It's once again that time of year when I am simultaneously enchanted and overwhelmed by the choices I have in my forthcoming 2011 vegetable garden. I tend to read every word of at least four or five catalogs. But once again, Fedco reminds me why it gets most of my business, despite the lack of glossy photographs, despite the fact that it sits on cheap newsprint: It's the only catalog that really charms me.
First of all it has a voice. It's personal. It's opinionated. It's not sterile and corporate, and neither is my vegetable garden. I look forward to founder CR Lawn's letter every year, which freely dispenses gardening wisdom. Here is how CR reconciles two wildly opposed gardening seasons in the Northeast, the horrible 2009 and the magical 2010, in this year's catalog: "As Joe Kurland, my neighbor in the Colrain, MA hill country averred shortly after I moved into the area, 'There is no such thing as a normal year here.' And probably not where you farm or garden either."
But you can also count on some politics from CR, too: "Even if we wished, we can't go back to an economy based on unsustainable levels of credit. We lack the means and we lack the confidence. On our farms, trickle-down may be a good way to irrigate, but in our economy it is only a good way to irritate. No wonder our political discourse leads us to one sullen ill-mannered impasse after another!"
The variety descriptions don't pussyfoot around either. The catalog is not afraid to sway you from one variety to another, but will tell you what has proved the best tasting in the Fedco people's gardens, their friends' gardens, their customers' gardens. Of course, that doesn't mean any particular variety will prove the best tasting in MY garden, but I like to know about other gardeners' experiences. I like to know that there ARE gardeners behind a seed catalog.
These people are also cooks and eager eaters, too. I like learning that the flower buds of 'Bordeaux' spinach are tasty braised, or that root parsley adds a parsley/celery note to soups, or that 'Amplissimo Viktoria' peas make a great hummus. This is very important information to a vegetable gardener, more important arguably than the cultural information that other catalogs focus on.
At the same time, the selection is really good. At 137 pages long, illustrated with no giant photographs, but just amusing old-timey drawings and etchings, it will give you plenty of entertainment, both on the couch and in the garden.