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Seedy Business

Where to buy our favorite rare and heirloom seeds online
Photo: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table
The Best Sources for Mail Order Seeds

?April is Homegrown Month at Tasting Table.

It's time to get your hands dirty. Whether you live in a region of endless, temperate weather or are twiddling your mittened thumbs awaiting your final frost date, clicking through come-hither pictures and florid descriptions of fantastically named produce (Sultan's Green Crescent beans, Mongogo Du Guatemala squash and Love Lies Bleeding amaranth spring to mind) can make any climate seem like endless summer.

And we're especially big fans of the farmers and collectors who have put decades, if not centuries, into preserving heritage breed produce varieties, even if that means you won't always find their packets in your local big-box garden center. Dig into our favorite online sources for rare, heirloom and organic vegetable, fruit and herb seeds, and start plotting this season's gardening adventures.

Seed Savers Exchange (Decorah, Iowa)
Since 1975, the nonprofit, member-supported Seed Savers Exchange has been on a mission to save and pass on heirloom produce and flower varieties, so future generations can taste and enjoy the same bounty their ancestors did. Anyone is welcome to buy seeds or visit the organization's Heritage Farm, but members are eligible for benefits including discounts and a massive network of seed swappers.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (Mansfield, Missouri)
The preservation of heirloom varieties isn't just a business for Jere and Emilee Gettle, it's a way of life. Jere printed his first heirloom seed catalog in 1998, and since then, the couple's passion has blossomed into a working seed farm and the Bakersville Pio­neer Village, which plays host to homesteading conferences, planting festivals and educational events. (Plus, it boasts some of the coolest-looking packets in the business.)

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Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (Mineral, Virginia)
Though gardeners from all over the country have come to rely on Southern Exposure for its unique regional offerings since Jeff McCormack and Patty Wallens sent out their first catalog in 1982, SESE focuses on seed varieties that fare well in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. Especially of note: the extensive selection of sweet potatoes (Georgia Jet, All Purple, Carolina Ruby and plenty more) that ship in vine-cutting "slips" for both spring and fall.

D. Landreth Seed Company (Sharon Springs, New York)
With its founding date of 1784, D. Landreth Seed Company is the non-GMO O.G. Though its heirloom offerings range far and wide, the collection of rare melon varieties currently available is particularly astonishing: Georgia Rattlesnake, Cream of Saskatchewan, Charleston Gray and plenty more. The company no longer prints a catalog, but it's worth the $5 to pick up a copy of the prettily printed edition from last year (and the prices will still be honored).

Victory Seed Company (Molalla, Oregon)
This family owned company is so serious about organic planting, it won't just sell you its rare, heirloom and GMO-free seeds, it will ship you the composting worms as well. Victory has been in business since 1909, and it's teamed up with Slow Food USA to offer a selection of seeds from the Ark of Taste, which is a catalog of more than 200 foods that the organization believes are in danger of extinction.

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