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In This Place
The Local Food Report
As we re-imagine our relationships to what we eat, Local Food Report creator Elspeth Hay takes us to the heart of the local food movement to talk with growers, harvesters, processors, cooks, policy makers and visionaries

Seed Recommendations for the Upcoming Growing Season

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Wellfleet Public Library Seed Program
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Naomi Robbins of the Wellfleet Public Library’s Curbside Seeds program is looking forward to spring. She’s ordered over 120 varieties from six different seed companies, and she’s eager to share them:

“For the first year we are including Adaptive Seeds which is out in Oregon and one of the things they really specialize in is lettuces that have been neglected or are nearing extinction because they are no longer being grown,” she said.

Out of 64 different rare varieties of lettuce, some with speckled leaves or curly leaves or unusual shapes, Naomi chose five.

“There’s one that’s a deer tongue but it’s a red deer tongue. It’s called ear of the devil. It’s beautiful. And we’ve gotten something called Sangria which is a variety that I grew a lot when I was much younger and is not in seed catalogs anymore and something called Red Vogue and one called Morgana so we’re gonna see about those.”

Morgana is a red oak leaf lettuce known for its sweet, juicy flavor and red vogue is a butterhead described as like having Madonna in your garden.

“We’ve also added a new radicchio this year, we always offer the indigo radicchio which is a fantastically beautiful delicious very special radicchio but I have a brand new one this year that looks a little bit like a Bel Fiori and it’s called Castle Franco and it’s from Italy,” Naomi said.

Castlefranco is a variegated radicchio, with pale green leaves flecked with deep purple splotches and speckles. It’s recommended for salads or to be braised with meats and incorporated into soups, risottos, and pastas. As for other greens, Naomi usually has a hard time getting excited about kales—but she’s found an exception.

“One variety of kale that we do offer which is an unusual one it’s called Biera and it is the traditional Portuguese variety, it’s actually the variety they used to make the Portuguese kale soup out of and if you’re familiar with the Portuguese kale soup when you buy it at a restaurant around here it usually has the curly kale in it but the true Portuguese kale it looks more like a collard green and that is exciting to have those seeds we were having people who were from the Portuguese community out here asking for that so we found a really nice variety and we offer that.”

Biera is tender, sweet, and much more heat tolerant than other kales, which means you can grow it all summer long.

“Oh, and I wanted to tell you about one other cucumber! It’s a cucumber we get from Seed Saver’s Exchange and it’s called Puna Kiera and it comes from the Puna area in India and it is this really interesting yellow cucumber that matures into something that looks like a russet potato! And I think it’s such a fantastically interesting, delicious and just unusual fruit and we don’t have a ton of seeds available for that but I always want people to try it. And I think people are a little hesitant but it’s—maybe if you’re only growing one cucumber you’re not going to choose that but if you’re going to grow two, make that one of them.”

Naomi told me about all kinds of other seeds she’s excited about—hot peppers and climbing beans and cucumbers—how on earth do we choose?