Stories

  1. Bevin Cohen:

    Latin name Papaver orientale is also known as breadseed or opium poppy. The long, slender stems are topped with delicate, papery petals that give way to enlarged seed heads filled with edible blue seeds.

     

    HISTORY

    The breadseed poppy is most likely native to the Eastern Mediterranean. Images of opium poppies have been found in ancient Sumerian artifacts dating to 4000 B.C.

     

    USES

    • Ornamental.
    • Pollinator attractor.
    • Mature seeds are edible poppy seeds. Beds, borders, containers, cottage garden, cut flower garden, cutting garden, wildflower mixes.
    • Opium poppies are extremely popular with honeybees. You will often see multiple bees on each bloom at the same time, loading pollen grains onto their sacs.

     

    SEED STARTING

    • Seeds germinate in 14-21 days.
    • Surface sow seeds and gently press into soil, as light aids in germination.
    • Keep seeds moist until germinated.
    • Ideal germination temperature is 65 F.

     

    GROWING

    • Prefers full sun and moderately rich, loose, well-drained soil.
    • Direct seed in early spring.
    • Space plants 8-12 inches apart.
    • Deadhead spent flowers to encourage continued blooming.

     

    PESTS/SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS

    • Aphids can be a minor problem with this generally pest-free plant. Treat aphids with organic insecticidal soap.

     

    SEED SAVING

    • Mostly self pollinating; however, small flies and honeybees may cross pollinate closely planted varieties.
    • Often self sows, but you can also harvest seeds when capsules turn brown.
    • Save seed over winter in a cool, dark, dry place.
    Read more »
  2. Gibron Jones: Making a Healthier, More Just Food System In St. Louis

     

    FROM FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 2022 THROUGH SUNDAY, APRIL 24, 2022, SALES OF ALL BAKER CREEK TOMATO VARIETIES WILL BE DONATED TO HOSCO/NORTH SARAH FOOD HUB'S CAPITAL CAMPAIGN FOR EXPANSION,  SO THEY CAN IMPROVE THE HEALTH AND WELL BEING OF MORE PEOPLE IN ST. LOUIS! 

    READ MORE HERE AND WATCH A VIDEO ABOUT THE WORK OF HOSCO/NORTH SARAH AND FOUNDER GIBRON JONES:

     

    In St. Louis, Gibron Jones is helping to build a healthy food system for all.

    Since founding HOSCO Shift, a nonprofit farming and food business incubator, with his father in 2010, Jones’ work as a social entrepreneur and food justice advocate has expanded to include a food hub with a commercial kitchen, CSA and

    Read more »
  3. Why Do We Love Pansies?

    With their admirable adaptability, cheerful countenances and vivid variety of colors, is it any wonder pansies are so beloved? They really are flowers for all seasons. You’ll find them blooming in winter gardens of the southern and southwestern U.S., in summer gardens of the north, and everywhere in between. 


    Pansies, or Viola x Wittrockiana, are a 19th century English garden creation bred from Viola tricolor, a wild pansy commonly known as heartsease. Its native range extends from much of Europe to western Siberia and northern Iran. It also has a long history of use in folk and herbal medicine, as a tonic and treatment for epilepsy, skin diseases and respiratory issues such as colds and asthma. 


    But its use wasn’t limited merely to physical ailments, apparently. According to Roman mythology, one of Cupid’s arrows struck a wild pansy, imbuing it with powers of affection and desire, and earning it one of its many names, ‘Love-in-Idleness.’ 


    In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare drew on the myth and the flower’s use in love potions when Oberon, the king of the fairies, dispatched his underling Puck to find wild pansies:


     “Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound,

    And maidens call it love-in-idleness.

    Fetch me that flower, the herb I showed thee once:

    The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid

    Will make or man or woman madly dote

    Upon the next live creature that it sees.” (Act II, Scene I)


    The name pansy is derived from the French wor

    Read more »
  4. What Are Our Favorite New Varieties for 2022?

    Latin name Papaver orientale is also known as breadseed or opium poppy. The long, slender stems are topped with delicate, papery petals that give way to enlarged seed heads filled with edible blue seeds.

     

    HISTORY

    The breadseed poppy is most likely native to the Eastern Mediterranean. Images of opium poppies have been found in ancient Sumerian artifacts dating to 4000 B.C.

     

    USES

    • Ornamental.
    • Pollinator attractor.
    • Mature seeds are edible poppy seeds. Beds, borders, containers, cottage garden, cut flower garden, cutting garden, wildflower mixes.
    • Opium poppies are extremely popular with honeybees. You will often see multiple bees on each bloom at the same time, loading pollen grains onto their sacs.

     

    SEED STARTING

    • Seeds germinate in 14-21 days.
    • Surface sow seeds and gently press into soil, as light aids in germination.
    • Keep seeds moist until germinated.
    • Ideal germination temperature is 65 F.

     

    GROWING

    • Prefers full sun and moderately rich, loose, well-drained soil.
    • Direct seed in early spring.
    • Space plants 8-12 inches apart.
    • Deadhead spent flowers to encourage continued blooming.

     

    PESTS/SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS

    • Aphids can be a minor problem with this generally pest-free plant. Treat aphids with organic insecticidal soap.

     

    SEED SAVING

    • Mostly self pollinating; however, small flies and honeybees may cross pollinate closely planted varieties.
    • Often self sows, but you can also harvest seeds when capsules turn brown.
    • Save seed over winter in a cool, dark, dry place.
    Read more »
  5. Death Spiral Pepper: Fruity and Hot, Hot, Hot!

    Chili peppers are a global crop with roots in the ancient world of the Americas. Christopher Columbus took them back to Spain in 1493, but it was Portuguese explorers who planted the worldwide spread of chilies when they carried seeds from Brazil to India a few years after Columbus. 

    Today’s super-hot varieties like the Carolina Reaper, Devil’s Tongue and Trinidad Scorpion throw down their names like a dare. The Death Spiral, also known as Death Pepper, is a member of the Capsicum chinense family, and it’s a fairly new arrival on the super-hot scene. 

    Jim Duffy of Refining Fire Chiles noticed a variant of the Naga Bubblegum Red chili (the seeds of which he received from English grower Terry Smith) growing among his plants in 2016. He saved the seeds, grew them in isolation to prevent cross pollination, and achieved the same results in several generations. Duffy named and released the Death Spiral pepper after the 2017 growout.

    The Death Spiral features a similar bumpy, wrinkly skin, but the calyx — where the stem joins the pod — remains green, unlike on the Naga Bubblegum Red. 

    Chilies get their heat from the alkaloid compound capsaicin. In its pure form, capsaicin is a yellowish liquid, and you can sometimes see the yellow veins in a pepper and guess how hot it will taste. 

    In most peppers, the capsaicin is concentrated in the seeds and pith, so removing them tames the heat. Not so in super-

    Read more »
  6. How To Plant For Pollinators -- And Why You Should

    In many parts of the world, pollinators like monarch butterflies and bumblebees are in crisis, but there are simple steps you can take, right in your own backyard garden.

    Early findings from the latest annual census of western monarch butterflies wintering along the California coast also offers some reason for optimism: thus far in its 2021 Thanksgiving count, which concludes December 5, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has recorded more than 100,000 sightings of western monarchs. It is a significant rebound from last year, when Xerces volunteers counted only about 2,000 of the butterflies in its 2020 census. Still, the number is cause for alarm, given that just a few decades ago western monarchs migrated by the millions. 

    Xerces notes that the monarch population is naturally “bouncy,” in that the numbers fluctuate year to year based on factors like temperature, rainfall, and food availability. There are many possible explanations for their higher numbers compared to 2020, including “good weather and good luck across their breeding habitat in the West,” they wrote. Scientists for Xerces noted that “while climate change-driven severe drought is associated with declines in butterfly abundance and diversity in the West overall, the effects are complex; warmer and drier summers — like 2021 — can be a temporary boon to some butterfly species.” They also noted that monarchs may have benefited from more typical fall weather conditions in 2021. (For a deeper dive into why this year’s numbers may be higher, go here

    Read more »
  7. White Lanzhou Melon: Seeds Of Diplomacy

    In 1944, Vice President Henry A. Wallace undertook an expedition to China and the Soviet Union. Coming at a critical time in World War II, with Wallace facing political headwinds at home, the 51-day, 27,000 mile trip was an audacious journey by any measure.

    A largely overlooked footnote is that Wallace took seeds with him, including one for a sweet, white honeydew that took root on farms around Lanzhou, in the Chinese province of Gansu. Such an exchange of seeds was natural for Wallace; he lived and breathed a love of plants and a commitment to farmers and agriculture, and he passionately believed that agriculture was a pillar of national stability, security and prosperity, at home and abroad.

    “Even in the darkest days of World War II, when he took this trip to China, he was fascinated by what was growing, what was happening in agriculture. He was basically curious and dedicated to that,” said Wallace’s great-nephew Robert Fleming.

    Wallace also embraced the metaphorical significance of seeds. In the book Soviet Asia Mission, his account of the trip published in 1946, he wrote: “The exchange of seeds is not a trivial matter …  The selected American seeds that I gave to the farmers of Eastern Asia will (also) grow. And the East Asian seeds I brought back to Alaska and the United States will likewise flourish. The plants from these seeds can in both countries stand as symbols of growing understanding.”

    “World security on the basis of broader understanding,” Wallace wrote, “was the long-term purpose of my mission to Central Asia.”

    Read more »
  8. Celebrating Abundance: Our 2021 Gift Guide For Gardeners

    As we gathered with friends and family this Thanksgiving, we at Baker Creek were feeling especially grateful for the opportunity to be part of the heirloom seed movement. We are also celebrating the publication of our 25th annual catalog this year, a milestone that would not be possible without people like you. 

    You may not realize it, but your heirloom garden is just a small part of a much bigger, global effort to build healthier, self-sufficient families and communities towards a sustainable future for the planet. All of us at Baker Creek feel truly blessed to be able to pursue our passion for finding, saving and sharing these precious heirloom varieties, and for learning and sharing stories about the people nourished by them.  

    This season, we are also reflecting on the meaning of abundance, and on what it means to share our harvest with others.  As heirloom gardeners, you know how special it is to grow seeds that are rooted in time and place, seeds that are free of patents and can be freely saved, season after season. You know the joy of discovering new varieties and sharing them with friends and family.   As we look through our catalog and begin to think of next year’s garden,  we want to encourage you to plan, grow and share your abundance with your community.   

    And in this current season of giving, if you are looking for gift ideas for the heirloom enthusiast (or soon-to-be enthusiast!) in your life, we have a few ideas to share.  


    The Whole Seed Catalog

    At 532 pages, the 2

    Read more »
  9. How To Grow a Winter Garden In the South

    Southern gardeners who enjoy a mild or no-frost winter can grow a bounty of produce in the cool months, and for many gardeners in the southernmost locations, this is the very best time to grow cool weather-loving crops! If you are a gardener in the upper regions of the South, where you have hard winters and don’t plant to grow through the winter, check out our blog on preparing the garden for winter.

     

    Should Southern Gardeners Amend Soil In the Winter?

    By now your summer crops have matured or faded. It is time to harvest and clear out those old plants, dig and cure those sweet potatoes and get your beds cleaned up. After a long summer your soil will be grateful for a nutrient refresh. This is a perfect time to incorporate a generous amount of well-rotted, high-quality compost into your beds. The hot and rainy summer in the south is a great time to compost, and by fall you should have plenty to work with. If you can’t find compost, you can top off containers or raised beds with some quality mix. 

    Most southern gardeners will want to focus on cold-hardy crops that can withstand the occasional frost. Fortunately, there is an incredible range of cold weather-loving crops to choose from. Gardeners in mid to southern Florida and related climates can also grow more cold-sensitive crops if they are not expecting a frost or very late in the season. 

     

    What Are the Best Crops To Grow Over Winter in Southern Gardens?

    Members of

    Read more »
  10. How To Prepare Northern Gardens For Winter

    As winter's chill approaches, it is time to put the garden to rest for the season. While it can be sad to say goodbye to our glorious summer gardens, this cold period is important. The life cycles of many pests and diseases are disrupted in winter. So perhaps in the midst of the next polar vortex or nor'easter… remember that intense cold is why northern gardeners have fewer insect pests, plant diseases and weed issues than their southern neighbors! 

    Preparing for winter can look different depending on your goals and gardening style, but you can mainly focus on cleaning up and taking steps to prepare for growing next season. Some gardeners prefer to leave plants in the ground to serve wildlife and reduce soil erosion; others prefer a tidy garden and will provide mulch or cover crop to deal with erosion over the winter. 

     

    What’s the Advantage To Leaving Garden Plants Over the Winter? 

    There are some really good reasons to leave spent plants over winter; the brown heads of zinnias and sunflowers, for example, provide food for birds, and the roots help to keep the soil anchored, preventing erosion of precious topsoil and organic matter. The old browned plants will also provide excellent habitat for wildlife, and some of the critters seeking shelter will reward you by aerating your soil — a perfect way to pay rent! 

    But taking this approach doesn’t mean you can just walk away from the garden when the days grow shorter and colder! You must remove any diseased plants and weeds to minimize the cycle of weeds reseeding, and to prevent disease build up in your soil. It is especially important to remove diseased tomatoes!

     

    What Are the

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