I have just put up the list for 2018/19 sales and will be closing this store as of March 2019. I have loved growing with you and wish you well on your growing journeys.
It is with great excitement that I announce that unless the fabulous looking seasonally appropriate forecast of next week suddenly disappears, then ALE will be shipping remaining orders containing plant material assuming the destination locations also have favourable weather.
I can open the tuber shop.
It may be frigid out there but there are lots of dreams of summer's heat manifest in sweet potato seedlings from last year. Below you'll see sweet potatoes that you have NEVER seen before. Never unless you saw some of my pictures on Facebook that is. Why? Because these are from true botanical sweet potato seed. Each seed contains its own jumbled genes of a unique individual rather than clones of a particular variety (I've got lots of those growing too).
Seedling Sweet Potato Selection
My seedlings from last year (from three seed sources which included seed produced minimally here) were cut. I didn't do it last fall as I wanted to test them for storability under my conditions first. Sweet potatoes are stored warm, by the way, and mine are stored in a wooden chest by a wood stove.
White is apparently semi-dominant, which was certainly the case for my seedlings. White and purple made up the majority of my plants. Purple ones tended toward being longer season or spindly - both of which aren't interesting to me but I did get a few that were exceptional purples/reds with shorter, stouter tubers. I also got a few bronze skinned-white fleshed ones that might be worth growing as I get requests for these sort of starchier sweets quite often.
Most were smooth skinned but as you can see on the right, there were a few that were bumpier. Perhaps this is more common in wild types. White and purple, by the way, tend to be drier and less moist making them better for certain types of recipes like chipping and stewing. I did get two oranges within 2017's seedlings. The pale orange that you can see here and a stouter, shorter darker orange.
I sorted the sweet potato seedlings by form, colour and podding ability first then tasted some of the more interesting ones. The best seedlings were put in a tray for slipping.
One of my favourites was a red skinned, red-purple fleshed one with good yield. We'll see how it does this year!
Last year, I instructed two partner farmers as part of the West Carleton Calorie Project to look for and gather seeds for me. Myself and Our Farm had success so these seeds have been started for this year's trials!
I look forward to comparing yields with 2017's seedling tubers and common short season cultivars like Covington, Beauregard and so forth.
Hoping for a little luck and summer sun to keep this project rolling into 2018.
Estimated time for tuber sales to commence...
Third week of April. Maybe even beginning of May.
It's like COLD here.
It's that time of year where you can order your completely free butternut squash seed as a public participant in the ... deep breath ... Public Participatory Cucurbita moschata Butternut Squash Landrace Breeding Project for Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec... otherwise known as that Butternut Project.
In 2017, I had some great farmers showing me once again how awesome they were at growing by producing loads of luscious vines and fruit. Fruit set was late as we had low heat units last year but I did receive some seed back from participants. Many thanks!
Just contact me with your address and I will send you the seed and details. Spoiler: The details are very easy. Grow squash. No need to Isolate. Store squash from best plant(s) for a few months. Send back some seeds.
Easy as pumpkin* pie.
* Butternut squash makes the best pumpkin pie in my opinion.
I grew out about 20 plants of a cross between Santorini and OSU blue. What can I say about its f1 progeny... it was pretty. I held out well against disease. It was early. The flavour was not exactly exciting and the appearance was pretty intermediary between its two parents.
Of course, the f1 is not very exciting. On the other hand, this year's f2s should be far more fun.
Limited Seed Offer
Would you like to try your hand at some f2 OSU x Santorini? They will be variations on a theme of their parents. I can send you a sample and you can send me your thoughts and photos. If you find a great tomato in that batch, please send me back seeds.
Last year, a couple farmers in West Carelton and I started year 1 of a project to locally adapt some important calorie crops to our region including sweet potatoes and potatoes from true botanical seed.
For the potato (Solanum tuberosum) part of the project, we grew out Blue Leslie x OP and another strain of mixed TPS. The former was chosen because of its drought tolerance. It turns out that it is also tolerant of other vagaries thrown at it including the non stop deluge that categorized the weather for 2017 and various pests. Foliage was very clean and unaffected by disease right up until I pulled them as well.
Flowers, on Blue Leslie x OP, varied in colour from white to blue. Apparently the white tends to self if I'm remembering correctly. Some certainly were heavy berry setters.
That's the great thing about True Potato Seed (TPS) growing compared to True Sweet Potato Seed (TSPS) in our climate. You could get enough seed to Johnny Potato seed everyone's garden many fold from a few well producing plants. The seed itself is as easy to start as a tomato as well.
Blue Leslie x OP
Intriguingly, the Blue Leslie x OP (Blue Leslie is a cross between domesticated potato and Solanum chacoense) all had somewhat woody stems. The progeny were mostly oblong like fingerlings or somewhat flattened ovals. They varied in skin colour. One was adorably bicolour but sadly that was lost in the freezing incident of December 2017. I was keeping the special offspring in a special room off the house but the door was left open by an unknown person. That night, it went down to -30C or less with a much colder windchill. Many tubers in there froze solid though luckily I did not lose the carrot, onion, sea beet or Yacon.
I will be giving pull started plants to a few participating farmer-partners to grow out and test in their field and will be growing out a number of interesting TPS this year to trial on site.
Thankfully, the tubers that were stored in The World's Worst Polytunnel cache's were intact despite December's extreme cold. At least one tuber has a beautiful bright yellow colouration with purple skin. I'm looking forward to taste tests this fall.
Kenosha Potato Project
Cultivariable's How To Grow True Potato Seed
Cultivariable's Potato Genetics Articles
In April and May, please take advantage of 25% off seed prices with the coupon code SpringSeedSale!
Tubers will become available after the ground thaws and inventory is taken sometime in mid to late April (delays anticipated due to cold weather).
If you are used to getting information on Aster Lane Edibles via Facebook or Twitter, please note that I won't be available there this spring.
Have a great planting season!
Their parents come from a wide variety of sources including some gene banks, some of Deppe's Hannan pop beans sent to me by a farmer who'd been growing them out for a while and the chickpea that started me off Salt Spring Seeds 'Winifred's Garbanzo'
Now, I do not get the yields that I hear about on the West coast but I do get sufficient return to keep me going year upon year. When it comes to plant development, I'm not known to give up too easily. Chickpeas probably predate my first breeding projects, and were amongst the earliest of my seed saving attempts. This may be partly why I allowed them to cross pollinate. Very soon afterwards, I read Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties by Carol Deppe. Her story about pop beans was such good reading that I knew that I was going to be growing them out for awhile despite the usual frustration and nearly losing them twice. In the early years, I was sent several diverse seed lots from different geographical regions. Since then, some traits have vanished into the genetic milieu or because they didn't thrive in my conditions and/or cultivation techniques, whereas others have become more prominent.
Ah carrots. How you've tested me over the years. You've been eaten by numerous critters at the seed and seedling stage so that 1000s of seeds became 3 seedlings. You've refused to germinate because of drought or dry conditions (and my lack of irrigation). You've managed to grow only in little clumps that I didn't have the motivation to thin so that you were pathetic. I've sown you over and over and over all season until finally in late summer, you took giving me a nice carpet of greenery and not much else. I've let these little sproutlings to overwinter to see if they wouldn't vernalize and therefore produce more a root in the spring. Sometimes this worked, sometimes not.
I've experimented with numerous germination strategies. Sowing with the melt, fall sowing, sowing after the seedling eaters have moved on, sowing with water holding material. Germination boards attract the seedling eating bugs, irrigation isn't feasible here, but a fine sprinkling of green material and a row cover seem to be the ticket!
In 2015, I finally was able to start my colourful carrot project. Admittedly, this is hardly original though my goal was not to produce a full spectrum of carrot colour but to concentrate on the deeply coloured varieties of red, purple, and deep orange - lycopene, anthocyanin and beta carotene respectively. From these, I was hoping to get some vitamin rich diversity. From the 100s, if not 1000s of seeds, I sowed that year, I got some. Don't ask me how many as I wasn't really expecting this project to move forward, but it was no more than 100. And from that, I selected only those with a Danvers-Chantenay root shape (more or less) - wide shoulders, short root, with minimal damage, no signs of disease and a deep colour. There were a few reds, mostly oranges and a few dragon type purples (ie. purple with orange/yellow cores).
I overwintered in ground, on purpose. Carrots are only partially reliable here overwinter but I would like to be able to create a variety that is not only able to grow and produce quality roots but also seeds in our conditions.
In 2016, they went to flower. There was a neat variation in flower shape though none had pink flowers - one of my fantasies. Perhaps in this year's crop I might get some like that. Luckily, I have almost no Queen Anne's Lace on the property. Any that appears is removed immediately and seems to come in from outside soil. My growing space is surrounded by forest and there is almost no QAL in the farmer's ditches either. When I see any, I clip it or dig it up. I"m not sure how the farmer's feel about that... no one has said anything. So these carrots were left to open pollinate.
Seed was sown in the moist spring soil in 2017. I sprinkled the ground with a little straw and then laid over a row cover. Given my impressive record of failure, I shouted with glee when they started to sprout in number! Still the cutworms disappeared whole parts of the 50 foot row. I resowed. The cutworms and slugs grew fatter. I transplanted seedlings... yes, I did. This explains some of the shapes come harvest time... Eventually, the pests retreated and the carrots grew well.
If it weren't for the increase in the rodent population, I would have held off harvesting until November. A few holes (some from children and other folk that reported how delicious the carrots were in that long row over there) later, I decided that I had better do root selection before numbers dwindled.
Though I do want to select for carrots that grow and seed well in our conditions, I have hedged my bets this year. A selection are in a clamp in a polytunnel outside and some more are in a safer storage condition where I can monitor them.
We've eaten many meals and I can safely say that they are very yummy. The ones with white-yellow cores have a satisfying sturdy texture. The 'black' type are sweet and delicious, becoming darker in colour with cooking. So far, I like the results!
Plans for 2018
* Grow out a second row of 2016 seed
* Plant both sets of carrots - a) all 'black' and b) multicoloured in separate tunnels.
* Select for bright or darkly coloured cores only and stipple (sample)
* Plant in ground with simple mulch about a third of the selection, enough for genetic diversity to select for easy overwintering, if possible.
All about growing, selecting and using edible plants in the Ottawa valley.