Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ira Wallace at Lewis Ginter

Ira Wallace of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange spoke about heirloom vegetables for this year's winter symposium. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is a source for heirloom and standard vegetable seeds that publishes an extensive yearly catalog containing around 700 varieties. The catalog Ms. Wallace passed out was beautifully illustrated by company employees.

The company was begun in 1982 and is located in Mineral, Virginia. It sells its seeds either by mail order or through retail locations. The variety of unusual shapes and colors Ms. Wallace showed in her presentation was amazing! Yellow-fleshed moon and star watermelon, bizarrely shaped tomatoes and several colors of carrots. Heirlooms are great because their eye-catching appearance works great in an ornamental garden. Here's an adorable little red corn variety dubbed Strawberry Popcorn.
photo by Chiot's Run

And here's a selection of different garlic varieties that she brought along (not quite as showy).

Ms. Wallace defined heirlooms as non-hybrid, open-pollinated seeds that have been passed down generation to generation. According to Ms. Wallce benefits of heirloom varieties are:

1. superior & unusual flavor
2. regional adaptation
3. rare shape, form, colors, and textures
4. natural disease resistance
5. fascinating stories

Producing seeds through open pollination insures that the seeds will resemble their parents, and that if grown properly, growers will not have to repurchase seeds every year. An interesting note: if seeds are saved from two-thirds of the crop, the plants should maintain their quality. If seeds are saved from one half of the crop, the variety will tend to improve.

The Southern Seed Exchange specializes in varieties adapted to the Mid-Atlantic region and Ms. Wallace gave several tips about growing vegetables in our area. Using seeds from their catalog, you can have lettuces every month of the year! Ms. Wallace recommended red lettuces for the winter and said that in the summer months grow your lettuces close together because you'll want to eat them while they're young, before they get large and bitter. She also pointed out that one plant that's difficult to grow for seed crop around here is carrots. They cross-pollinate with Queen Anne's Lace and develop a bitter flavor.

Seeds were for sale at the symposium.
The customers were very enthusiastic.
Something that Ms. Wallace didn't mention, but that I discovered while researching this article was the Southern Seed Exchange is the main source of income for the Acorn Community, an egalitarian, intentional community of about 15 members. Intentional communities are a kind of planned alternative society with a shared vision and goals. I love to see people trying out new ways to live so this is even more of a reason to support the company!

For information on the other speakers at the 2010 Winter Symposium click here.


Janet said...

What a cute/beautiful work of art for the cover of their catalog. Great mission to preserve heirlooms. Have you been staying up in Richmond for this? The roads are going to be really nasty tonight.

How It Grows said...

The symposium ended last Thursday, but I still have a couple more postings to go. I just drove up for the day on Wed. and Thurs. The roads seem worse today than last weekend!

Les said...

I followed the link for Acorn. I have heard of Twin Oaks, its parent commune, but never of Acorn. Fascinating concept, one that in another life I may have persued.

How It Grows said...

It's never too late...I might have to join a commune if the economy doesn't improve.

TrueConfederate said...

To create the moss you mentioned !
buttermilk and moss placed in a blender! consistancy of pancake batter or a tad stiffer.

Put it where you want it !

How It Grows said...

Thanks for the tip!