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.
I'm very excited that I have finally been able to increase Icicle pea enough to be able to offer some in the 2017/18 seed shop this year!
This is a fresh eating pea with edible fleshy pod. Very light in colour hence the name. We love them fresh but also chopped up and frozen for winter use.
Below are two new to me dry peas. On the left is a lovely pea from La Societe des Plantes called Charlevoix and the other is called Gold Harvest. It may have come from Salt Spring Seeds but my packet said Orange. It has an unusual pastel bi-coloured flower, small pods and flattened shape. I'd like to look into its history further. I intend to grow both out in longer rows next year so that I can try a real sample of both in the kitchen for 2018! Working with plants, is definitely a longterm endeavour.
the dried goods growing club
we grow edibles to eat right?
If gardening is my (so-called) profession (vocation would be more accurate at this point) then cooking is my hobby. I've been having a lot of fun creating a number of chufa based recipes and hope to post about them soon. I've also started to grow in longer rows, in what is called the Chef's garden, a few of the perennial edibles that show particular promise so that they can be used in bulk recipes that profile their flavour.
experimental grow op
I'm always learning while growing. Learning to love the land, learning to admire the complex dynamic ecosystem of life, learning to work efficiently with minimal equipment and input. This includes the first crop of edible weeds, quick turning beds, animal helpers and more.
I enjoy turning this observational and experiential knowledge into seminars, workshops, and written materials. It's always interesting to see ours gardens, in their chaotic glory, through others' eyes.
Often, when I do a camera tour of the gardens, I am sad that I can't capture the noise of native bees buzzing through the nine bark or the scent of pine. There is so much more to this landscape then what a photo can portray. I wish I could virtually share with you the hearty salads, the freshly picked asparagus quiche and the chufa chocolate cakes but this is the best I can do.
But there's more
As summer is around the corner, I thought I'd fill in readers on what's happening on the homestead. To start, so many breeding projects!
True seed grown tubers
Tubers and other calorie crops are of particular interest to me as a grower. This is not to say that I don't love other edible crops. I do. In fact, we have an abundance of greenery growing as weeds, perennial edibles and even the occasional treasured annual. I even have some projects on the go to produce interesting greens such as dandelion selection, thin petiole overwintering chard and Daubenton perennial kale crosses. But when it comes to feeding my family and my community, it is the tubers, legumes, grains and storables that I gravitate toward.
I grow out many tuber crops, which are usually started vegetatively, as true (sexually reproduced) seed. These include sweet potatoes, nightshade potatoes, oca, yacon, Apios, and Jerusalem artichoke.
Other projects falling under the calorie crop label would include The Dried Goods Growing Club, Storage vining crops including the Public Participatory Butternut Squash Landrace, and the West Carelton Calorie Project all in part 2. But before we explore those, let's veer into a few plant families that I tend to focus on.
What would life be without alliums?
I love my onion, garlic, leeks, chives and so forth. Though I sell a number of perennial onion seeds that are not undergoing heavy selection such as Blue Chives - a beautiful, tasty self seeding flat leafed plant that is perfect for the front of a sunny border), I also am working on a few breeding projects.
One of my oldest is probably the perennial leek. It is a cross between Oerprei (ancient) perennial bunching leek and a perennializing population of St. Victors leek selection for purple coloration in the leaf (first selected by the Long Island Seed Project). I'm already pretty happy with the cross that is reliably perennial here but larger than the ancient leek.
Next would come the potato onions. I have been growing out true seed of as many varieties as I could get my hands on including shallot seed. These have been mixed together with the best being replanted. I'm looking for high yielding storage onions that readily overwintering on a fall planting. Right now I have 2015 and 16's selections growing out, producing seed and sets along with a couple rows of new seedlings.
Last year I had a complete failure in my attempt to grow out seed sources for selection of a low input, bulb onion but the seedlings are doing much better this year. I hope to have some seed parent candidates later this summer.
Ongoing are my experiments with walking onion and grow outs of other wild or less cultivated onions including Allium altaicum, Allium stellatum and Allium cernuum.
beans, beans the magical fruit... Legumes
Here are some highlights though there are lots more growing including peanuts (Schronce's Black, Valencia ALE select), Ahipa, runner beans, true seed Apios, some really nifty dry peas that I'm testing, grass pea, soy and a few others as part of the Dried Goods Growing Club (part 3). That's not including al the fun Fabaceae plants in the forest gardens and fields that I am not eating!
I'm probably most excited that I'm finally at the stage of growing out enough Icicle pea to store, save and sell (even if only in a limited quantity). Also, though the peanuts were attacked by what was probably bean flea beetle, they are bouncing back so I'm hoping to do a little pollen swapping between the two northern strains to see what we can produce.
A little landrace of Chickpeas that I have been growing for more than a decade now is also at the stage of increasing again after a big loss a few years ago. I just *might* have enough to share!! Included in this mix are a variety of colours and some popping genes.
This year I'm also doing some selective growing of a few dry beans that I particularly enjoy not only fresh but also at what I like to call the shelly stage for frozen storage in winter. Lastly is one little side project of growing all my diminutive (both plant and seed) dry beans together including Carol Deppe's provider bean, brown selection (I'm missing the black for some reason) and a pink one called Peanut if I'm remembering correctly. They tend to cook up at approximately the same rate and I like the variation in colour.
Go to Part 2
Go to Part 3
Before you ask, let me guess what you are going to say. "What sort of peanut works best for up north or for low solar input areas?" Well, the usual answer is Valencia. Schronces Deep Black Peanut does equally well for a Quebec grower friend of mine as well. I have also received some northern strain Valencia from US based Fruition Seeds this year to test.
So how well do they do for me? They are okay. Better probably when I pre-start a few weeks early though this year I direct sowed.
So far, my favourite part of growing peanuts is watching their yellow pea flowers (pea+nut, get it) develop pegs that they drill into the ground and then pulling the whole plant up later in the season to collect the corky pods.
This year, I may try my hand at crossing the two varieties I have.
Very quick update on one of my favourite taste driven projects. Actually it's use driven too. I love this little mange-tout pea. It's orgins are a bit of a mystery but it's a keeper. I've been increasing for some time now mostly for selfish reasons. I like eating it and find cutting up the whole pod (rather than shelling) for freezing for winter use is convenient. Next year, I might finally have enough seed that, all going well, I'll be able to share!
Some new plants are carefully created by crossing parents to produce an expected result. Some are produced by chance. I have no idea where this came from but can tell you that the white podded and seeded mange-tout is amazing! I am working on increasing it to share.
It is not impossible that this came from a cross from Modern Landrace breeder Joseph Lofthouse. It was found nearby where his Pisum sativum shelling landrace was planted. However, there were several of them in a short row so I can't be sure. I can tell you this though: yum.
I don't know why I got so excited about growing chickpeas. It could be because I have a thing for edible plants in general. All I know is that I ordered a Winnifred's Garbanzo from Salt Spring Seed one year and grew it out. I liked the pinnate foliage, the little pea-like flowers and the plumb pods. It was a pain to thresh but not as hard as some of the grains.
Over the years, and through the kindness of seed traders, I have collected a bunch of varieties including Carol Deppe's popping chickpea - one of the best growing ones in my gardens so far.
They come in a fascinating variety of textures, colours and sizes to keep even a bean collector interested. I have been growing them and saving them together in modern landrace style with the exception of the popbean which I mostly grow in isolation. Increasing my seed stock was going well until the drought of 2012 where I had a poor crop and lost a lot. I hope to bring up my numbers again next year.
Sometimes you plant out humdrum seed like the stalwart but common Lincoln and you get a surprise. In this case, I got a variegated pea. I had planted these on my window sill to get pea sprouts so wasn’t prepared when something unusual appeared. The plant eeked along in the weak window sun until a single pod developed and set seed.
Now I wasn’t expecting this trait to passed down. Afterall, I had read that it was likely a chimera – two genetic lines (one without chlorophyll) intermingling and expressing in the plant – but the second generation had a percentage that was also variegated.
What happened next was I failed to properly label my seeds. When I teach seed saving, there are two points, I try to drive home (well three – all saving is selection) and they are 1) most seed needs to be dry for storage and 2) label. In fact, make notes. Put those notes right on the seed package. So how could I fail to label? I’m embarrassed to say that it was not the first time nor the last. Perhaps I thought I’d remember that those wrinkled green peas were the special ones. So the next year, when I thought I sowed them out, I saw only green and figured it was gone.
Low and behold, I discovered a jar of unlabelled packs of pea seeds two years later (um yes a whole jar full of different packages of different peas with no labels...). I sowed them. About a month later, a friend and I were walking through the garden when she leans down and says, “look at that.”
And there it was, appearing from seed in the third generation. The variegated pea had returned. It’s not something I’m likely to be able to offer as it takes a while to increase but it sure is fun to grow.
All about growing, selecting and using edible plants in the Ottawa valley.