In Praise of Seed Savers Exchange


Seedsavers My 2010 Seed Savers Exchange catalog has been sitting on my kitchen table for the last week or two.  I sit and read it while I eat my lunch and imagine growing the following strange and wonderful things in my garden:

Prickly Caterpillar (Scorpiurus muricatus). I had to go look this one up.  It appears to be a legume that puts out these crazy little hairy green seed pods that resemble caterpillars. From the catalog:  

"Low-growing plants make a
nice ground cover and are sure to be the best conversation piece in
your garden. In days past, caterpillars were added to salads to
surprise unexpected diners, but not meant to be eaten,
mostly because they are so hairy. Try growing
in containers, if space is tight. Great historic novelty that should be
grown in every garden."

Crazy.  Amazing.  And:

Luther Burbank's sunberry, a somewhat controversial solanum because Burbank's detractors claimed he had not actually hybridized a new plant but just re-introduced an existing one. Anyway, it's a beautiful dark blue fruit and I can't even begin to imagine what it must taste like–but I'd like to know.

Hill Country Red Okra, which I have no hope of ever growing in this cool climate, but wow, who doesn't want a beautiful green and red-striped okra?  I like a martini with a pickled okra in it; I wonder if the coloring of this one would hold up to the pickling process.

Habanero Mustard peppers that belong in a still life, not a stir fry.  Wow.

Ten  Commandments gourds.  Again. A work of art.  I don't even know what I would do with them and I want them.

And don't even get me started on the pickling cucumbers.  

And here's the thing.  If you become a member, which only costs $35 per year, you get their magazine, and a discount on your orders, and all kinds of other good stuff. Really, if this catalog is not already on your kitchen table, get over to their website and make it so.  I think it's the most beautiful and readable catalog of the season so far.


  1. Sadly, the nipple plant is marked in the catalog as a crop failure. Who can’t love a vegetable with a sense of humor? I can’t find it on the website, probably because it’s not available this season. So there’s another reason to get the catalog.

    I have what should turn into an embarrassment of garlic from SSE tucked in under a nice blanket of snow right now. My task for the Christmas holidays is to decide what potato varieties I want to order. I suspect that too many tomato and pepper seeds also will be a part of that order. And I will be a bit disgruntled with myself next May when I’m trying to figure out where to put all those plants.

    The latest catalog from Pottery Barn or Coldwater Creek hits my recycling bin faster than the speed of light, but the Seed Saver’s catalog will linger in my house for a long, long time.

  2. I labelled that previous post with a “SELF PROMOTION ALERT” but it just appears as those brackets.

    I didn’t want anyone to think that the post contained actual information.

  3. Beyond having some of the most beautiful veggie pictures ever taken, Seed Savers is a great place to visit. Sure, Decorah Iowa is cold this time of year, but there are a number of events going on in the summer (workshops, concerts, tours, etc.) Plus, Decorah is beautiful. Try visiting the farm sometime during the town’s Nordic Fest!

  4. I have grown okra successfully here in MN, so give it a try! Granted, not a huge harvest, but the flowers were beautiful. I learned that it’s related to the hibiscus, thus the beauty.

  5. The prickly caterpillar reminds us of that old favorite Gomphocarpus physocarpus, a variety of milkweed, host for monarch butterflies with the common name “hairy balls”.

  6. I collect all sorts of odd solanums and I have grown Burbank’s Sunberry and Wonderberry in the past. To some people they have no flavor at all, to others they taste awful and to some they taste exactly like blueberries. I found you have to let them sit in a bowl on the counter for few days to get peak flavor and you have to cook them with sugar. They are a fun plant to grow but once the birds discover them you’ll be lucky to get any.

    Marlene – I also grow Nipple Fruit which really looks just like the picture but mine only set fruit at the very end of the season, after I could use them as decoration (they are inedible).

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – People scan the headlines of the newspaper; they look at the photos in a magazine; but they read each word over and over and over again in a plant or seed catalog.

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