Despite what Christmas songs would have you believe, for me, this is the most wonderful time of the year.
I did the happy dance last week when the 2014 spring seed catalogs started landing in our mailbox. The melody in my head was supplied by Times’ photographer Spencer Tulis — who is fond of bastardizing Steve Martin’s character from “The Jerk,” by excitedly crying out each day when fresh editions roll off the press: “The new papers are here! The new papers are here!”
But, my rhythmic revelry didn’t last long — I had to stop moving so I could savor these fresh morsels.
Botanical Interests’ cover promises a delectable 42 new varieties. High Mowing Organic Seeds, an even more tempting 55. Territorial Seed Co., a mouthwatering 275.
No promissary notes adorn Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.’s cover — because it doesn’t need them. Baker Creek’s descriptions are equally toothsome the second, third, even fourth time through.
I devour seed catalog details — even if my husband, Kevin, and I have already identified the perfect specimen for our needs and microclimate. Heirloom varieties, especially, whet my appetite: A bean traced to certain Native American tribes. A turnip prized in France. A pepper associated with certain Asian or South American cuisines. An eggplant grown for centuries.
That historic connection to food — so sorely lacking in our diverse, youthful American societal stew — starts to be reforged when I learn the seeds’ stories. Where they came from, how they got here, when they arrived, what conditions they like best. Top it off with suggestions for preparation and I’m ready to order.
Like Jacob’s cattle beans, which we grew for the first time last summer, enticed by the fact that this heirloom bush bean was traditionally used for Boston baked beans — now more commonly made with navy or pea beans.
Catalog descriptions state that Jacob’s cattle beans hold their shape under long cooking and their rich, nutty flavor stands up to plenty of seasoning. Since reading about them a year ago, I’ve been patiently waiting to taste for ourselves. This current cold snap in the Northeast offers the perfect opportunity to soak and bake the quart that we gleaned.
My mother’s molasses-mustard-and-brown-sugar Boston-style recipe is always a treat, so I’m eager to compare it featuring these traditional beans.
And, just as soon as they’re in the oven, I can turn my attention back to all the new catalogs piling up on the coffee table!