Mysterious origins, long-forgotten flavors. How will these precious seeds do in my garden?
I’m very excited to be a part of this year’s Member-Grower Evaluation Network held by the Seed Savers Exchange. If you haven’t heard of SSE, they are a wonderful non-profit organization centered around preserving heirloom seeds. Gardeners can browse either the catalog, or purchase a membership and shop and/or participate in their yearbook (where you find the really interesting and rare varieties).
Participation in M-GEN allows me to grow and observe rare seed varieties and report my findings back to SSE. By doing so, I can help others learn about the seeds and how they might do in their particular soil and climate. SSE’s Heritage Farm, where they grow hundreds of varieties of plants each year, is limited to Iowa. I can report back and let them know how the heirloom carrots do in Northern California. I think that’s rather awesome, don’t you?
So what, pray tell, did I receive (gratis) for the 2014 season? Well, participation meant we had our choice between signing up for either a four variety trial or a single variety evaluation. I opted for the four variety trial so I could make comparisons (and enjoy more seeds!). Then we are asked to rank our top 3 choices for crop type; I chose carrots as my number one, but there were also okra, turnips. For the single variety evaluation, peas and squash were also on the list.
I received my first choice; however, according to Tor Janson, the Assistant Curator, some members received their second and third choices to balance the overall numbers and geographic distribution.
So here’s the carrot lineup as per my evaluation packet that arrived with the seeds:
Carrot 88 ‘Red Surrey’
Listed Member John Wyncoll of Bolton, U.K. donated ‘Red Surrey’ to Seed Savers Exchange. A variety of similar name and description is included by Fearing Burr in his 1863 book Field and Garden Vegetables of America. Burr describes a variety called ‘Long Surrey’ and lists its synonym as ‘Long Red.’ He describes it as widely cultivated in both England and America. The name ‘Red Surrey’ has been used in the United States since at least 1924.
Carrot 100 ‘Touchon’
Listed Member Will Bonsall donated ‘Touchon’ to Seed Savers Exchange. The variety is frequently described in catalogs as an ‘old-time’ or ‘traditional’ French variety. Research is underway at SSE to find out more about its history.
Carrot 242 ‘Jaune de Doubs’
Listed Member Anpetu Oihankesni donated ‘Jaune de Doubs’ to Seed Savers Exchange. It is a French variety dating to the 19th century. Research is underway at SSE to find out more about its history.
SSE Commercial Catalog Carrot ‘Danvers’
The most widely grown carrot variety in the United States. ‘Danvers’ was also the top selling carrot in the SSE catalog for many years, though in 2012 and 2013, John Navazio’s ‘Dragon’ purple carrot eclipsed it. From the SSE catalog: “Developed in Danvers, Massachusetts in the late 1800s. Leading main crop variety for home and market, stores well . . . High yields in clay or heavy soils.”
Check back for Part 2 of the Carrot Trials. Be sure to tell me your thoughts on this in the comments section below.