| Mar 28, 2018

Gardeners know that when the days grow longer, the gardening season can’t be far behind, even if the air is still chilled and the ground is persistently frozen. The garden will remain a no-go zone when the ground thaws until it dries up enough that the soil crumbles in the hand like chocolate cake.

But it is already high time to plant seeds indoors, and it is also time to purchase new seed. Buying seed from plants grown in the same region where the seeds will be planted has always been a good strategy for gardeners, and we are lucky in this region that we have three seed companies, Mountain Grove Seed Company in Central Frontenac, Bear Roots in downtown Verona, and Kitchen Table Seed House from Wolfe Island. Two of them have their catalogues up online, at Mountaingroveseed.ca and kitchentableseedhouse.ca and while Bear Roots website is under renovation just email us at Frontenacnews.ca and we’ll send it to you.

We all have our own reasons to plant different things, from flowers to herbs to vegetables. When looking at seed catalogues, there are factors such as how long between planting and harvest that we take into account, the size of the plant, etc., but the main attraction is less rational than that. Based on the description and picture of the flower, we wonder; can we see it in our own garden, can we imagine the aroma. For vegetables and herbs, can we taste them.

Using these highly subjective criteria, here are four of our recommendations from each of the local seed companies.

Here goes; from north to south, starting with Mountain Grove Seed Company.

1. Bean Contesse du Chambord – “very thin, long, green filet bean” - I love filet beans, straight off the vine, or steamed just until the skin darkens, then coated with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and chopped garlic, or with a melted pad of butter.

2. Brocolli Raab, Rapini – not too many vegetables have a fairy tale named after them like Rapini. Sweet and bitter in turn, rapini is a staple in Italian cooking.

3. Peas - Champion of England. Peas can be planted early, next month, and often. Shelling peas takes time, but they are worth it. Eat them steamed with butter or in a curry with new potatoes.

4. Black Krim Tomatoes – Sweeter than sweet, and they do very well in conditions North of 7.

Bear Root Gardens

1. Yakumo Snow Pea. Planted early and trained up a simple trellis, snow peas really do taste best when you eat them on the spot. When cooking with them, take care not to put them into any other dish until the very end. They can’t be under - cooked but are easily overcooked.

2. Red Rocket – Love those tiny, hot peppers

3. Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherry. A fruit that comes in its own package, tastes like nothing else when eaten fresh, and makes a jam that is better than marmalade.

4. Tobolsk. An orange beef steak tomato from Russia. What more can you say.

Kitchen Table Seed House

1. Velvet Queen Sunflower – a large headed maroon coloured sunflower on 5-7 foot stalks. I’ve never seen them except in the catalog but I’d like to.

2. Rosita Eggplant – Our long summers mean that eggplants can grow anywhere in Frontenac County. These look tender and mild. Garden eggplants have a flavour and texture you cannot find in the grocery store

3. Jester Lettuce. We really liked this one last summer as it was delicious and slow to bolt. Our summer planting lasted right through to frost (and frost was very late last fall – mid November)

4. Napoli Paste Tomato and Genovese Basil. Kind of cheating in a 5th selection by putting two together here, but every garden needs Basil and Paste tomatoes for tomato sauce and pesto.

I feel the warm sun beating down already.

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