Park Seed

• 800-845-3360

Totally Tomatoes

• 800-345-5977

I’m coming to the slow realization that my beloved seed catalogs are going along the same path as the mailbox full of Christmas cards. I’m afraid before much longer, both will be a thing of the past. Accessing a seed catalog online just isn’t the same as settling next to the fireplace with a beverage of choice and a pad of yellow stickies. Even after several years of Nichols being online, I still mourn the loss of the print edition. I’ll feel like the end of the world has come if I don’t receive a Territorial or Johnny’s catalog.

There is one bright spot. The Park Seed catalog I received has totally been redesigned with new page layout and new fonts, leading one to discover all sorts of must-haves.

One of Park’s new featured items is bean “Mascotte,” a French filet bean that can be grown in a tub on a sunny patio. Mascotte is a bush-type haricot vert, meaning the bean is slender and stringless and best picked at 5- to 6-inch pods at ¼-inch diameter. Mascotte was awarded an All America Selection for its crunch, flavor and plentiful harvest. Where did the name come from? According to Horticulture magazine, “mascotte” is French for mascot, a symbol of good luck. One claim is that the name matches the varieties gardener-friendly habit.

I missed ordering Parks cucumber “Sir-Crunch a Lot” last year. It’s listed again this year with a glowing reader review of “Best Cucumber Ever,” so I think it’s time to try it. “Diva” and “Sweet Success” have always been my previous choices. What fun is gardening if you don’t do some experimenting?

Seed tapes have enjoyed popularity on and off over the past 25 years. This year Park has devoted a full page to its offerings.

Since part of our garden philosophy has always been based on more time than money, the scientific husband would spend hours during January meticulously making carrot seed tapes. We probably found the DIY instructions in Organic Farming or Mother Earth News in the early 1970s. They are certainly much cheaper to make than purchase.

It is a simple process of using newsprint or other biodegradable paper (no color pages) and water-soluble glue, either commercial or homemade. The paper is cut into 1-inch wide strips and a tiny dab of glue is placed an inch apart for carrots. Using a slightly damp toothpick, place a seed in each dab of glue. Let dry and either roll on to an empty paper towel roll or fold and place in a cool area until planting time. This is a great way to eliminate the tedious task of thinning seedlings.

Totally Tomatoes, located in Randolph, Wis., has kept with the tradition of a paper catalog. I counted 26 pages of tomatoes in every color and size you could imagine.

The introduction of the Indigo Rose tomato developed at Oregon State University has led to the introduction of four new indigo varieties: Indigo Apple, Indigo Blue Beauty, Indigo Blue Berries and Indigo Kumquat Hybrid. All are high in anthocyanin, an antioxidant with disease-fighting properties.

Also discovered in Totally Tomatoes is the introduction of a series called Wild Boar Tomatoes. They are an introduction from a small organic farmer, tomato breeder and grower of heirlooms. The owner of Boar farms, Brad Gates, has bred dozens of new tomatoes from more than 1,000 heirlooms, crosses and hybrids. His main focus is on extreme flavor and striped fruits with fascinating looks. The Boar series has a maturity range of 65-75 days and crazy names like Pork Chop and Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye. How can we help but be tempted?

If you are a pepper aficionado, you might want to check out the 14 pages of pepper varieties. The selection included everything from the mild sweet peppers, mildly hot and spicy peppers to a large selection of fire-breathing hot peppers. Most fall into our maturity range of 60-75 days. For the adventurous, there are varieties of hot peppers that will require 90-110 days to mature.

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