For yet-to-be-understood reasons, a garden catalog appeared in my post office box. Normally, I’m peeved when I see junk in the box. This time, I was giddy to receive this unsolicited mass marketing.
Way back when, gardening catalogs were a source of needed joy on days when there is more darkness than light. I could sit on my cold floor in December, catalogs splayed out like a fan, and dream shop about the things I could try to grow.
In those days, (early to mid ’90s) I was convinced that once you ordered from one catalog, your name was immediately sold to numerous seed companies. Soon you had enough gardening catalogs to cover every wall of your apartment in glossy vegetable images.
And then things changed. My wild guess is that seed peddlers decided the dwindling response rate did not justify printing costs. Instead, companies began sending countless emails. This just wasn’t the same. These emails were lost in the sea of junk email coaxing me to click on Clinique.com or cheapjunk.com or chocolate.com.
When the barrage of electronic junk mail becomes unbearable, I abandoned the email account.
However, this brave seed company tracked me down. Thank you, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, https://www.rareseeds.com/. I had not realized how much I had missed you. You found me just at the right time. I was ripe and ready to look at shiny photos of flowers grown by experts, captured with perfect lighting at the exact moment of their highest beauty. I have free time right now to relish image of flowers so bizarre, they look like props on a “Star Trek” episode. Even if I don’t order seeds from South America, lovingly kept in cultivation by descendants of ancient peoples, I am glad to know they exist.
Thank you for giving me a reason, on a cold December night, to daydream about perfectly ripe crookneck squash and tomatoes with stripes like a zebra, melons that resemble decorated Easter eggs.
Yes. It was love at first sight. They had me at “Free shipping.”
I was so mesmerized, I sent them a check (yes, an old-fashioned check, the paper kind).
My guess is that my name will now be sold mercilessly and more catalogs will soon stuff my mailbox.
At Christmas, Mom and I spent quality time browsing through the Baker seeds.
We expressed sounds of admiration over winged beans, with edges that looked like feathers. Cauliflowers mottled with color, as if someone sprinkled the Cruciferae with purple paprika. Black nebula carrots – purple with yellow stars in the center — something Sasha Sagan might have nibbled in childhood. Strawberry popcorn with 2-3-inch burnt-orange ears. Black corn, purple corn, amber corn, country gentlemen corn. Who knew?
A good catalog includes facts that may or may not be useful, but provide entertainment and wonder. Maiz Morado corn, for example, was grown during the Incan Empire and is still used in South America to make a beverage, for use in dye and ground into flour, the Baker Seed editors chose to reveal in small print. Of course, you can also grow it in your backyard and eat it from the cob.
Glass gem corn: translucent kernels that “shine brilliantly like glass,” “decorative and delicious.”
Of course, I never grow corn. That’s not the point.
You just can’t get seeds like this on the racks at Walmart.
Some of the vegetables are simply dazzling and bizarre: tigger melon – the size of apples with vibrant yellow fruit and fire-red zigzag stripes on the outerside. These were so weird, they may also be manufactured by Mattel.
I left the seed catalog at Mom’s house. We made a pact that she would buy some packets, and the next time we meet, we’ll have a mom-and-daughter seed swap. This way, we did not need to argue over our choices. I’m trying to talk her into visiting the company’s brick-and-mortar store in Petaluma. I had planned to visit when I spent a weekend in Sebastopol the summer of 2018, but I was sidetracked by a free concert in a park.