by Charles A. Monagan
Dec 29, 2011
03:38 PM
On Connecticut

Review: "Comstock's 2012 Seed Guide"

Review: "Comstock's 2012 Seed Guide"

Comstock & Ferre Co.

The Banana Melon is described in the seed guide as having "yellow skin and sweet, spicy salmon flesh."

If, as the new year approaches, we find ourselves wishing for renewal, revival and maybe even a sort of perfection, there are few better inspirational texts to keep at our side than "Comstock's 2012 Seed Guide." The guide was just published by Wethersfield's venerable Comstock, Ferre & Co., now in its 201st year of dispensing heirloom seeds and eternal hope to gardeners and daydreamers alike.

This year's guide features a vintage illustration of a pair of Jersey Giant tomatoes on the cover. The pages inside are devoted to many more illustrations and photographs, pithy write-ups of each featured fruit, vegetable or flower, and even words of wisdom (also pithy) from the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Erasmus and Ecclesiastes ("Wisdom is better than weapons of war . . ."). There's also an interesting history of Comstock, Ferre, ranging from its founding in 1811 by Joseph Beldon to its current incarnation under the watchful eyes of Jere and Emilee Gettle.

But it's the strange, beautiful world of heirloom seeds that will transport you forward, out of winter and into a sunny, summery place where melons, beans, peppers and the like grow into wild fantasies of shape, color and personality.

Corn isn't just corn, for instance. It's Country Gentleman, Golden Bantam or Strawberry Popcorn. Cucumbers are Boothby Blonde, Boston Pickling, Longfellow, Sikkim, Straight 8 or White Wonder. Even the lowly radish is elevated to Black Spanish, French Breakfast, Long Scarlet, Rose Colored China Winter and Sparkler, among others.

In the text are all sorts of interesting tidbits. We learn that "the original Bull Nose pepper was popular in early America and was grown by Thomas Jefferson. They are still grown at Monticello today." Or that the Lazy Wife bean from the 1880s "was easy for housewives to pick because the pods grow in clusters on the plant making it quite a time saver for ladies in a hurry." Or that Edmund Mcllhenny made the Tabasco pepper famous in 1868 "when he invented the very popular Tabasco sauce which he preserved in rejected cologne bottles on Avery Island, Louisiana."

The truth is that there's enough here for several long winter nights. It may even stir deep within you the desire to send away for some seed packets and get your own garden going in 2012.  On the other hand, it may not. But at the very least, it will stand as a model of birth and rebirth that we all can carry with us into the new year.



Review: "Comstock's 2012 Seed Guide"

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