Now that the last of the lights are tossed in a box, I have 4 seconds every day to sit and look at the seed catalogs.
Some of my opinions are based on the fact that I'm a home gardener.
But I have also had a much deeper interest in what is in catalogs because I serve as a Sales Rep for a nursery. This nursery is a sizable one, I won't give the name, but with over 1,000,000 square feet devoted to greenhouse, the grower is ranked as one of the top 50 in the U.S.
I study the catalogs and prepare for the growing season by becoming familiar with the new varieties, trying to guess what the consumers will ask for. I spend a lot of time in the garden centers we serve and I take pride in answering questions, helping my customers with their problems and plant questions.
I take pride in being knowledgeable and being able to guide the customer to the "right plant in the right place", even if it means sending them across the street and losing the sale.
Many of my more senior customers come in knowing exactly what they want. My friend Lyle has been faithful to the farm and barn garden center for years. His list is old and yellowed, he keeps it in his wallet as it never changes. The tomatoes: Rutgers, Celebrity, Roma, Beefsteak, and Yellow Pear, (some how, people believe the Yellow Pear is lower in acid. Not true, but they sell. I am not a fan and find them tasteless). The peppers: California Wonder and maybe a jalapeno. Maybe a four pack of leeks or brussel sprouts and always some marigolds. Lyle is convinced that marigolds keep the rabbits away. I told Lyle that rabbits are not offended by the scent of marigolds, but he says he has never lost a single plant to rabbits and he has always planted marigolds! Lyle has a big yellow Lab named Daisy, but "she ain't never chased no rabbit", he reports....
Nearly all the shoppers know the variety they want to grow. Some have grown the same tomatoes and peppers for 50 years or more and are resistant to try something new.
When I opened the Burpee catalog, I was interested to see that they were doing something new. Not just a little new-but their new "Boost" line of veggies is radically new and different. The Boost line is advertised as being nutritionally superior. The cherry tomato, 'Cherry Punch' is a hybrid that is advertised as having 30% more Vitamin C and 40% more lycopene than the "average tomato". It is, of course, a hybrid. The lettuce mix, 'Healing Hands' is gonna fix you right up, they say.
'Healing Hands' is a mix of 4 varieties, chosen for their high nutrition: 20% more lutein and 30% more beta-carotene than the average salad mix.
This is a photo of the miraculous bucket of greens from Burpee's website.
It looks like an average bucket of spring mix, to me. It looks good, but really? It will replace my daily vitamin?
Burpee sells the nutritionally superior seeds under the "Boost" line. Burpee promises that the company neither buys nor sells Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs. Burpee says that the seeds were chosen from hybridized seed for their nutritional content.
As I turned page after page, my thoughts went to Lyle. I wonder how Lyle would react to the veggies? After all, the Rutgers tomato was specifically hybridized for Campbell's tomato soup. Now, the Rutgers Tomato is considered an heirloom and was, at one point, the most planted tomato variety in the United States.
Do you choose one food over another for high vitamin content? I do. For example, I never ever purchase or grow iceburg lettuce. It is almost all water! In contrast, the red leaf lettuce is buttery and full of fiber and vitamins. I never purchase white bread anymore. The whole grain bread is so much better and so much better for us. When choosing grains, we choose brown, not white rice or pasta.
The question still remains, would I choose to grow specific varieties for higher vitamin content? I'm unsure. The jury is still out on this one, I'm afraid. At the bottom of the Burpee page, there is the famous asterisk:*Based on the average mix of selected varieties. Healing Hands Salad Mix is grown under our trial conditions and harvested when ready to eat. Actual harvest results may vary.
My biggest problem with this Boost is the price!! The lettuce seed is pelleted, I'm not sure what it is pelleted with, but a packet of the Healing Hand pelleted seed is $5.95. That is a lot of money for a packet of lettuce seeds. By comparison, I can buy 600 Black Seeded Simpson Organic, Open Pollinated seeds for $2.95 with free shipping. The Cherry Punch tomato seeds are $5.95 for 20 seeds. I can buy 20 Big Cherry Open Pollinated Organic Seeds for $2.95.
The Boost line might be a breakthrough for vitamins, but it is a bust for the wallet. I do know how Lyle feels about the price of plants.
One spring, I was surprised to see Lyle return after he'd been in for his annual purchase. I asked him what brought him in and he said he'd lost his marigolds to a late killing frost, he needed another 4 pack. We went over to the marigold section and he was not shy in letting me know that $1.79 for a 4 pack of marigolds was outrageous. He even thought his dear ol' grandad was rollin' in his grave at the thought of spending that much for 4 of these stinky flowers.
Grandad would have something to say about $6.00 lettuce seeds, I'm sure!
Tell me....is it worth it to ya?