Santa is not the only one making a list and checking it twice. And starring, underlining, highlighting, triple-starring, and dog-earing selections with every page turn. ‘Tis the season for coveted, colorful seed catalogs arriving by the day, stacking up with holiday cards and sale flyers. The allure of glossy, gourmet garden photographs is the song of the Sirens to me. I get lost in imagination. Not exactly visions of sugarplums, but dreams of heavy harvest baskets piled high with plump fruits. Just like I did as a pig-tailed, carrot-topped five year old intently coding the Sears holiday catalog: I’d start with a star by the toy I just had to have, and then turn the page to find the be-all, end-all Barbie pool with a slide. So I’d add two stars to emphatically note to Santa that this was my top, top choice. Hours later, stars were running off the margins and upgraded to highlights and circles shouting, “No, no, this one!”
So, you can imagine that choosing what to grow for our Cooking Light Test Kitchen garden is quite the adventure. Luckily for us, we have lots of space. But no matter the space, it’s never enough. Right, gardeners?
And how to choose? Going through seed catalogs in the dead of winter is like reading a restaurant menu when starving. Or shopping to fill an empty closet: There’s only so much you can squeeze into that 4x6 space and so much you can use each season. Perhaps some of the same advice we get for fashion applies here: Keep a few tried-and-true favorites, dare for some of the newest on the market, stick with what’s recommended for seasons where you live, and get lots of items that complement one another.
Whether it’s the holiday toy guide, Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, or beautiful seed catalogs that rival any coffee table book, allow yourself to indulge this season. However, learn to read between the lines. No matter how romantic it sounds, “the most amazing looking melon…vibrant yellow with brilliant fire-red, zigzag stripes” and with “a rich, sweet, intoxicating aroma that will fill a room” was a seed choice we learned was far more tasteful as tabletop décor. Sometimes it is what isn’t said that is the most telling.
Here are a few (of the many) reputable seed sources from whom we order. Our sources of edible plants, trees, bulbs, and garlic are shared throughout the seasons. And if your seed wish list is growing by the day, go ahead and order one of these… in jumbo size. I speak from seed keeping experience!
Tell us! What vegetables, fruits, and herbs should we absolutely grow in the Cooking Light Test Kitchen garden next year?