11th Annual Seed Catalogue Review

Trend of the year? It’s websites with moving pictures. Thanks for the queasy, everybody! Just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done, ugh. Other trend of the year (trend of last year too, really): things are selling out F A S T. Don’t delay! Order today!
Actual trend of the year – maybe it’s where I’m looking, but people like me doing small scale breeding are starting to be less shy about releasing “unfinished” material with a lot of genetic diversity in it, to allow others to do their own selecting. I wait until the end of January to post this, and it was very frustrating – the places who got set up early were selling out even as I was waiting for the stragglers to come in (and the stragglers have not all come in even now). If you are looking for something specific and having a hard time finding it, as usual you should turn to Seeds of Diversity and check out their list of seeds available in Canada and which companies carry them.

A’Bunadh Seeds: Growing their own seed in Zone 2a (a 90 to 110 day season), Alberta! If you think you can’t grow much because your season is short; try here! My eye is caught by Herrenbohnli and Vieux Flippe Pole beans, Red Ace and Detroit White beets, Champion Purple Top, Osgoode, Fortin Family, and Wilhelmsburger rutabagas. There is a good selection of carrots, including mixes and an open-pollinated version of Bolero. Amsterdam Prickly Seeded, and Giant Noble spinach;

So much corn! Simonet, Golden Bantam, Painted Mountain, Who Gets Kissed, Kandy O/P, Country Gentleman, Whipple’s White, Peaches and Cream O/P, and MUCH more! It tempts me to try again. Cucumbers? A whole page, including Morden Early, Sushyk, Parada, and Fin de Meaux. Apple Green, Ukrainian Beauty, and Kashmiri eggplants; a nice selection of melons including Montenegro Man watermelon. Pages of peppers, a large selection of (food grade) potatoes, scads of squash, and tons of tomatoes.    

AgroHaitai: The only Canadian source I know of for mostly Asian vegetables; they have a good reputation but most of their offerings are F1 hybrids. Still, they have some intriguing things: Green Island #2 F1, which is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale; Orient Violet F1 eggplant, Wax Boy #2, and Black Giant #2 winter melons, and Fong #1 yardlong bean. Jiu Tou Niau, Small Gaichoi, and Feather Sherlihong are all described as heirloom mustards. Hami #1, Wah Mibao, Geumbu, and Ruyu are all new F1 melons. Lots to explore here.

Annapolis Seeds: First thing I see; it looks like Owen has been bitten by the pepper bug. Rezha Macedonian, Yellow Hinkelhatz, Shishito, Poblano, Orange Spice Jalapeño, Tunisian Baklouti, and Lemon Drop Hot are all new listings. There’s also Achocha, Floriani Flint corn, Madeley kale, Greasy Grits beans, Popping Mix amaranth, Pattison Golden Marbre pattypan squash, Goldette winter turnip, Queen of Malinalco tomatillo, and a good selection of greens (I have to mention Vibrant Ultraviolet mustard greens), herbs, tomatoes, and flowers. Oaxacan Green Dent is intriguing, and according to The Experimental Farm Network it probably actually originated in Wisconsin so no problem growing it here.

Atlantic Pepper Seeds: I’ve never seen a list of pepper seeds like this list of pepper seeds. You name it, odds are good they have it, including lights and fertilizers. Do you want to grow “bonchili”? (That would be peppers grown like bonsai – they have a list of recommended varieties.) They have seven pages (appropriate, I guess) of variations on 7-Pot peppers, followed by things like Aji Challuaruro Yellow, Apocalypse Scorpion Red, APS Jalapeño Orange, Big Sweet Chocolate, Candy Cane variegated, capsicum galapagoense “Long Pod”, Mako Akokosrade from Ghana, Yellow Pumpkin, and MANY, MANY, MORE, from the most incendiary of hots to the sweetest of the sweet. Bird & Bee: A small seed house from near Ottawa. Last year I described their offerings as fairly standard; this year they are clearly branching out. Look for Plantonic romaine lettuce, Topsi radishes, Kajari melon, Little Bell and Tangarine Bell peppers, Patate onion seeds. ALE kale, One Penny and Stella Blue winter squash, Blanche du Quebec, Grandma Mary’s Paste, and Rideau Sweet Grape tomatoes.

Burt’s Greenhouses: Located in Odessa, Ontario, they are expecting to have sweet potato slips available in April. HOWEVER, they will be delivering them themselves, so local sales only! Give them an email if you need more information. The only other common source of sweet potato slips I know of in Ontario is Round Plains Plantation, and nothing is listed on site – I believe they only supply commercial quantities. If you want small quantities of sweet potato slips, they are easily done at home – set aside some parent sweet potatoes (Ontario grown ones, to ensure they will grow in this climate) now, for sprouting later.

Cochrane Family Farm: Formerly Pumpkin Moon Seeds, they are located in Nova Scotia. Newness is not indicated, but things that catch my eye include Northern Lights, Fundy, and Cosmonaut Volkov tomatoes, Candlelight (not very) hot peppers, Tom Thumb lettuce, Bennie’s Red onion, and Solstice broccoli (good, and hard to find). Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes: I’m not seeing any new potatoes listed, and many are not available this year or already sold out. Looks like it’s going to be a tough year for acquiring seed potatoes, although they have a large enough list there’s still some interesting ones available.

If you are in the Vancouver area, you might try Helmer’s Organic Farm for seed potatoes.

Eagleridge Seeds: Located on Salt Spring Island, they have a small collection but all quite unusual. I’m intrigued by Earth Chestnut (bunium bulbocastanum), Yer Fasulyasi, Royal City Cannery, and Lillooet snap beans, Nine Star white broccoli, Pixie cabbage, Minowase Daikon radish, and Hong Vit radish greens.

Ferme Tournesol: Most interesting for their own vegetable breeding, although they have a good selection of sound varieties. They weren’t updated, and weren’t updated, and now they are – and an awful lot seems sold out. I hope they are still adding inventory rather than actually sold out. However, they have a small but well selected group of  SEED POTATOES available! Which given Eagle Creek’s problems is good to know.

Full Circle Seeds: Another west coast company, from Sooke. Listed as new this year there is only a mix of black tomatoes, and a mix of blue flowers. I love blue flowers, and I love the idea of a collection of them. Black tomatoes are also generally a delicious bunch and worth pursuing. Other items include Pilgrims (Spanish) collards, Jim’s Oregon Giant snap/snow pea, Maxigolt shelling pea, 5B’s Choice broad bean, loads of lettuces including Cow Lick and Angry Sea, Ariane orange bell, Mulato, and Tequila Sunrise peppers, Haloed Crown parnips, Ardwyna paste, Persimmon, and Longkeeper tomatoes, and Unique and St. Victor’s leeks. Very strong collection of greens.

Greta’s Organic Gardens: A large and very diverse collection. New this year, there is Renegade pepper; the result of a local breeding project. Turkish Rocket is of interest to permaculturalists, and “Golden Pearl” berries (a solanum species) might be too. There’s Red Savonese onion, Oka melon, Borlotti pole bean, Piracicaba broccoli, green shiso, Filius Blue hot pepper, Crispino and Redina lettuces, and a quartet of tomatoes: Early Cascade, Fantome du Laos, Giant Belgium, and Goldilox. 

Harmonic Herbs: Is closed for the year due to Covid and weather related difficulties.

Hawthorn Farm: New items for 2021 include Abundant Bloomsdale spinach, Magnolia Blossom snap pea, Purple Peacock broccoli, and Chinese pink celery. An awful lot of our favourite varieties are came from here. Now I’m looking at Junin dry beans, Dakota Black, Glass Gem, and Double Standard corn, Zucca gourds, Lofthouse Landrace moschata (butternut) squash, Perfection fennel…although to tell you the truth, I’m afraid to mention too much, because every time I look more is sold out.

Heritage Harvest Seed: I have found a number of our best varieties here, including Gnadenfeld melon, and a lot of our favourite peas. New and returning items this year includeSnake and Apple gourds (hmmm…), Cekirdegi Oyali watermelon, Drew’s Dandy, Pisarecka Zlutoluske, and Pfaelzer Juni beans, Hidatsa and Pink Banana squash, Golden Sunshine runner beans, and San Marzano, Grandpa’s Minnesota Hardy, Wonderlight, and Ted’s Pink Currant tomatoes, Kral Russian parsnips, Mammoth Red Rock cabbage, and Mandan Red Clay corn.

Hope Seeds: Nothing marked as new this year, although it does look updated. I’m interested in Joseph Dugas runner beans, Lumberjack beans, Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled cress, Little Gem lettuce, Oka melon, Maestro peas, Lady Godiva pumpkin (for seeds), Cocozelle zucchini, Benning’s Green Tint pattypan squash, Thelma Sanders acorn and Sucrine du Berry squash, Bernardo’s paste and Tribe’s Tobique tomatoes, and Milan turnips. In general, a good general list of varieties.

Jardins de l’Écoumène: Site is in French but worth a little struggle. It’s also on sales break until mid-February, and a quick scroll through shows they are out of many, many things. It seems they are popular for a reason… their catalogue looks generally excellent and they are strong on Quebec heirlooms. 
Le Jardin des vie-la-joie: Along with a good general selection, they carry a number of Quebec heirlooms. Look for Kahnawake and Heritage Doré beans, Ferme Bullion popping corn, Hardwick ground cherry, and Adelin Morin, Canabec Super, Ledoux Spécial, Plourde and Savignac (Dufresne) tomatoes. Other interesting items: Malaga radish, and Black Vernissage tomatoes are really striking. Minibel tomato is perhaps the smallest tomato plant I’ve seen. They have the excellent and oddly hard to find Doe Hill pepper. 
Kitchen Table Seed House: (formerly Mouse Seeds) located in eastern Ontario. Not just seed producers, but vegetable breeders – they worked on Renegade red pepper, newly listed this year. Also of interest: Orange Hat, Cosmos, and Napa Chardonnay tomatos, Rosetta’s Calabrian pepper, Violina de Rugosa squash, Cascade Ruby-Gold flint corn, Green Finger cucumber, and Ottawa area bred Heart of the North eggplant. And many more! Mapple Farm: Apart from no longer selling sweet potato slips (they still have Ken Allan’s excellent book on sweetpotatoes for the northern gardener – get it while it is still available) the list here does not change much from year to year. Butterbeans green soy and Gaucho dry beans, Turkish rocket, French scorzonara, Shosaku gobo (burdock), and Nutmeg, Oka, and Montreal melons. In addition to a carefully chosen selection of earliest tomatoes and their own Mystery Keeper, they have Mount Roma, Black Plum, and Italian Heirloom paste tomatoes. They have Crosnes (Chinese Artichokes) and Egyptian walking onions. Nice selection of squash, including Banana, Golden Hubbard, Gill’s Golden Pippin, Fisher’s Acorn, Honey Boat, and Syrian Hulless pumpkin.
Matchbox Garden Seed Co: A small southern Ontario seed house with a well-curated collection of own-grown seeds. In addition to several new collections – Baby’s First Food Garden and  Hot Pepper Extravaganza – there is Goldman’s Paste tomato, Shishito pepper and Suyo Long cucumber. Amongst the regular listings you will find Sumter cucumbers, short-season rapini, and Cousin Martina paste tomato.Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds have been around since forever, or at least 1974. They have an impressively large list of sproutable seeds and seed blends. They carry supplies and books too, but like a lot of places their stock has been scavenged into near non-existance. 
Naramata Seed Company: Not updated, as there is a notice on their site that they will be back up with a new catalogue on February 1st. If you are a west coast grower (and even if you are not) they should be well worth checking out.

Norton Naturals: Not a seed company; they sell a selection of roots, mostly native but also crosnes, edible day lilies, and double Tiger lilies. Native plants include: Arrowhead, Camas (Quamash), Groundnuts, Hog Peanuts, 3 different Jerusalem artichokes, Spring Beauty, Meadow Garlic, and Ramps (Wild Leeks). In my experience, if you do not have the necessary fungus in the soil those last will not grow. Worth trying if you have a typical Ontario woodlot though. They sell Prairie Turnip as seeds – this is actually a tap-rooted legume, and it looks like it would also make an excellent ornamental. They ship twice a year – next up in April.

OSC (Ontario Seed Company): A good source for open-pollinated classics at reasonable prices. They have a good selection of native grasses and wildflowers.

New listings this year include Emerald Tower F1 basil, said to grow to 3′ but not wider than average, so lots of basil from a small space. There is Golden Greek Peperoncini (pepper), Candyland Red F1 currant and Namib Cocktail cherry tomatoes. Outlaw bush bean is described as a hybrid, which makes no sense but they look like good beans. Redarling F1 Brussels sprouts are, yes, red Brussels sprouts.

Potager Ornemental de Catherine: Site is in French. New offerings include Copperhead amaranth, Caspar and Mini Bambino eggplants, Ella dill, Zuni Gold dry beans, Big Orange and Little Yellow watermelons, Birdie Rouge micro tomatoes, Purple Jalapeño and Boldog peppers, and Deep Purple tomatillo. Seven kinds of new soybeans bring the total number carried up to nine – if you are looking for soybeans this is the place. There are five new types of cherry tomatoes, as well as green slicer Malachite Box 

Prairie Garden Seeds: New offerings aren’t labelled as such and this list doesn’t change a lot from year to year. However, they are the go-to source for many Canadian heirloom vegetables, and are particularly strong in tomatoes and beans- they have a very large collection of fava beans – and also in grains. If you want small amounts of many historic Canadian wheats, or indeed all kinds of grains from all over the world, check here. Good selection of corn. Prairie Garden is a national treasure, and a storehouse of many heirloom Canadian varieties. And finally, you can order on-line!

Richter’s Herbs: A huge list of herbs, and a decent collection of vegetables, but not always the most reliable of companies.

Listed as new in vegetables, there is Millenium asparagus, Dow Purple Pod bean, Japanese Striped corn, Speckled lettuce, Ailsa Craig onion, Cascadia peas, Biobio and French Vanilla quinoa, Wildfire rucola, Cream and Green pattypan squash, and Golden zucchini, and Delicata and Kabocha squash.

Parsley is herb of the year, and they have 12 varieties listed, not including other parsley-like herbs.

Salt Spring Seeds:  Not new but notable; Tofino amaranth, Early Pinkies, Blooming Prairie, Tankya’s Pink Pod, and Ugandan Bantu bush beans, Cumberland Heritage pole beans, Harry Burton’s shelling pea, Pearl soup pea, Mexican “tarragon” (a marigold used as an herb), Cuatomate currant tomato, Elizabeth greenhouse tomato, Isle of Capri, and Maria’s paste tomatoes, Gerard’s cress, Amazing arugula, Yedikule romaine lettuce, and Hope melon. Some of their seeds are west coast heirlooms. They have a good selection of grains.

The Seed Company by E.W. Gaze: Continues to be a well-selected list of tried and true (and therefor reasonably common) open pollinated varieties, chosen to do well in Newfoundland. As I noted last year, they are very strong in rutabagas. You can also buy a Jigg’s Dinner seed kit. It doesn’t includ Summer Savory, so I recommend you get that too.

Semences du Portage: Site is in French. New this year they have Souchet Bordeleau (Chufa), Aconcagua pepper, King & Queen watermelon, Honey Nut butternut squash, Borlotto bean, Caspar and Rosa Bianca eggplants, and Brad’s Atomic, and Verte de Huy tomato. Other goodies include Diamant celeriac, Goodman cauliflower, Scarlet Ono Revival turnip, and Joan rutabaga.

la Société des Plantes: Site is in French. No note of anything new. I have Ste Anne shallots from them; doing well thus far. They have a striking collection of older beet varieties. Pusa Rhudira is a modern Indian carrot that rates as a must-have. We don’t love kale, but Branchu de L’Embarras looks like it could change my mind. Jewel Green zucchini was bred for winter greenhouse production. Vals aux Vents shallots look amazing. They have Caviar Calabrais pepper, the rare blue-flowered salsify,  and a winter radish cross that looks like it has some good things in it.
Solana Seeds: Some very interesting items this year! Physalis minima, and tomatillo Malinalco are really intriguing. There’s a deep purple tomatillo too. New tomatoes include  Amarillo Armadillo, Amish Gold, Blondkopfchen, Rebel Starfighter Prime, and Thorburn’s Terracotta.

Sunshine Farm: Located in Kelowna, BC. Let’s get right to it: Queen of Malinalco and Deep Purple tomatillos, Chile Verde (from Tom Wagner, the breeder of the legendary Green Zebra), Black Beauty, Delicious, Furry Red Boar, Borgo Dark, Roger’s Best Black, Sorrento, Sugawara, Scinocca Plum, and SO many more tomatoes. Also look for Rouge Sang Violette, Purple Dragon, and Dutch Golden, Snow White carrots as well as a colourful carrot blend, Early Green eggplant, Andover parsnip, Ortania arugula, Lilys (a Canadian heirloom), Strela lettuces, Criolla Sella pepper, Rollisons Long English cucumber, Petrowski turnip, and Sun Crisp radish. 
Tatiana’s Tomato base: No longer in operation as a seedhouse, but Tatiana’s TOMATObase is a wiki with information about most of the tomatoes in existence. It’s the first place I look whenever I hear of a new one.

Terra Edibles: was our first source for seeds when we started gardening many years ago, and they still have an excellent list of varieties. They have many of our tried and true varieties, although Spanish Skyscraper pea is out of stock this year too, damn. They carry the hard-to-find legume inoculant, available for a fairly short season in the spring (listed with the beans).They are strongest on beans and tomatoes, but they have an assortment of other vegetables as well. This year they have a number of items from Steve Airhart, who was a local member of Seeds of Diversity and Seed Savers exchange – mostly unusual tomatoes, but a couple of beans too.

Terre Promise: Finally, the English option seems to work fine! Unfortunately a lot of out of stocks here too. They have some unusual and hard to find items like skirret, chufa, and potato-bean (apios americana). Montreal melon still in stock as of writing, but the Oka melon is gone. I had to laugh when I saw one of their bean listings – it’s “Geneviève Spilled Everything” and if you ever wanted to trial a large selection of pole beans at a very reasonable price, Geneviève’s misfortune is your good luck. In the ordinary way they have an excellent collection of Quebec heirlooms – maybe the best one out there. So be sure to check them next year… early.

In July Ste Anne shallots will be available, and a good selection of garlics in season. 

Urban Harvest: As far as I can see they are still in business, with quite a large selections of vegetable seeds, many still in stock(!), but site has not been updated in some time, and nothing is noted as new.

Urban Tomato: Not updated for 2020 2021, that I can see, and nothing listed as new. I confess I find their site design busy as heck and extremely unclear. However, it looks like, in addition to vegetable seeds with an unsurprising emphasis on tomatoes, they also carry a lot of started plants in the spring, which may be just the thing for gardeners who don’t want to spend all of early spring carrying plants outdoors and back in every day (*hem, hem*), though you would have to be sufficiently close to Peterborough to partake.

West Coast Seeds: Very much like a West Coast equivalent to William Dam, with similar strengths and weaknesses. Their website is very visually busy and so a bit hard to use, unfortunately. They seem to have a good selection of really useful open-pollinated seeds as well as the usual hybrids.They have a large selection of sprouting seeds.

New this year I see Mongolian Giant sunflowers, Glass Gem corn, Moranga squash, Get Stuffed tomatoes, Biquino Yellow and Red chiles, Bellezia and Esmee arugulas, Celebration runner beans, Rio Grande blue corn, and Callaloo amaranth.

Wild Rose Heritage Seed Company: This is another one where the website never seems to change. They are located in Lethbridge, Alberta so you can expect seeds adapted to short seasons. They don’t seem to branch out to anything too exotic, but it looks like they have a well-considered list of very reliable varieties.

William Dam Seeds: I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with William Dam. They have been a great source of a large range of heirloom varieties (rarely described as such, though) and they have the best selection of mail-order garden equipment around. Their prices are reasonable. Every year, though, it seems they have fewer of the good old things and more and more F1 hybrids. This year is no exception. The only new item I can see that is open pollinated is Milagro lettuce, and I’m sure that’s only because lettuce doesn’t come in F1 hybrids. 

* Originally published here

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