How do you get pearl tomatoes? Green eggplant? you become a seed saver Essay

Surprises are a staple in Suzanne Ashworth’s Sacramentovegetable garden. Peppers come in half a dozen colors and shapes;tomatoes range from pea-size to whoppers 6-1/2 inches across. Certainpotatoes open to reveal yellow or blue flesh. Although most of us have never seen or heard of many of the cropsshe grows, they are not new. They are among thousands of nonhybridkinds once commonly available through standard seed companies, but nowrapidly disappearing as hybrids take over the market.

Where did theseseeds come from? All the uncommon vegetables here were tracked down through SeedSavers Exchange, a nonprofit group of gardeners dedicated to preservingnonhybrid vegetables in danger of extinction. Their publications canhelp you find more than 5,000 varieties of vegetables through regularbut little-known seed sources. If you join the exchange, you’llhave access to up to 4,000 additional kinds.

Their Garden Seed Inventory gives names and addresses of 239mail-order companies in the U.S. and Canada that sell vegetable seeds,noting any specialties such as nonhybrid, Oriental, European, orregional crops. It also lists and briefly describes 5,785 nonhybrid vegetablevarieties still sold in the U.

S. and Canada, and tells where you canorder each. Nearly half of these old favorites are now sold by only oneof the sources listed.

The 448-page inventory costs $12 postpaid forsoftcover, $20 for hardcover; see address below right. If you want access to still more variety, or if you like the ideaof saving your own seeds, you may be ready for the Seed Savers Exchange.Their annual winter yearbook lists names and addresses of 550 members,seeds they are offering, and seeds they are trying to find.

You get theseeds by writing directly to the grower who offers them. Nonmembers(anyone not offering seeds in the current catalog) pay $1 for eachsample of seeds. Enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope, andindicate if substitutions are acceptable. Members (those exchanging seeds) pay only postage. Some varietiesin short supply are available only to members. If you request seeds through the exchange, you are on your honor togrow more than you use, and to save and pass on the excess through theexchange the following year.

Browsing through the yearbook, you’ll find offers of seeds forrarities such as red turnips and Pueblo orange and blue flour corninterspersed with comments from gardeners on care and climatic needs. To get a copy of the 256-page 1985 yearbook, send a $10 check ormoney order ($7 for senior citizens) to Seed Savers Exchange, DirectorKent Whealy, 203 Rural Ave., Decorah, Iowa 52101. You will also receivethe fall Harvest Edition (with some seed-saving advice) and if you wish,free publication in the exchange and plant finder listings in the 1986yearbook.

Some savers also sell seeds of nearly extinct crops to certain seedcompanies, thus reintroducing them to the public. You can buy seeds forthe watermelon, tomato, and eggplant shown from Seeds Blum, Idaho CityStage, Boise 83706; catalog $2. Seeds of over two dozen kinds ofpeppers are sold by Horticultural Enterprises, Box 340082, Dallas 75234(for a price list, enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope).

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