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Sow on: For the love of seeds

Feb 1st, 2016 | Category: Growing

by Brian Campbell, Uprising Seeds

Every once in a while around this time of year, we’ll see a friendly acquaintance who knows us as a farming family, and they’ll comment, “This must be a quiet time of year for you.” It’s not!

Nimbus Sweet Pea. COURTESY PHOTOS

Nimbus Sweet Pea. COURTESY PHOTOS

Working with seeds has put us on an interesting and fairly unique pattern of work as farmers through the seasons of the year, with our primary office and sales season happening in the winter and spring, and our main production and harvest period happening in the summer and fall. Disentangling the work of selling things (the long harvest days, the markets and deliveries) from the time of year when we are actually growing them, has been a revelation as farmers. This opportunity to delve deeper into the entire growing and unfolding of each variety, from sowing the seeds to harvesting the seeds, has given us a unique perspective on the entire plant, as well as a look both at the past, and what we wish to incorporate, through genetic selection, based on our unique microclimate and personal preference. It’s amazing how we can, over a number of years, steer a variety towards better (in our opinion!) flavor, shape, production, color and growing habit. At the same time, as our weather patterns continually catch us off guard it’s humbling to watch plants adapt and really tell their own place based story.

We are passionate lovers of seeds and stories; we are interested observers of how the changing traits we seek in our cultivated plants, over time reflect the changing values of our society;  and we believe in food and its ability to bring people together, not just on a dinner scale, but a cultural one.  As our primary task during the majority of the growing season is to tend the plants and soil, we relish the opportunity to experiment. Our summer field is a mélange of vegetables and flowers from around the world; we love to bring varieties, with their stories in tow, to our corner of the northwest and hear and watch what they have to say.

Much like the population of our country, its food tradition is a jumbled mix of indigenous foods and several centuries worth of immigrants from all corners of the globe. To complicate matters or rather to pique our interest even more: the taste of everything has so much, possibly all to do with terroir or the specificity of place and the relationship between soil, environmental factors, collaborative memory and anything that can be uniquely different.

Cuor di Bue Abenga Tomato. COURTESY PHOTO

Cuor di Bue Abenga Tomato. COURTESY PHOTO

With all these things in mind we are drawn to the incredible undertaking of communities around the world that have identified threatened or rare seed varieties that hold distinct place based cultural significance.

Seeds, like all living things, are in constant flux which is one of the many reasons we love them. The living history within each one breathes its stories into the soil, taking up nutrients as well as the new stories that will continue to unfold both within and around each plant. And you thought you were just sowing a simple seed!

 

A few new favorite varieties

 

We have many new and returning varieties this year and choosing favorites is akin to asking which child of yours you prefer! We love them each for different reasons but because we have to pick, here are a few that we’d like to highlight. Something exciting we are also working on is addressing the growing number of organic cut flower farms/growers and the relative lack of quality organic flower seed. Looking forward to expanding this in the coming years.

 

A few new varieties we love:

Tulsi (aka Sacred Basil, Holy Basil). COURTESY PHOTO

Tulsi (aka Sacred Basil, Holy Basil). COURTESY PHOTO

 

Earl Gray Larkspur: A unique dusty, silvery slate purple larkspur with doubled and singles blooms and an understated elegance.

 

Nimbus Sweet Pea: A dazzling stormy sweetpea with blue-black speckles against a cream background. Long stems make it great for bouquets.

 

Tulsi (aka Sacred Basil, Holy Basil): The Indian queen of herbs, tulsi filled our greenhouse with its intoxicating scent all summer. Beloved by bees and a wonderful tea.

 

Sorana Pole Dry Bean: A rare Slow Foods Italy “Ark of Taste” variety traditional to a tiny region NW of Florence. An early white pole bean with a thin skin and creamy texture. (2016 is the international “year of the Bean”!)

Sorana Pole Dry Bean. COURTESY PHOTO

Sorana Pole Dry Bean. COURTESY PHOTO

 

Cuor di Bue Abenga Tomato: In northern Italy roasting and saucing tomatoes are big ruffled teardrop shaped things as opposed to the long skinny ones from the south. Our favorite new tomato this year with thick flesh and amazing sweet complex flavor.

 

Sarit Gat Hot Pepper: Canary yellow hot chili from Kosovo with the shape and heat of a cayenne.

 

Black Futsu Winter Squash: Beautiful Japanese winter squash with a bumpy ribbed black exterior that ripens to chestnut with a dusty white sheen known as bloom. Flesh is very fine textured with a fruity flavor that lends itself to raw preparations.

 

Zucca Mantovana Winter Squash: Another Italian variety, this one from the Po river valley in Lombardy. Its traditional use is Tortelli di Zucca, a squash ravioli flavored with amaretto cookies and quince, but is equally at home in gnocchi, or simply roasted.

 

See www.uprisingorganics.com.

 

Brian Campbell is co-owner of local company Uprising Seeds. For more information, see uprisingorganics.com. 

 

Published in the February 2016 issue of Grow Northwest

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