Published March 2, 2017.
Spring is here! Or at least coming soon for some parts of the country. At Native Seeds/SEARCH our staff definitely love all seeds but we have a few favorites that are essentials in our gardens. In this article a few staff members share our favorite varieties.
Melissa Kruse-Peeples, Education Coordinator
I recently started a new sunken garden bed and while I did mix compost and manure with the native soil it needs additional soil improvements. Tohono O'odham "U'us mu:n" Cowpea (banner photo) is a great addition to help fix nitrogen and create green biomass. Not to mention it produces tasty green peas. When the pods are young, just a few inches long, is the best time to pick for fresh eating. This is an extremely prolific variety so there will also be plenty of pods to grow to full maturity for seed saving and dried peas.
I am also a huge fan of watermelon. Home grown heirloom and landrace varieties are much better than store bought for sure. Most watermelons grown commercially are overwatered and the flavor diluted. Tohono O’odham Yellow-Meated is crisp and refreshing. Navajo Red-Seeded is also quite unique. It’s flesh is light and mild but sweet tasting. I am going to try it for the first time in my garden.
Another thing I love having in my garden for some extra color is Corralas Azafran. I plant it first to add some bright pops of orange among all the green of growing zucchinis and cucumbers.
Tohono O'odham Yellow Meated and Navajo Red Seeded Watermelons
Sheri Morgan, Finance & Operations Manager
I love Mrs. Burns' Lemon Basil. The history of the herb is wonderful and a great homage to our late founder Barney Burns and his mother. The plant is beautiful and fragrant, and the basil is wonderful to cook and season food with. I like to put basil in my summer salads as an added green, and I make Basil butter from it to top grilled salmon. Freshly picked leaves also make a wonderful tea or lemonade addition.
Laura Neff, Retail Associate
One of my favorites I try to talk up in the store are chiltepins. Being a wild pepper, they can be a little hard to grow, but the flavor is unmatched. It is pretty high on the heat scale but the heat is instant and dies back over a short amount of time and leaves a unique pepper flavor. I love adding dried chiltepins to my basic bean recipe. The Sonoran variety is a classic chiltepin to try (plant on the left) but we now offer over a dozen varieties from our Seed Bank Collection.
Joy Hought, Executive Director
I love the I'itoi Onions! so dimensional in their flavor, fragrant, floral... and rugged producers. For beauty in the garden I love adding cotton. Cotton flowers and plants are gorgeous. In the Fall the leaves will turn shades of red which add nice color to a waning summer garden.
Melissa Barrow, Retail and Membership Associate
I love the Magdalena Cilantro, not only because I'm a huge cilantro fan, can't eat enough of it, but because this one has that long history of being grown in the SW by the Garcia family. It's extra-slow to bolt, and when started in early spring and established, it can take our heat, at least through May.
I also love watching Devil's Claw grow! A member once described it to me as "okra out of control", which is fairly accurate. I've grown the Tohono O’odham Domesticated variety, but I loved watching the Multi-clawed variety split open at the shop. Their flowers are lovely, the fuzzy horned pods are so cool looking (but they stink if you touch them), and they can get get really big and bushy, with stalks as big as a forearm if you plant them in a big enough pot or space.
Tohono O'odham Domesticated Devil's Claw, Hopi Cotton, Mrs. Burns' Lemon Basil, and Corrales Azafran
Nancy Reid, Retail Associate
I like nothing better than watching gourds grow, especially up a tree. At maturity they tan in color and sway in the breeze and that's when people suddenly notice them and exclaim, "Wow! Look at that gourd tree!!" Varieties with long necks like the Mayo or O’odham Dipper work well for growing in trees as their necks with grow straight.
Devil's claws are another fave. I like to see which variety grows the biggest claws, and so far I stand by the Tohono O'odham Domesticated variety.
My all-time favorite food crop is O'odham Pink bean. Their light and lovely flavor is nice after tending to them all season. They are very pretty!