Baker Creek Seeds

As people begin shift through seed catalogs and displays that are starting to pop up at stores across the country, I wanted to take some time to recommend some of my favorite sources for seeds. Right at the top of that list is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They are one of the most fascinating seed companies I have come across. Their catalog is amazing, full of 1500 rare, non-GMO seeds and stories to read. The catalog has a very homey feeling to it, down to the clothes the people in it are wearing and the pictures of cute kids holding different vegetables. It’s a popular free catalog that has already run out of copies to order in 2014! They also have their “The Whole Seed Catalog” that you can purchase for $7.95.

So what is so special about this company.

1. They offer heirloom seeds.
2. Their seeds are non-GMO
3. The unique seeds that I have found nowhere else
4. Passion

Passion
I want to start with the last one first – passion. This company is passionate about their seeds. It shows in the catalog. It shows on their facebook page, which they regularly update with their journeys around the world, collecting seeds. In the last two months I have seen them show pictures of harvesting bananas with orange fruit, tubers of all sorts of colors and sizes, Banana passion fruit, and much more. They recently talked about this man who grows Okra in Panama and he uses the seeds as coffee beans! He roasts them and grinds them up as a substitute for coffee. They will have those seeds available to purchase in the future.

Heirloom seeds
Everyone hear the words “heirloom” tossed around nowadays. Why should I care? Heirloom seeds are special because they have been passed down, they have stood the test of time. They are grown not just because they will bring the most profit but because they are the tasty, or good for you, or just add beauty to your garden. Many have stories behind them. Many are almost lost forever. What Baker Creek is offering is a way to preserve agricultural diversity. Big agriculture just wants to grow what will bring the most money into their bank accounts, which is not a very diverse selection of crops.

Non-GMO
Genetically modified seeds are taking over the country. Many are concerned about the health risks they pose, me being one of them. The big companies are growing more and more GMO plants all the time. Without people trying to preserve non-GMO seeds, we could see non-GMO varieties quickly wiped out. Each year Baker Creek is finding it harder and harder to offer GMO free corn seeds as Monsanto’s GMO corn is cross pollinating with heirloom, non-GMO varieties. Since corn is wind pollinated, it’s easy for this to happen and with over 90% of the corn grown in the United States being GMO, you can see where that would be a problem. That is why Baker Creek tests their corn samples to and they only offer varieties that do not test positive for GMOs.

Unique, Rare Seeds
Through their travel around the world, you can find seeds in their catalog that you cannot find anywhere else. One of the funniest parts of the catalog was going through the melon section. So many varieties, shapes, colors, and flavors I have never seen anywhere else. They had some unique tomato varieties from Russia and the Ukraine that would be fun to grow. They offer the hottest pepper on record “Trinidad Scorpion” coming in at a whopping 1.2 million Scovilles (units that measure heat of peppers). To compare, a Habanero is 350,000. They also offer pink bananas, the peel is a bright pink color and the fruit contains a ton of seeds.

These are great reasons I will plant seeds from Baker Creek this year. Here are a few specific varieties I am looking into:

Golden Sweet Snow Peas | Click here for ordering info
A snow pea that is a brilliant yellow color. It said to be more than just a novelty.

Black Icicle Tomatoes | Click here for ordering info
A dark colored tomato in the shape of a icicle that ranked high in brix (sugar), lycopene, and potaasium. It was 2nd overall in a nutritional study done on tomatoes mentioned in the catalog.

Yellow Wonder Wild Strawberry | Click here for ordering
A light yellow colored wild strawberry that may be small but packs more flavor than you would ever find in the grocery store.


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I am getting ready to make my seed purchase for this year’s gardening season. When selecting seeds for my home garden they are a couple of things I look for.

1. Unique varieties
I want to grow stuff that I am not going to be able to find easily in stores or at the market. I love cooked carrots, especially when you have a mix of different colors. But I only find them in a store on a rare occasion.

2. Non-GMO Seeds
We get enough GMO products in the store. I certainly don’t need to grow any. So I am careful to make sure that the seeds I buy are not genetically modified.

3. Buying Seeds from a Company That Deserves Support
I want to support a company that deserves my support. I don’t want to support a company who is associated with Monsanto either directly or indirectly. I want to support a company who is out there trying to do what’s best for the seeds and for bringing unique and heirloom varieties to the public.

Buy from the Seed Savers Exchange
These three reasons are why I am buying most of my seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange this year. They are a non-profit organization that is out to preserve diversity of seeds. They don’t sell GMO seeds. They offer many heirloom varieties. Most people might think heirloom is a buzz word used by people to sell something at a higher price, often heirloom tomatoes for example are priced higher per pound than varieties that aren’t considered heirlooms. What I like about heirlooms is that they generally are more flavorful. They are varieties that have been passed down for decades. Because they taste good. It’s not just about what produces best. If I am going to take the time and effort to grow something I want it to be out of this world amazing in taste.

More About Seed Savers
Seed Savers has a membership program that you can be a part of. If you are able to you can even save your seeds to be apart of the exchange but that’s not required for membership. You can buy seeds from them without a membership as well ((I don’t have one). They have a catalog you can view online or have mailed to your house. It’s full of awesome things. The advantage members get is they get access to even more varieties of seeds – more than you probably could imagine.

What Seeds I Am Buying This Year
Here is a list of what I plan to purchase from them this year. When the growing starts I will be covering each variety with pictures and updates on the process.

Arugula, Apollo
Bean, Climbing French OG
Brussels Sprouts, Long Island
Carrot, Dragon
Carrot, Jaune du Doubs
Corn, Golden Bantam OG
Cucumber, Holland White OG
Cucumber, Parisian Pickling OG
Lettuce, Bronze Arrowhead
Lettuce, Crisp Mint OG
Lettuce, Red Iceberg
Pea, Green Arrow OG
Squash, Long Island Cheese
Tomato, Kellogg’s Breakfast
Tomato, Speckled Roman OG

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Everyone seems to associated carrots with the color orange. The orange carrot is the most common colored carrot. However it’s not the only colored carrot. You can find carrots that are white, yellow, red, gold, and purple. Sometimes you find them in specality grocery stores or the farmer’s market, but they aren’t always easy to find. Why would you bother? First, I think it’s fun to grow different colors of vegetables. If you have kids, even the more fun. Second, the flavor varies in each colored variety. It may not be so much on their own, but when you cook up a mix of a variety of colors, the flavor differences shine and just make for a more complex side dish (I looked cooked carrots!). Also the color is so visually appealing!

Last season, I grew some different colored carrots in my garden and I am planning the same this year. I have looked at different seed catalogs and I find that Johnny’s Selected Seeds seem to have the best selection, I plan on buying my carrot seeds from them. Here is a list of what they have to offer.

White Satin
These carrots are pure white in color.

Yellow Sun
These carrots are a bright yellow color. They grow a little bit shorter (6-7 in) than the other varieties listed here. They also have a rather blunt end, meaning the carrot is mostly the same thickness throughout, which is a plus for even cooking.

YellowPak
Another yellow that is more of a solid yellow, not quite as bright, but still beautiful. Said to have a good flavor.

Rainbow
This is a variety that produces different colored carrots, ranging from almost white to a darker yellow. I grew these last year and they were alright, but I want to do a little more variety in color this year. But they are a good choice if you only plan to grow one variety. You can still get different colors.

Atomic Red
This is variety is at the top of my list to grow this season. They are a beautiful red color. They are said to have a strong flavor. Typically the more orange a carrot the stronger the flavor and when you reach red, then it’s really strong. They recommend cooking these carrots to deepen color and improve the flavor.

Purple Haze
These carrots are purple on the outside but orange on the inside. The purple color will fade when cooked. For raw eating they get an “A” for presentation.

Deep Purple
These carrots are as purple as purple can get. Their color will fade some when cooked, but not completely.

Have fun this year. Give a try at growing some different colored carrots. Great for the eyes and for the tongue.

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I love looking at the new seed catalogs and see what kinds of neat things they have come up with now. Yesterday, I spoke about the white strawberries you could buy from Burpee. Today’s unique discovery is Flowering Brussels Sprouts. They are a combination of kale and Brussels sprouts. They grow on a stalk just like any other Brussels sprout, except the sprouts open up like flowers to resemble like mini kale.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds are the offering these for the first time this year. You get the seeds as part of their Kaleidoscope Mix, which includes 3 different colors. The drawback to these flowering sprouts is that they aren’t as cold tolerant as their kale and Brussels sprouts counterparts.

I am not planning to try these myself this year. I am going to try growing Brussels sprouts for the first time this year, but I want to stick with some a little more traditional. I would love to give them a try sometime.

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It is that time of year again, when all the seed catalogs are being send out to get us gardeners excited about another planting season. I like to take some time in the winter to cover some of the new or unique items that I have stumped across. I am going to start with some new strawberry plants available through Burpee. They have a collection this year where you can get 3 strawberry plants and each plant produces a different color strawberry. You might be thinking, wait I thought strawberries were all red. However that is not the case. The most unusual of this collection is called a Pineberry. This strawberry is white with red seeds. I heard about these strawberries about a year ago. They aren’t very common, so your only way to find them might be planting a plant yourself. The plants themselves aren’t as prolific as other strawberry varieties which is why you aren’t likely to see them commercially sold anytime soon (if you do, they will come with a high price tag). The plants also produce small berries, seen as another negative in the commercial biz. Besides the unique color, they are suppose to have a unique pineapple-like flavor.

The more traditional looking strawberry that comes in this collection is called Elan F1. It bears fruit from July to October. So you can enjoy your strawberries over a longer period of time.

The third member of this threesome is the Purple Wonder. This is a Junebearing strawberry plant. Although looking at the picture, I might say these are more dark red than purple, but it’s still a nice contrast to have along with the traditional red and the white Pineberry.

You can buy the plants separately from Burpee for $9.99 or get all these plants in a collection for $18.99. I think it would be a fun collection to grow. I am not sure how much taste difference your getting (the Pineberry flavor could be good), but I think it’s visualizing appealing to eat a bowl of strawberries of three different colors. I am sure your kids would love it. This is why I love serving green beans and carrots together. Look at the picture on the right, doesn’t that just make you more enticed to eat your veggies?

If anyone has grown any of these varieties of berries before, please share with us your experiences in the comment section below.

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Downtown Home Garden For all my readers in the Ann Arbor and surrounding areas, I wanted to share with you a great place to get seed potatoes. I am going to grow potatoes for the first time this year. I purchased three varieties this past week at the Downtown Home and Garden store located at 210 S. Ashley St. in downtown Ann Arbor. I picked out some Adirondack Blue ($2/lb), German Butterball ($2/lb), and Red Pontiac potatoes ($.65/lb). I choose these varieties because they are harder to find and more expensive. They also were selling these varieties for between $.65-$2 per pound: Irish Cobbler, Kennebec, Onaway, Red Norland, Russet Burbank, Superior, and Yukon Gold. They also will have fingerling and organic potatoes coming in soon. These prices beat the what I have seen in catalogs, where most potatoes were going for between $3-5 per pound, and that’s not including the shipping. So if you live near Ann Arbor and want to grow some potatoes, I highly recommend you get your seed potatoes from Downtown Home and Garden. They also have their seed packets for 25% off. They have seeds from companies like Burpee, Johnny’s, Seeds of Change, Renee’s, and the Cook’s Garden.

Check out my earlier post for other sources for buying fingerling potatoes and to learn why you shouldn’t grow potatoes you buy in the store.

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polebeans2 Beans are one of the simplest things to grow. I recommend them as the first vegetable for a first time gardener. But once you have mastered the bush bean, it’s time to move on to pole beans. They aren’t hard to grow at all, but they are a step up from bush beans, as you have to provide support for them to grow on. Why bother growing pole beans? Check out my reasons below.

Reasons for Growing Pole Beans over Bush Beans
1. Space
Since pole beans grow verticially they take up a lot less space than bush beans do.

2. Easier to Pick
Once again that vertical growth makes the bean easier to get it without having to bend over and search through the leaves.

3. Taste?
I have heard many people say that the pole beans simply taste better than bush beans.

Sources to Buy Pole Beans
Below you will find a list of some great sources you can get pole bean seeds from. There are a lot of options out there, so it’s good to do some research before you buy.

Johnny’s
1. Fortex (7-11″) $3.95/packet
2. Garden of Eden (broad, flat pods, 6″ long) $3.95/packet
3. Marvel of Venice (Yellow, Italian style, 8-9″ long) $3.95/packet
4. Northeaster (Roma-type bean, grows to 8″ long) $3.95/packet

Burpee
1. White Half Runner (4 1/2″ long) $3.95/2 oz packet
2. Blue Lake (6″ long, stringless) $3.25/2 oz packet
3. Fortex (anywhere between 6 to 11″ long) $5.50/2 oz packet
4. Kentucky Blue (7″ long) $3.95/2 oz packet
5. Kentucky Wonder (8″ meaty pods) $3.25/2 oz packet
6. Romano (6″ stringless, flat pod) $3.25/2 oz packet

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds
1. Blue Lake (4-7″ long) $2.95/packet of about 150 seeds
2. Emerite Filet (filet or haricot vert bean that is also a pole bean) $4.95/packet of about 60 seeds
3. Tamara (flattned, oval, Romano-type bean, can grow to a foot long) $3.95/packet of about 50 seeds
4. Purple Podded (5″ to 7″ long and purple!) $3.45/packet of 75 seeds
5. Orient Wonder (can grow to as long as 36″!, but best at 18″) $4.45/packet of 175 seeds

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planet-natural-logo While doing some research this morning, I came across Planet Natural’s website. They are a company that sells natural and organic products for your home, lawn, and garden. They sell only heirloom seeds. What is the big deal about heirloom seeds? They have been used for years because of their quality. They might have great flavor, or grow well or are beautiful to look at. They have not been genetically engineered in any way. You are not likely to find anything grown from heirloom seeds in your grocery store. The grocery store is out to make money, so they want the best looking, longest shelf life, most productive, cheapest produce they can get. Flavor does not usually make the list. If you ate grocery store tomatoes your whole life you would never know the difference between them and home grown heirloom tomatoes.

If you are looking to buy some heirloom seeds for your garden this year, check out Planet Natural’s website. They have a great selection with everything from peppers to kale to melons. And the best part is that all heirloom seeds are shipped for FREE!

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Yellow Snow Peas I received a catalog from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds this evening. I wanted to share something I discovered – yellow edible pod peas. These are snow peas. They are the flat peas that you can eat pod and all. Yellow split peas are readily available, but I have never seen a fresh yellow pea. The variety is called “Golden India Edible Pea Pod”. It is an heirloom variety. The vines can grow to 6′ tall, so they need some kind of support. No matter what heights the peas I am growing are suppose to grow to, I always give them support. Not only are these peas are unique color, but the flowers that appear before the peas are two-toned purple. Growing these would be a beautiful addition to my garden. Plus I like to grow different varieties of peas in the same area, and if I had yellow peas it would be easy to tell which peas are which.

Besides just the appearance outdoors, I live different colored vegetables for indoor use (that is cooking). I love making up a medley of carrots and green beans. The two contrasting colors makes the dish more appealing. Even more so when I add in some yellow wax beans. So a mix of green and yellow peas would look good on the plate.

If you wish to purchase these peas, click here for the Kitchen Garden Seeds catalog.

Another option is to buy them from Planet Natural’s website. They offer free shipping on heirloom seeds.

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Johnny Blue Potatoes If you are looking to just buy purple (or blue) potatoes, check out my page on where to buy them. This post is only about where to buy seed potatoes for your own garden.

Here in America, we see the white flesh potato as the norm. The all-American Russet is white fleshed. The popular red skins are white fleshed. But white isn’t the only color potatoes come in. Blue and purple are two such colors. These are some beautiful spuds inside and out. Wouldn’t they look great just picked from your garden. Today I am going to tell you where to buy them and answer the question, does color matter when it comes to nutrition?

Where to Purchase Seed Potatoes
One of the cool things about growing your own vegetables is that you get to play around. How fun would it be to pull some blue potatoes out of the ground and serve them up to your friends! Here are a couple sources for these potatoes.

Johnny’s
1. Adirondack Blue (5 lbs) $19.65 (I grew this variety last year)
2. Adirondack Red (a potato that is red on the inside too) (5 lbs) $19.65

Burpee
1. All Blue (10 mini-tubers) $18.95
2. Purple Majesty (10 mini-tubers) $18.95

Seeds of Change
All Blue (2 lbs) $11.00

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds
All Blue (10 mini-tubers) $11.95

Are Purple/Blue Potatoes More Healthy?
First off, I am not a health expert, so I am only reporting what I have heard. What I have heard is a lot of debate. Dark colored fruits like blueberries and acai berries are being called superfruits for their antioxidant power. So I was wondering if this is also true for dark colored potatoes. The general consensus is that the colored flesh brings more nutrients than a white flesh potato. The white flesh potatoes lack any carotenoids including beta-carotene, which is famous for giving carrots their orange glow. But are purple and blue better than yellow or gold fleshed potatoes. The jury is still out on that one.

Health benefit talk aside, purple and blue potatoes are just fun to grow. So this summer, why not serve some homemade purple potato chips along with your Ribeye fresh off the grill.

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I'm Eric. I live in Ann Arbor, MI with my wife, 3 kids, and a flock of ducks. I love grocery shopping, trying new fruits, farmer's market, and traveling.
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