‘Tis the season! Not the holiday season, of course. Even better. The seed-starting, bulb-catalog-browsing, garden-layout-planning season. Living in zone 2a, I can’t even hint at putting seedlings outside until June, lest they die of fright. That doesn’t stop me from swooning over Lee Valley garden tools, seed catalogs, and coconut coir pellets online. Yearning for the scent of fresh lemon balm and thyme as it’s warmed by an early-morning sunbeam. The madness begins in January.
Among my favourite places to buy heirloom seeds is Heritage Harvest Seed, based in Carman, Manitoba. I have been ordering from Heritage Harvest Seed for several years. They offer an impressive selection of over 700 rare heirloom vegetables, grains, flowers, and herbs, and they add interesting new varieties each year. This business is a wonderful source of short-season vegetable seeds. Orders are always delivered promptly and well-packaged. Included with each order is a free packet of seeds, which always strikes me as a thoughtful touch. My most recent order, placed when I didn’t think I could stand one more week of winter weather, included Swiss Giant Pansy, Beit Alpha cucumber, Purple Peacock pole beans, Speckled Algonquin dry beans, and Snowhite cherry tomatoes. Can’t wait to get planting!
On heirloom seed forums and seed exchange groups, people’s affinity for certain flowers and vegetables becomes apparent in a hurry. I am a Bean Babe. There are so many historic varieties, different sizes, distinct flavours, and many are, to me, as pretty as gem stones (check out Snowcap, Superlative, Good Mother Stallard, and Jesse Fisk). The folks behind Heritage Harvest Seed have made an effort to research, track down, and make available an assortment of very rare varieties, including the Speckled Algonquin I chose for my last order, Black Russian (a mysterious, regal purple/black), Red Valentine, Minnesota 1940’s, Carr, and Canadian Wonder. Some women collect jewelry. I collect heirloom dry beans. I now own more varieties than I will have room to grow in any given year. What can I say? Simple pleasures. At least I’m not high maintenance. As addictions go, seed collecting is pretty benign.
The only people that might out-rival Bean Babes are the Tomato Freaks. With good reason, as there are more heirloom tomato varieties than you can shake a stick at and, for traders, the seeds are light to mail. Heritage Harvest Seed carries a fantastic variety of tomatoes. There are some very short season tomatoes, like 42 Days (really, that’s its name) and Farthest North. Rare varieties include Arbuznyi, Cleota Pink, Fargo Yellow Pear, Green Gage (pre 1800), and Reisetomate, for the eccentric in all of us. Name your colour, too: red, pink, orange, yellow, green, black, purple, white…solid, striped, or marbled.
Heritage Harvest Seed also offers themed seed collections, which make a great gift for the gardener in your life! Among them are the Short Season, Heritage Herb, Children’s Garden, Rainbow Tomato, and Butterfly & Hummingbird collections. The Large Heirloom Garden collection would be perfect for a church, school, or communal garden.
Also check out the recipes section, which offers up some tasty suggestions for the heirloom produce you grow.
Heritage Harvest Seed can be found on Facebook. Beautiful pictures of heirloom vegetables and flowers are regularly posted (which, I admit, does nothing but encourage one to purchase more seeds!). Currently, there is a monthly draw from among their Facebook page fans for a $25 gift certificate. Ensure that you adjust your Facebook settings so you will see Heritage Harvest Seed posts in your news feed. You don’t want to miss the announcement if your name is drawn, or any of their updates!
A paper copy of the Heritage Harvest Seed catalog for 2013 can be requested or a digital version can be downloaded online.
Gift certificates are available, and customers may place seed orders by phone, mail, or via their website using Paypal. Payments can be made by personal cheque, money order, Visa or Mastercard.