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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: February 9, 2022

Jane Thibodeau Martin

Eye Candy



**********

Every day when the mail comes, I do a quick sort of things; a generous portion goes unread into recycling after removal of our address.    In the winter, I always hope the mail has some "eye candy," too.  I refer, of course, to seed catalogs, which come fast and furious.

Most mail order catalogs have gone the way of dinosaurs, with "on line" versions taking their place.   This is good for the environment with less energy, fiber and chemicals being utilized.  That said, I can't imagine perusing seed catalogs on line for fun, but I sure like looking at them sitting on the couch in the sun with tea at this time of year.

The catalogs are a harbinger of spring.   They also make me hungry, with the luscious pictures of blueberries, cherries and gorgeous kale.  I already have my seeds for the spring, but catalogs continue to arrive; testing my resistance with additional tempting selections.

There are at least ten varieties of sweet corn in every catalog. Sweet corn is advertised as so sweet it is the vegetable equivalent to that orange circus peanut candy.  I am assured several of the varieties are "best ever," with names like "early sugar baby, candy corn," and "butter cream."

 The catalogs have an interesting interplay of two terms ?? "hybrid" meaning a crossed newer variety, and "heirloom" meaning an old variety.  Apparently being the latest hybrid is attractive in buying sweet corn seed, while the old classics (heirlooms) are popular in tomatoes.  I would assume "heirloom" sweet corn would be like field corn.  If you've had a hybrid tomato like those sold in the grocery store at this time of year, an heirloom tomato would be an extremely appealing thought.

I am offered a new rhubarb variety which is promised to be 蔴 percent male plants."  I have so many questions.  I had no idea I had to buy by sex.  This spring when my rhubarb plants sprout, I'll have to lift up the leaves and discreetly check to see if mine are "boys" or "girls."  Not that I know what I am looking for. 

There is an absolutely bewildering amount of tomatoes, pictured plump and flawless and "producing huge yields."  One is called "Orange Jazz," which, the catalog states, tastes like a fresh peach.  Now that is quite a claim.  What would a peach-flavored B.L.T. taste like?  There are a bewildering amount of tomato varieties, with one seed catalog I got, "Seeds and Such," featuring a mind-boggling 182 separate varieties of tomatoes.  (Not exaggerating, I counted.)  I dislike having that many choices.  I don't want to spend hours trying to make selections, I simply don't have the patience.

I am also offered separate food (fertilizer) for rhubarb, potatoes, tomatoes, and corn"would need a little wagon just to haul all of it to the garden.  Reminds me of having a bunch of picky kids over for lunch, with each one having special demands.

Most overused words in the catalog:  "large/enormous/giant" then "early and/or sweet." 

One variety of radish is called "French Breakfast."  I hadn't pictured eating radishes for breakfast, but maybe I need to expand my horizons?

Ah, the zucchini section.  A banner across the top of the pages advises "pick small and often."  Apparently it isn't all that easy, because gigantic specimens are offered free everywhere in season.  I WOULD buy a zucchini variety if the description was:  "Tiny yields.  Stunted fruit, barely enough for your needs, none to share with others."  Now that's one I'd try.

A type of squash is called "Smooth Criminal Hybrid."  I am not making this up.  It is described as "spineless" and "able to steal your heart."    There is also a "Lunch Lady" gourd, which features "lots and lots of warts."  On behalf of lunch ladies everywhere, how rude!  I loved our lunch ladies at Garfield school.

My favorite section, though, is the fruits and berries.  I would take a bowl of fresh cherries or raspberries over a fudge brownie sundae anytime.  They all look delicious and gorgeous, especially at this time of year when fresh fruits and berries are so scarce and at a premium. 

I was surprised a single elderberry shrub shipped bare root was $29.99.  We have some in the marshy edges of Hank Lake and I love them, because the wildlife does. But some consider them a nuisance and they are regularly hacked out of ditches to keep the water flowing.  I was also struck by the fact that one major catalog I paged through makes absolutely no mention of attracting wildlife or the advantages of landscape plants or flowers that are optimal for bees.  (Butterflies, yes, but not bees.)   That seems like such a natural fit, but perhaps seed catalog customers are totally focused on producing food for themselves and aren't interested in attracting wildlife and insects.  Or quite the opposite ?? they are focused on killing the pests and preventing the wildlife from helping themselves.  I think the seed companies are missing out on expanding their market ?? maybe they could add a section with that focus for nature lovers like me ?? there is a lot of us.  I planted fennel last year hoping the Swallowtail butterflies would utilize it for egg laying; alas, none came.  It was delicious tossed with balsamic vinegar, oil, seasoned and roasted late last fall, but I'd rather have watched it devoured by caterpillars. 

Time to get back to the two new catalogs that came while there is still a nice sun patch on the couch.  I already noticed a new nectarine variety ?? apparently it is "crunchy like an apple."  I like nectarines that aren't crunchy, but it seems the seed company thinks there is a market for that.  I bet it is sweet, enormous, and early.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address:  JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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