Seeds of greatness? We’ll see

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For fans of losing sports teams, the chant is ‘Wait until next year.’ We Southern California gardeners don’t have to have any such delay. A couple of weekends ago, I pulled the last remnants of my sorry, bedraggled summer vegetable garden to prepare the beds for the next season. This weekend, I planted them. Hope springs eternal.

In addition to the usual suspects -- French breakfast and Easter egg radishes and a lettuce mix -- I planted three new vegetables that I bought from the Seeds From Italy website. You might have seen the big, colorful packets of Franchi Sementi seeds at high-end stores such as the Gardener in Berkeley. A friend who is a passionate gardener routinely brings them back every year from her favorite store in Rome. Now these same seeds are available online, at what seem like extremely reasonable prices.

What did I get? I planted one raised bed full of Cascine fava beans ($4.45 for 100 grams of seed), and another split between cavalo nero ($2.95) and scorzonera ($2.95). Cavalo nero is now familiar as black kale, the extremely dark, thin, leaves textured like dinosaur skin. Amazing when cooked low and slow. Scorzonera is not yet so familiar. It’s related to salsify, and it’s a delicious root vegetable that I almost never see even at a farmers market.

Of course, there’s an irony there, and I’m the first to recognize it. Why is a guy trying scorzonera, a guy who can’t grow zucchini without mildew, whose only successful tomato was the so-called Early Girl (which only started to ripen in August)?


Maybe this season will be different.


Eating with the chefs

Ruth Reichl on Gilt Taste and the future of food journalism

S. Irene Virbila on the Marling Menu-Master

-- Russ Parsons