeding now– I now have blue fescue babies. My new strawberries have pink flowers, instead of white. An onion seedhead that I forgot I had planted sprouted with dozens of tiny shoots, as did a tomatillo.

What fascinated you in the garden last year?

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I posted this on my blog a week or two ago and a few people wanted me to post it here as well.

Last year I started paying particular attention the seeds I ordered. I have been trying to buy heirloom seeds from small seed houses that aren’t tied to Monsanto. With the introduction of a new GM eggplant earlier this year and questions by a lot of readers I thought we could talk a little about genetically modified seeds.

bt-brinjal-ht

One hundred fifty years ago the United States didn’t have a commercial seed industry; today we have the world’s largest. Whichever catalog you order from (of the big companies), you’re probably getting the same seed as people who order from the other companies. Virtually every large mail-order garden company in the United States uses a seed broker to supply them with seeds. These broker’s find seeds at a low price then they contract with competing umbrella corporations, selling the same seed to everyone.

Seed_catalogs

With the purchase of Seminis in 1995, Monsanto is now estimated to control between 85-90% of the U.S. nursery market (this includes pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers). By buying up the competition and lobbying the government to make saving seeds illegal, Monsanto has slowly been taking over all of the seeds. I don’t know about you, but from what I’ve heard about how Monsanto terrorized farmers I don’t really want them controlling all the seeds, especially the ones for the things I’d like to grow in my backyard!

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It is estimated that Seminis controls 40 percent of the U.S. vegetable seed market and 20 percent of the world market—supplying the genetics for 55 percent of the lettuce on U.S. supermarket shelves, 75 percent of the tomatoes, and 85 percent of the peppers, with strong holdings in beans, cucumbers, squash, melons, broccoli, cabbage, spinach and peas. The company’s biggest revenue source comes from tomato and peppers seeds, followed by cucumbers and beans.

In large part, these numbers reflect usage of Seminis varieties within large industrial production geared towards supermarkets, but Seminis seeds are also widely used by regional conventional and organic farmers as well as market and home gardeners. Johnny’s, Territorial, Fedco, Nichol’s, Rupp, Osborne, Snow, and Stokes are among the dozens of commercial and garden seed catalogs that carry the more than 3,500 varieties that comprise Seminis’ offerings. This includes dozens of All-American Selections and an increasing number of varieties licensed to third parties for certified organic seed production.

The brand-name companies under Seminis (such as Petoseed) have developed, released, produced and distributed varieties common to the market farmer and even home gardener. These include Big Beef, Sweet Baby Girl and Early Girl Tomatoes; Simpsons Elite and Red Sails Lettuces; Red Knight and King Arthur Peppers; Gold Rush and Blackjack Zucchinis; Stars & Stripes Melon; and Bush Delicata and Early Butternut squashes. (Rodale Institute)

onion_seeds_in_hand

What does this mean for us as gardeners and consumers? This means we’re losing our choices of what we want to buy and grow. Thousands of varieties are disappearing. In 1981 there were approximately 5,000 varieties of vegetable seeds to choose from in U.S. catalogs, today there are less than 500. For someone like me that’s very sad. I love to grow the weird interesting things that are difficult to find.

spinach_seed_packet

So what are we supposed to do? Just because you buy seeds from places that offer non-GMO seeds, this doesn’t mean that Monsanto doesn’t own the rights to some of the seeds they sell. Buying organic doesn’t help you in this situation either. Here are a few of the varieties they own:

Beans: EZ Gold, Eureka, Goldrush, Kentucky King, Lynx, Bush Blue Lake 94

Carrot: Nutri-Red, Sweet Sunshine, Karina, Chantenay #1, Chantilly, Lariat

Cucumber: Dasher II, Daytona, Turbo, Speedway, Sweet Slice, Yellow Submarine, Sweeter Yet

Lettuce:
Esmeralda, Lolla Rossa (and derivatives), Red Sails, Red Tide, Blackjack, Summer time, Monet, Baby Star, Red Butterworth

Melons: Alaska, Bush Whopper, Casablanca, Dixie Jumbo, Early Crisp

Onion: Arsenal, Hamlet, Red Zeppelin, Mars, Superstar, Candy

Peppers: Valencia, Camelot, King Arthur, Red Knight, Aristotle, Northstar, Biscane, Caribbean Red, Serrano del Sol, Early Sunsation, Fat and Sassy

Spinach: Melody, Unipack 151Spinach, Bolero, Cypress

Squash: Autumn Delight, Bush Delicata (producer-vendor), Really Big Butternut, Early Butternut, Buckskin Pumpkin (AAS), Seneca Autumn, Table ace

Tomato: Big Beef, Beefmaster, First Lady I and II, Early Girl, Pink Girl, Golden Girl, Sunguard, Sun Chief Sweet, Baby Girl, Sweet Million

Watermelon: Royal Flush, Royal Star (pet), Stargazer, Starbright, Stars and Stripes, Yellow doll, Tiger

Zucchini/Summer Squash: Blackjack, Daisy, Fancycrook, Sunny Delight, Lolita, Sungreen

baker_creek_heirloom_seed_order
So what do we do if we don’t want to grow GM vebetables, or support Monsanto and their bullying? We can buy open pollinated heirloom seeds from places like Freedom Seeds, Seed Savers, Sustainable Seed Company and Baker Creek (along with other places, if you have good seed houses make sure you list them in the comments and I’ll start a resources section that lists them all). Some small seed houses offer both kinds of seeds. I was chatting with Renee of Renee’s Garden and she explained to me why they still carry some seeds owned by Monsanto:

There are many excellent hybrids that were bred in the 60s and 70s that many organic farmers and small-scale farmers use routinely…. (for example it’s hard to beat Early Girl and Big Beef for wide adaptability all over the country, good flavor and, very importantly for gardeners in the hot and humid areas, excellent disease resistance ) Unfortunately, with all this controversy floating about, sometimes home gardeners don’t realize that hybrids has nothing at all to do with genetic engineering, which is a very different thing.

For my seed company, I pay the most attention to what does best in home gardens; so I sell many open pollinated varieties, lots of heirlooms, and also some excellent hybrids. A lot of the hybrids I sell are from Europe where flavor and wide adaptability are important considerations. We trial our varieties for several seasons before I introduce them and I
write my own packet backs based on our growing experience and we have also trial gardens in Vermont Seattle in Florida so we can be assured things will grow well all over before we introduce them.

I think she raises a great point, hybrids aren’t genetically engineered. Some hybrids are very valuable for commercial organic growing and can be very benficial for home gardeners, especially if you struggle with a specific pest or disease. You may need to grow a hybrid if you want to grow a specific vegetable in your climate.

traded_seeds

I’m not necessarily against growing hybrids, although I think they’re a symptom of the loss of regional seeds. Long ago people grew seeds and traded with neighbors. Each area had seeds that did well in their climate and could fight off diseases and pests specific to their area of the country. Sadly, we’ve lost the treasure of regional seeds and with them a lot of regional gardening wisdom. We no longer have neighbors we can get local seeds from or talk to about which kind of cucumber does best in our climate. We’re left to guess by what looks good in the seed catalogs, sometimes they work beautifully, sometimes they fail miserably. Occasionally, we stumble upon an old timer that still grows old varieties and can tell us about them (check your local farmer’s markets).

wintersown_seedstons_of_tomatoes

This is one of those areas I haven’t fully made up my mind about yet. On one hand I can see the benefits of hybrids, on the other I really hate supporting Monsanto in any way at all, even if it is by only buying 1-2 packets of their seeds. I’m sure with enough trial and error I could find a viable open pollinated option for just about any vegetable I grow. I’ll keep using up the hybrid seeds that I have, but I’ll slowly phase them out. I really want to grow only seeds open pollinated seeds that I can save seeds from if I’d like to. Since I am in the place where I don’t “need” to grow my own food, I am able to experiment with varieties and experience loss. I realize some market gardeners and growers aren’t in this position. I also want to support open pollinated seeds because I want to ensure their survival. Sure, I don’t want ‘Early Girl’ tomatoes to be lost for all those that love them, but my ‘Cold Set’ performed beautifully for me here in my cold climate and I’ll keep growing them instead.

What about you, where do you stand on this issue? Do you have any great recommendations for small seed houses that aren’t owned/operated by large companies? Any great companies that specialize in open pollinated heirloom varieties?

A few good articles for more reading on this topic:

  • Civil Eats: Why Seed Consolidation Matters by Paula Crossfield
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