By Slow Food USA
It’s finally here! The 2023 Plant A Seed kit is now available. This kit brings together a variety of rare and biodiverse seeds that tell a story — and celebrate glorious greens! The 2023 kit and supplemental events and materials highlight the big groups of greens — brassicas, mustards, lettuces, chicories and amaranths — and the communities who celebrate them. Many of the seven nutritious and easy to grow greens varieties included are from our Slow Food USA catalog of distinctive and delicious foods, the Ark of Taste. The Plant A Seed campaign will inspire you to nourish your connections to your food and community as well as connect you to this land’s diverse foodways. Check out the seven greens below that you can grow and enjoy this year with the 2023 Plant A Seed Kit.
PRODUCER: WORKING FOOD
This heirloom variety has been stewarded and preserved by members of the Feaster family of rural Shiloh, Florida since the Civil War. The leaves of this incredible mustard green are broad, pale-green and smooth in texture — they can get quite large, some leaves reaching 2 feet tall. This mustard is distinctive in that it is milder than most mustard greens, with a spicy bit that sweetens when cooked. The distinctive mid-ribs are large, juicy and crunchy. It grows happily in many growing zones and is a self-sower when left to go to seed, generously returning year after year all over the garden.
PRODUCER: SMALL HOUSE SEEDS
Hanson lettuce, a variety of Curled India lettuce, was imported into Maryland in 1800 and from there it was improved by the Hanson family. In 1870 George Hanson conveyed the lettuce seed to the Henry Dreer Seed Company of Philadelphia, which made it a nationally significant variety. Here is how George Hanson described the lettuce himself: “this lettuce is superior in every respect to any lettuce I ever saw, for these reasons: the heads are the largest, a single one is frequently large enough for an ordinary sized family; the leaves are exceedingly crisp and tender, and (if cut early in the morning) seem to break like pipe stems; the color is of the most beautiful green without, and white within, and is entirely free from that peculiar grassy taste found in some varieties.”
The quality of the Hanson Lettuce drove the salad revolution of the last decades of the 19th century, it was a major market lettuce grown in the United States. Its tender qualities make it an ideal candidate for the home garden for early season and late season growing. This special lettuce has stayed almost exclusively in the hands of seed savers and home gardeners for over a century.
This seed comes to us from Small House Farm, a homesteading family farm in Central Michigan with a robust catalog of heirloom seeds and educational materials.
PRODUCER: UPRISING SEEDS
Escarole is a beautiful fluffy head of delicious and slightly bitter leaves. For this reason, it is often the chicory that piques more interest in exploring the chicory family. It has a varied early history, noted in the early histories of Rome, Greece and Egypt and for good reason, it is delicious, hearty, grows well in many zones and lends itself to raw salads just as well to cooking in soups and sautes. The leaves are tender and the flavor is very distinctive, even slightly nutty, and very mildly bitter. This variety has bright yellow cores, full heads and resists bolting in hot summer sowings.
This seed comes to us from the Gusto Italiano Project of Uprising Seeds and the Culinary Breeding Network, which strives to bring the Italian tradition of chicory crops to North America and to establish chicories as an anchor of the fall and winter produce season, celebrating access to adaptable heirloom varieties.
NEW MEXICO AMARANTH
PRODUCER: HUDSON VALLEY SEED COMPANY
This beautiful and unique bi-colored grain amaranth has upright, pale green flower heads streaked with pink markings. All amaranths can be grown both for its young leaves as well as its plentiful delicious seeds. The New Mexico Amaranth is no different, but this one is also a great candidate for edible landscaping anywhere as it is a beautiful and resilient plant. New Mexico Amaranth was Introduced by Native Seeds Search, and was collected originally from a dooryard garden in New Mexico but was found to grow very well in any climate.
This seed comes to us from Hudson Valley Seed Company, a trusted source for heirloom and open-pollinated garden seeds. This amaranth seed has adapted to Northern and Southern climates.
PRODUCER: FEDCO SEEDS
Sea Kale is a unique perennial brassica garden plant with origins along the Atlantic Coast of the British Isles and Northern Europe. This crop has become naturalized in the Northwest and Northeast regions of the United States. Sea kale thrives in both seaside and landlocked settings, preferring marginalized soils, making it a great candidate for urban gardens. It does best in growing zones 4-8, however it seems readily adaptable as it perennializes in gardens. The plant withstands wind, salt spray, salt and cold temperatures rooting in stony/sandy soil. Sea Kale is not only valued for its beneficial contribution to the surrounding ecosystem but is edible from flower to root for nutrient rich culinary preparations.
This Ark of Taste variety comes to us from Fedco Seeds in Maine, a cooperative seed company specializing in hardy heirloom and organic cultivars that will readily adapt regionally.
PRODUCER: UJAMAA SEEDS
Collards, also known as collard greens, are part of the cabbage family, and have a variety of leaf shapes, colors and textures.
These Ultracross Collards are the result of a national heirloom collard trial spearheaded by the Utopian Seed Project. The intention is that these seeds can be planted and enjoyed by a wide range of people — a great option for the home gardener with limited space who really wants the chance to have every seed you plant produce something different.
From our friends at the Utopian Seed Project: “This mix represents a great chance to plant out a large quantity of different genetics and save seeds from the survivors. Where each and every one of you take this collard population is only limited by your imagination and we encourage you to select and save seeds based on your own needs and wants.”
The Ark of Taste variety Yellow Cabbage Collard is one of the 21 varieties in this special mix of seeds! Also known as the Carolina Cabbage Collard, the plant differs from other landrace coleworts as it has thinner leaves, with finer veining and more of a yellow tone to its shade of green. Learn more here.
These seeds come to us from Ujamaa Seeds, the fundraising project of the Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance, who are committed to providing increased opportunities and support for growers from historically marginalized communities while making culturally relevant seeds available to their communities of origin. The Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance is working to bridge the gap between prospective growers and seed companies.
YU CHOY SUM
EXPERIMENTAL SEED NETWORK
Brassica rapa var. parachinesis
Yu Choy Sum represents an essential pillar of the wide family of Asian greens. This amazing green can be eaten from its juicy stems to its delicious flowers. It grows well in all climates, and has been called the warm season Chinese broccoli. It can be harvested at any stage of its growth, this flowering brassica is a fast growing green that can be harvested as Yu Choy (stem and leaf) or Yu Choy Sum (stem, leaf and flower buds). Can be planted in late spring, summer, or early fall. The taste of choy sum is much sweeter and more tender, with a texture closer to bok choy.
This seed comes to us from the Experimental Farming Network, a non-profit organization committed to regenerative agriculture and justice for all people. Their team of small growers and dedicated volunteers produce unique and high quality seeds without exploiting the planet or its inhabitants.