Today I had my favourite visit from the postman. It was this year's order from Phoenix Seeds. The joy of mail order, little presents arriving in the post! And then another truck rumbled up the driveway with two ENORMOUS hessian sacks of seed potatoes. Unpacking these two deliveries was like entering a wonderland. The seeds, oh my, did I get carried away? 68 packets, when I already have a seed cupboard (a dead fridge, a great, insulated seed storage unit, just add mouse proof ventilation) full of saved seed. But I always need more, there are many little treasures that I haven't tried yet, and some seeds it takes skill to save like my Cucurbits. I grow them in shared beds and they are a free loving bunch and if you don't use techniques to prevent cross pollination you end up with a mish-mash of progeny that may be nothing like their parents. So I cheat, and buy fresh seed each year so I know that my squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchinis and melons will all behave as they should. One day I'll pick some favourites, do the hard yards to ensure purity of pollination and save some seed.
|Sapphire, Cranberry Red and Purple Congo potatoes|
|Singing children and 'George' tomato seeds.|
|'Freckles' cos lettuce.|
The daisy family, Asteraceae, includes chicory, globe and Jerusalem artichokes, lettuce, salsify, radicchio, Calendula and sunflowers. Many species in this family have winged seeds that are designed to disperse in the wind and germinate where they fall. To germinate them successfully they are best only covered thinly after sowing as they seem to germinate better when exposed to light.
Scarlet runner, Borlotti, Roi de Caraboi snow pea,
and Aquadulche broad bean
If I had to pick a favourite family, it might be Apiaceae. This family is distinguished by its fabulous umbelliferous flowers, yes I know, a big botanical word but it's a big, intricate, beautiful flower. This family includes carrots, dill, coriander, fennel, parsnip, angelica, sweet cicely, cumin, caraway, chervil, mitsuba, celery, celeriac and Mexican coriander.
|Osaka giant purple-leaf mustard.|
Brassicaceae is a really diverse and important family. Delicious, nutritious and ever so varied. The sweet, crisp swollen stems of kohl rabi, the meaty, satisfying greens of the kales. Piquant rocket, and its punchy cousin wild rocket, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and wasabi. Broccoli in all its colourful manifestations, birthday-balloon-bright radishes, and the textural divinity of Asian greens.
It's almost impossible to imagine cooking without the aromatic gifts of Lamiaceae. This family is rich in aromatic oils that provide us with so many distinctive flavours. Mints, thyme, rosemary, sage, shiso, oregano, marjoram, basil in all its forms, savoury, and many, many others. Some species such as shiso and chia have large amounts of omega 3 fatty acids in their seeds, others like thyme have great antibacterial properties and make a wonderful tea to help heal a sore throat.
|Sugar baby watermelon, Thelma Sanders sweet potato Winter squash, Parisian pickling cucumber and Kakai pumpkin, a variety grown for its hull-less seeds.|
There are a lot more seeds in my collection that have been piled in a random box as there are only one or two representatives of their family in my collection, like sweetcorn, miners lettuce, borage and purslane. This Spring and Summer many of these seed grown delights will be available for you at the Tas Farm Gate market, either as plants for you to grow your own treats, or as produce to have fun with in your kitchen. I'll also have many others, plants that are produced from cuttings or division and some locally collected Hobart native plants to bring the bush into your garden, but that's a story for another day!
I'll be at Tas Farm Gate this Sunday the 1st of August and the 15th of August from 9am till 1pm. Please come and have a chat about your kitchen or garden!