My Copy: 9781401324391 (image from rareseeds.com)
I’ll just say right now that I’m a huge buyer of heirloom seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. When that seed catalog showed up in my mailbox, thicker than my town’s phone book… let’s just say it’s the first time I thumbed through a catalog cover to cover with excitement since I first started looking for guitars and drooled over the sale pages from Guitar Center.
The company was founded by the Gettles, the authors of this book. The Heirloom Life Gardener is part plant resource book, part autobiography of Jere Gettle, who had lived on farms growing food his entire life. Jere was curious and enjoyed looking through seed catalogs, growing all kinds of heirlooms. What made him interesting in this aspect is when he’d be looking through catalogs and realized that certain species of delicious produce were hard to find or going extinct. So, when he got older, he took a drive down to Mexico to see how farming was there and the seed types available. And from then on, he would return home to work his family farm, save up some money, and fly to some other region of the world to meet farmers, collect seeds, and try their produce and dishes.
The first half of the book is a lot of these types of stories, him just figuring out what he wants to do next, trying to get in touch with small farmers and nature while broke or near out of gas, marrying a like minded woman who loved the farm, and all in an attempt to save as much seed as he could and try to bring classic species back from the brink. His collection grew into a very happening business, a store where interesting seed types that hadn’t been tainted with chemicals or genetically altered by the big corporations to withstand shipping at the expense of taste and diversity. The store became so successful the family opened a few other locations to make getting seeds easier.
If you’ve always wondered why you don’t like the vegetables in the grocery store (or wonder why others go on and on about home-grown and biodiversity), then this is definitely worth a read. It goes into detail in the second half of the book about the different types of produce groups, where they came from and how they spread, their popularity, etc. There’s a lot in this book, but it isn’t exactly a growing guide. It’s more of a resource, but also does a good job in telling you how you can save the seeds of your produce for next year (or the next few years), thereby saving money and time (and the species).
This is also a great book to show youngsters about what produce there is out there and the different varieties of them. I mean, what kid wouldn’t want to try purple carrots? Red corn? Pink celery? Snap peas off the vine? In all honesty, I’d love to see a little kid’s eyes light up at the pictures in the company’s seed catalog, but this is a good, humorous, enlightening resource all of its own. It’s a good basic resource for where our food came from in the past and what it could be again in the broader world.
I got this book from the company itself (www.rareseeds.com), but it’s available at Amazon as well. I bring this up because there’s a similarly titled book that’s available at other big book retailers, but it’s not from the Gettles.