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It's time to order your seeds

Fuyu Persimmons
Trudy Vermehren
Fuyu Persimmons

If there’s one plant Trudy Vermehren loves, it’s a pepper. She orders her seeds from a South Carolina company called Pepper Joe’s.

“The chocolate bell peppers, these are beautiful they’re a really deep red color," she explains. "The Giant Jalapeño is an easy one because it’s big and it’s easy to work with. Oh buquiño! This is one to keep in mind, they’re an incredible small pepper that you can use as a garnish or just like a little hit of flavor.”

Biquinho is a Brazilian hot pepper, sometimes red and sometimes yellow and the name means ‘little beak.’ Biquinho peppers have a distinctive smoky flavor but also a sweetness that makes them good in marinades. Trudy says hers have produced well in the past, as has a variety called Jimmy Nardello, which two immigrants from a village in southern Italy brought to the U.S. in 1887. The Jimmy Nardello pepper is long and thin skinned and an excellent pepper to dry for winter flavor. Another plant Trudy really enjoys growing are radishes. She’s “gone a little nuts” on them lately.

“They’re really fun to grow because they’re quick you know you put em in the spring when you do have that time they go into the ground, they just will hang out, and they don’t need really anything,” she said. “This year, Scott just bought these but we have Black Spanish, they’re gorgeous, um, watermelon radish is one that a lot of people know and it’s just so beautiful you can use it as a garnish even on a drink in a cocktail, daikon.”

With Daikon, there are a few varieties. Besides the common white daikon that many people are familiar with as the grated white garnish served with sushi, there’s also lobak or lo pak a pale green Cantonese daikon, and it turns out the watermelon radish Trudy mentioned is also an heirloom Chinese daikon variety. Then she moves on to melons.

“There’s one called Charentais, that is an amazing melon,” she said. “It reminds me of the melons I grew up with in New Jersey which I have no idea what those are called but they’re very deeply lobed, and they’re really bright orange. But it is a beautiful orange cantaloupe style melon and it’s incredibly flavored it’s really bold and sweet.”

Charentais melons are small — about the size of a softball — and French, common in Provence. You can’t usually buy them in stores. Trudy likes fruits like this, particularly old perennials. She says a good nursery source is One Green World in the Pacific Northwest.

“They have a lot of these older type orchard fruits that you don’t see them commercially because they don’t ship, so they don’t keep, ship, all of those things that a commercial entity would want to have.”

This past year Trudy bought a perennial fruit called Medlar from One Green World that’s in the rose family. I’d never heard of it but I looked it up and it’s a tree with large, chocolate-brown fruits that look sort of like a giant rosehip. Medlar fruits have been cultivated on the Balkan Peninsula for thousands of years and are sometimes described as a custard apple. They get ripe after the frost — just like another fruit Trudy has planted, the persimmon.

“They’re the Fuyu persimmons, so they’re a hard, firm persimmon. They’re beautiful, they just look so exotic, but here they are growing in the Northeast,” said Trudy.

Fuyu persimmon tree
Trudy Vermehren
Fuyu persimmon tree

Fuyu persimmons were first cultivated in China more than 2,000 years ago and Trudy says people often tell her they’re surprised to see them growing here. She had a bumper crop last fall.

“There must have been, I thought maybe I’d get twenty off the tree you know from a distance you’re looking at it. And I think I got over forty, maybe forty or fifty off the tree. And they never get mushy until they’re almost un-usable but at that point it’s almost like jam so you can literally use it as a jam, because it’s sweet on the inside, they were so good, we had so much fun with those.”

That’s the thing about plants and seed ordering, isn’t it? Here’s to another season of scheming and dreaming.

Here are links for Trudy's seed ordering recommendations.

One Green World https://onegreenworld.com/

Pepper Joe’s https://pepperjoe.com/

Floret Flowers https://www.floretflowers.com/

Baker Creek https://www.rareseeds.com/

Johnny Seeds https://www.johnnyseeds.com/

An avid locavore, Elspeth lives in Wellfleet and writes a blog about food. Elspeth is constantly exploring the Cape, Islands, and South Coast and all our farmer's markets to find out what's good, what's growing and what to do with it. Her Local Food Report airs Thursdays at 8:30 on Morning Edition and 5:45pm on All Things Considered, as well as Saturday mornings at 9:30.