Starting From Seed
Is there any act more satisfying than growing your own food? From the very beginning, when visions of vegetables dance in your head, to the magical moment you place a platter of just-picked salad triumphantly on the dinner table, tending an edible garden is a rewarding endeavor.
Of course, it all starts with the seeds you choose. This year, instead of grabbing packets off the rack at your local big-box store, why not select some truly special seeds? This roundup of 10 seed companies, each with a slightly different specialty, can offer the opportunity to grow incredible plants that will feed your soul even as they feed your family.
Gardeners who have visited Monticello, the beautiful Virginia property that was home to Thomas Jefferson, no doubt recall with pleasure its impressive vegetable gardens, vineyards, orchards, and flower beds. Happily, it’s possible to grow the very same plants that once graced Monticello’s tables and plates, thanks to Monticello’s Center for Historic Plants and the seeds it sells. Check out the hard-to-find heirloom varieties or let historians do the heavy lifting and shop their curated collections.
Row 7 Seeds
Do you find yourself using terms like “terroir,” “foraged,” “nose-to-tail,” and of course, the ever-popular “farm-to-table?” Are you more apt to harvest, craft, plate, and savor food than to grow, cook, serve, and eat it? If so, head over to Row 7 Seeds. If not, head over to Row 7 Seeds anyway, because their offerings will tempt anyone who appreciates high-quality ingredients, no matter their language. A collaboration between farmers, plant breeders, and chefs, this seed company is on a mission to cultivate deliciousness at every step of the growing process. Call it “seed to serving.”
Botany is a hot aesthetic nowadays. Charming, often hand-drawn illustrations of nature’s artistic offerings—runner beans’ trailing tendrils, brilliantly hued root vegetables, the show-stopping fractals found in romanesco—have been cropping up on tea towels, bed linens, face masks, framed prints, and clothing. Step into the kitchen of any trendy eatery and chances are you’ll see at least one chef whose forearm sports a root-veggie tattoo.
While this earthy aesthetic is all the rage, it’s nothing new at Botanical Interests. This family-owned Colorado company has been illustrating its seed packets with gorgeous artists’ renderings for a quarter of a century—and its devoted customers know that the resulting fruits and veggies are every bit as beautiful, not to mention delectable.
Seed Savers Exchange
According to its mission statement, Seed Savers Exchange “stewards America’s culturally diverse and endangered garden and food crop legacy.” To the uninformed consumer whose food is “sourced” solely from the supermarket, this might sound frivolous. However, consider that fully three-quarters of Planet Earth’s edible plants have been lost in the past century.
The resulting ecosystem is incredibly fragile, and so it’s hardly hyperbole to say that the future of humankind is riding on the success of Seed Savers and similar organizations. Do your part by purchasing their high-quality, time-honored heirloom seeds for your garden.
Kitazawa Seed Company
Calling all culinary gardeners who reach for chopsticks rather than forks, whose table boasts several kinds of soy sauce but no salt shakers, and whose hand-hammered wok takes pride of place in the kitchen. You would do well to spend a significant portion of your seed budget at Kitazawa Seed Company. Since 1917, they have been supplying home cooks and commercial kitchens alike with traditional Asian vegetables. Grow your own pak choi, perilla, sesame, or shishito pepper. Your stir-fries and curries will never be the same again!
Seeds from Italy
Maybe you’re not especially enamored with Asian flavors. Perhaps your kitchen is redolent of scents like bright, herbaceous basil, earthy oregano, and sweetly acidic tomatoes melting into a rich red sauce. If you live for linguini, if rigatoni is your ride or die, if you can never say no to gnocchi, Seeds from Italy will be your one-stop seed shop. With more than 450 varieties of heirloom seeds hailing from bel paese, you can turn your garden into an old-world paradise, then do Nonna proud in the kitchen.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
Begun as a hobby in the late 1990s, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds now offers an astonishing 1,000 varieties of vegetable, flower, and herb seeds. Specializing in 19th-century seeds from Europe and Asia, Baker Creek carries everything from Agastache to zinnias. (Ever cooked with purple tomatillos or black garbanzo beans?) Although they do a brisk business online, visitors to their Mansfield, Missouri, headquarters might tour a pioneer village replete with an apothecary, old-fashioned mercantile, blacksmith shop, historic livestock, and donation-based vegan restaurant.
Starting from scratch? Want to source garlic bulbs, sweet potato slips, seed potatoes, berry bushes, or chestnuts? Fedco Seeds can supply all of these and much more. Fedco also markets fruit trees, vines, and ground covers. Homesteaders who are serious about living close to the land can try their hand at growing indigo or madder-to-dye fibers, or raise calendula and other medicinal plants.
Wild Boar Farms
Year in, year out, tomatoes remain one of the most popular plants among gardeners of all stripes, and it’s little wonder why. They are easy and inexpensive to grow, and a delicious and versatile vegetable—ahem, fruit—to cook and eat. The difficult part? Deciding which kinds to cultivate. Start your search at Wild Boar Farms, where tomatoes reign supreme—this small-but-mighty company offers more than 130 varieties. With names like Cosmic Eclipse, Summer of Love, and Kaleidoscopic Jewel, not to mention exotic appearances and incredible flavor, you’ll never go back to boring ol’ beefsteak.
Seeds of Change
The process of growing a plant from a seed is a timeless analogy, and Seeds of Change recognizes that today’s gardeners don’t just want to plant and grow food to sustain themselves. They want to cultivate future generations’ connections to the earth. That’s why, for every packet of seeds sold, this socially responsible company will sow seeds, both literal and metaphorical, through a school- or community-based growing program. Support their mission to put more plants on America’s plates by putting their organic seeds in your garden.
Have you ever been tempted to buy one of those products you see advertised on TV infomercials? Sure, the spokesperson swears it does everything (and more!) but can it really live up to the hype? Sometimes, yes! Click through now to see some of our favorites.