New Online Seed Savers Exchange
Most of you probably know by now that I get really excited about different, strange, or new vegetable varieties. (Maybe the reality is that I get bored easily with the regular varieties.) Of course, there is no better way to have crazy varieties to try than to look at heirloom varieties.
Now, the caveat when you start growing heirlooms is that you have to understand that the yield may be lower, the plants may be larger/more vigorous/gangly, and they may be more disease susceptible. Still, boring is not a word you would typically use to describe the experience of growing heirlooms.
If you want to learn about heirlooms and have the opportunity to browse through all the options, Seed Savers Exchange is a great place to start. Seed Savers is based in Decorah, IA at the Heritage Farm. They grow out heirloom seeds that they have collected over the years to produce seeds that you can purchase or that they can store to keep the genetics of those plants available for the future in their seed bank. Visiting the Heritage Farm is definitely on my bucket list!
Seed Savers publishes a catalog of heirloom vegetables, flowers, and herbs that you can purchase from them, which is great. Even better though, is to have the opportunity to browse through their Seed Exchange Yearbook. The yearbook is a huge book where gardeners from all over the world can list the heirloom varieties that they have grown and have seeds to exchange. There are thousands of entries! To get the Yearbook, you have to be a member of Seed Savers.
However, they have just rolled out their new Online Seed Exchange! You can browse through all of the listings to see what is available by visiting http://exchange.seedsavers.org. There are 9,965 tomato listings! This one caught my eye on the first page:
1884 – Strawberry Wedge: indet., regular leaf, 16 oz. wedge shape pink fruit, meaty flesh with little juice, good sweet flavor, good production
A 1 lb, wedge-shaped, pink tomato! Where do I sign up? Of course, that’s the catch. You can now see the listings without having a membership, but you still have to become a member if you want to get these varieties. Some varieties are rare and you have to agree to save seeds to get some seeds to grow out. If you are sad that it is December and can’t wait for spring, then you should click on over and browse through their listings.
If you get serious about trying some heirlooms, you might want to look for seeds that have been grown and saved in more southerly locations, because they will probably be better adapted to the heat of a Kansas summer.