Tag Archives: Seedy Penpals

Resolutions Revisited

A table laden with sparkling wine


A very Happy New Year to you all! I hope that you had the party that I had, but that you skipped the hangover that nearly felled me once and for all yesterday!

And what a year it has been, with weddings, parties, anniversaries, and significant birthdays. It all culminated for me with a new job, and throwing a retirement party and 65th birthday party for my Dad, whose birthday was on New Year’s Eve. I cooked a load of things for that, including more tarted up mince pies and many other things, including some gluten free bits; some of which will appear here soon.

I thought that I would start 2013 with a bit of reflection on what I got up to, with a look back on last year’s resolutions, and to make a few more for the coming year. I’d also love to hear yours, if you want to leave them in the comments.

Varzea Viva, Portugal

Viva Varvea! Permaculture in Practice

Last year, I resolved to go on a permaculture course, and get better at growing food. I had a lovely 10 days in Portugal, with a great bunch of people where I learned about permaculture design. I have since volunteered in a permaculture garden at home, and it has made me a more knowledgeable gardener. I put some of the theory into action in my own garden, mostly with a lot of companion planting, and I hope to blog a bit more about that for this year’s plants.

Purple Eye Potatoes

You Can Only Get ‘Em Two Tone if You Grow Your Own

I also joined the 52 week salad challenge run by Michelle at veg plotting, and started Seedy Penpals  with Carl. All of these things have made me better at successional sowing, and growing in general. I have been exposed to a lot of new plants and new varieties this year, and I’ve met some brilliant people. Although I still haven’t met many of them in person, I have come to look on some as friends, through here and on Twitter.

Mornng Glory

I Found the Story, and It’s Inedible

I had to visit Japan for work once, and the dashis and ramen that I ate there often contained a pretty and pungent leaf vegetable that the English translation often listed as Morning Glory. I decided to track it down to try and grow it for myself. I was given a packet, and was disappointed that they are, in fact, not edible. It turns out that the little leaf I had eaten so often was actually shiso. Luckily, I’d also got hold of both the red and green varieties, and have been enjoying it in salads all summer.

I resolved to investigate more Asian and Middle Eastern food. I have eaten a lot more than in previous years; including pho, Hom Bao, a Lebanese –Inspired Chickpea dish, and have some Persian flavours in some blog posts that will follow. However, I probably could have done better.

Sprouted chickpea bread

Salad as Staple

Something else that I have done as a result of a resolution made last year is bake bread, although not as regularly as I’d hoped. Much of it has been fairly standard, so I have not blogged about it. I did manage to make some nice sprouted chickpea bread, and some hot cross buns, as well as the Hom Bao, which count as a bread, because you make a dough that needs proving.

I had hoped to do some butchery. I didn’t quite manage a whole beast, as I’d hoped, but I have deboned and jointed birds, and a rabbit or two. I have some of the adventures in photos ready to type up, but have been putting it off, because I know quite a few vegans and vegetarians follow my blog and I don’t wish to alienate or upset any of you. I may go ahead with these posts, but make most of it only visible if you click through to the whole post, then you don’t have to see the photos if you don’t want to. I’d be grateful if you are not a meat eater if you could let me know if this would suit you.

I have brewed many things, from blackberry wine and liqueur, elderflower champagne, elderberry wine (which I have great hopes for, this batch is still not ready but preliminary tests have proved promising) up to flavoured spirits from foraged goods. For reasons that I am not really sure of, I have not blogged any of the brewing. Maybe I will just get on and do so; I would like to share them.

Finally, I had a long list of places that I would like to visit. 2012 was not really the year of fine dining, so I didn’t make it to any of those on my shortlist. Ah well, there will always be exciting new and good restaurants to eat at.

And so we come to the year ahead. I have had a lot of fun making the resolutions, and stuck to a surprising number of them, even if I didn’t achieve as much as I’d hoped. So for this year, I have another list that I think is pretty ambitious, but will be fun to try and achieve.

Again, in no particular order, for 2013 I would like to:

  1. Grow unusual vegetables and fruits – especially a lot more perennials.
  2. I’m going to blog more boozy posts. I am going to make nettle beer this year, to see how that goes. I’ve also found wild hops this year, so maybe a beer from scratch could be on the cards?
  3. I want to learn how to smoke food. I’ll have to get hold of a stove top smoker (or a wok with a better lid than the one that I have), and hopefully start experimenting with smoke. My neighbour has a larger smoker in his shed, so maybe I’ll be able to work my way up to smoking with him – although I expect that will take much more than a year.
  4. I want to experiment with cheese. I’ve made soft curd cheeses, but I am just curious about the process and what could be possible in small batches, and without anything in the way of specialised equipment.
  5. I have developed a bit of an obsession with Bath Chaps. It will probably be a challenge to source a well reared pig’s head, but I’m going to give it a good try, then I’m going to attempt a brine, and we’ll see where it goes.
  6. Given my new job I’m going to have a go at some Filipino food, although maybe not some of the most adventurous dishes.
  7. Finally, I’m going to say that I intend to eat out more this year than last, and revisit the resolve to eat at some fantastic restaurants across Europe. I’m not going to list them this year, but if I do get the chance to eat at some, I am going to blog about them.

So let’s see how far I get this time.



Filed under Uncategorized

Of Seeds, Stories,Swapping, and Soup

Zaad Ruilen

On Your Marks, Get Set, Swap

(c) A. Doherty 2012

Well, what a week it’s been. I have been busy with a lot of networking, about which I hope to be able to bring you more later. Today, I am on my way to the Food Guerrilla event in Rotterdam, which I

The week started (or last week ended, depending on your viewpoint) with the Seedy Penpals, Cityplot and Mediamatic Zaadruilen (Seed exchange) on Sunday. The day started out bright and crisp, a great day for a seed swap. We headed over to the Mediamatic Fabriek with bags full of seeds, and the hope that there would be enough variety to share.

Unfortunately for us, the heavens opened just before 2.00, when the swap was due to start. Although I was inside, and couldn’t see out, I knew from the sound that it was raining cats, dogs, and probably a few farm animals as well. I am sure that this put many people off, as the mediamatic events are usually very well attended. Nevertheless, quite a few intrepid people did make it, and brought a lot of seed to boot. It was great to make connections wit more people who want to grow and share seed, and to find out about all the initiatives that there are in town, or that people want to get off the ground.

ASEED were also there. They brought seeds, and they also gave a workshop on seed saving, and the importance of maintaining plant varieties that are being lost as we see more and more of our plants (particularly food) being grown from fewer varieties that are bred to look good or last well on our supermarket shelves, or be resistant to pesticides etc.

This issue is becoming increasingly more important as we see more and more laws passed globally that try to restrict the distribution of seeds, and concentrate it in the hands of a few companies, instead of using traditional methods of saving a portion of the harvest to grow the following year. This weekend in Vienna,  a group of NGOs are getting together to discuss proposed legislation in the EU that would become even more restrictive on the sharing and saving of seeds, and the issue of owning “intellectual property” of seed varieties and genetic strains. I think that it is important to push back about this, for many reasons, and look forward to being able to do a small part in the push to amend this legislation, and make it possible to continue to grow, save and share my own seed.

People came with their own seeds, some that they had bought, but many that they had saved themselves. I took a lot of seeds, but my favourite was the runner beans that I have grown from seeds that my Dad gave me. I love to share that story, and many people were interested, and took some for themselves. I also learned a few of the stories that other people told along with their seeds too.

Making the Rangoli

Seeds of Something Beautiful

As we were doing the event along with Mediamatic, we also included an artistic element. We made a beautiful rangoli from pulses. A rangoli are colourful Indian artworks usually made from seeds, coloured flour, rice or sand traditionally made by Hindu women to use as decorations at festivals. I also learned that the form has been used to plot out a farm and the rotation system, so that you had a visual representation of what should be planted where, that is easy to follow, even if you may not read. I think that is a lovely idea.

Rangoli made with pulses

Edible Art

Since they were edibles, we thought that we would share them with the people who came to swap seeds, so we made a Souper Seed Mix. We gave packages with beans or lentils, that we used in the rangoli, plus a spice mix. Obviously, there was no way that I was going to waste all that good seed. I figured that people could then choose to plant them, or eat them.

I tested this recipie first, using home grown Harlequin potatoes, but you could use any firm-fleshed potato. It turned out that the potato was the only seed of all of the ingredients that I used that did not appear at the swap, but I expect that this was more due to the time of year.

So, here is my Rangoli Soup. A few people from the swap have already tried this, and the reports have been good so far. It seems it id good, with or without the art!

Rangoli Soup

Seeds to Form a Souper Mix

Recipe: Rangoli Soup


100 g dried beans, split peas or lentils

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

½ tsp mustard seed

½ tsp nigella seed

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp tomato puree

Pinch chilli powder

1 clove garlic, grated

3cm piece root ginger, grated

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

2 bay leaves

2 sticks celery, diced

350 g potatoes, diced

2 carrots, sliced

250 g pumpkin, diced

300 ml vegetable stock

1 tin crushed tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Chopped parsley or coriander


Soak the beans in cold water overnight. If you have lentils or split peas, you skip the soaking stage. In fresh, cold water, bring the beans up to the boil and then simmer until tender. This may take between 40 minutes and an hour, depending on the type of bean. Once they are cooked, drain the water off, and set aside.

In a dry pan, toast the spice seed mix, until they brown, and the mustard seeds start to pop. Grind them to a powder.

Make a paste with the seed powder, turmeric, chilli powder, garlic, ginger and tomato purée.

Gently fry the onion,celery and bay leaves in the oil, until they are translucent.

Add the paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring well so that the spices don’t burn.

Add the carrot, potato, pumpkin, the cooked beans,  stock and tomatoes, and cook until the vegetables are tender – about 10 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with some chopped coriander or parsley sprinkled over the top.


Filed under Farmed

Seeds Just Got Real!

I am very happy to announce that Seedy Penpals is going to be live at the Mediamatic Ruilen (exchange) exhibition.

This Sunday, 4th November, I shall be there in partnership with the wonderful Cityplot crew, with a load of edible and beautiful seeds that you can grow to eat, admire, save and share.

Doors open at 2.00 pm, and you can come and swap seeds of any kind, share growing tips, and tell us your growing stories, seed folklore or something lovely about your plot, whether it is a balcony, moestuin, or a field!

Why Swap Seed?

  • We all buy fewer packets of seeds, but can grow more varieties of plants
  • Less seed is wasted if you cannot plant it all in time
  • Sharing seeds allows us to preserve more varieties, especially heritage types. Recent developments in the Dutch and international seed business have led to a concentrated market and, with it, a diminished variety of available seeds.
  • We can help create wildlife habitats at home, allowing us to benefit from the beauty of flora and fauna sharing our spaces, and allowing these plants and animals to continue to thrive.
  • Fresh food and flowers will last longer for you.

What to Exchange?

  • Seeds will be exchanged on a “bring some, take some” basis. You will need to label your seeds with the common name (e.g. runner beans, or aster) and the variety if you know it (e.g. “Scarlet Emperor” or “Ostrich Plume”). It is also important to mark whether the seeds are Open Pollinated or F1 hybrids, so that others will know if they can save the seeds and get a true plant next time. If you are unsure, then we will be there to help, just bring along the original seed packet if you can
  • You can exchange flowers or edibles, and even tubers, bulbs and plug plants if you have any (although we know it is a bit late in the year for many plugs)
  • You are also encouraged to share growing tips about the seeds – do they like shade, or full sun; do they like a lot of water, or will the Amsterdam sky provide you with all they need; when to plant them?
  • We also have the facility to share stories about your growing space, folklore about your seeds, photos of your plants (if you can bring them digitally, or e-mail them to me), so you can bring them along, or write them down on the day if you like. We will also accept stories and photos in exchange for seed, if you don’t have any spare seed.
  • We will be creating a beautiful Rangoli with a few of each ruilers’ seeds throughout the day.
  • There will also be a Souper Seed Mix available for you to take away. You get to choose if you would prefer to grow these, or cook with them

More Information

The seed swap will take place on November 4, from 14.00 to 17.00 in Mediamatic Fabriek, VOC-kade 10. You can trade free entrance for a chore like an hour of barkeeping or half an hour of vacuum cleaning. Otherwise it’s € 5,- for a membership including free entrance for a month. Children half price.

The Mediamatic Fabriek is behind the Parool building in Amsterdam Oostelijke Eilanden.

The seed swap is part of Ruilen, an exhibition, events and online marketplace from October 20 till January 6. Open from Wednesday through Sunday, from 13.00 to 18.00.


Filed under Farmed

Seedy Cuttings And A Bonus Box

Well, another month has flown by, and it is the time that we should be giving you the opportunity to link up any blog updates that you may have. If you have a post that you would like to add to the mix, then please do feel free to use the linky below.

I have been watching the hashtag #SeedyPenpals on Twitter, and have enjoyed reading some of the tweets that you have sent to and fro about your plants and seeds etc. I thought that I would do a little bit of a round up of some of the things that I have seen around (seeing as this is a not-at-all-hastily-put-together post. Honest). I will also do a bit of blog hop of my own to see what else I can pick up, and I’ll add any #SeedyPenpals tweets here while I look for a better way to capture them.

For me, the most joy from Seedy Penpals has not been the setting up of the scheme, or the swap, discovering new seeds, or even planting them. Although these things have all been a lot of fun, and have brought me a lot of joy. Still, the thing that I have enjoyed most is all of the little things that neither Carl nor I foresaw when we set up the scheme.

On Twitter I saw that a couple of people who just missed out on the first round had organised themselves into their own private swap. I love this, I am glad that neither of them had to miss out on the fun, and I hope that they will both join all of us in the early spring. I’m also pleased that people think it’s a good enough idea to do their own.

Lovely stash of seeds has arrived from @papaver in our own mini version of #seedypenpals – looking forward to poring over them tonight

@janeperrone @papaver Brilliant, I love that you have made a mini version. You’d be welcome in the other version too 🙂 http://wp.me/P1AKrO-kJ

I have seen Carl share loads of things with other Seedy Penpals, including keffir as well as other boxes of goodies, and the usual help and advice. Of course, I am sure that he would have done this anyway; he is a very generous man who is always willing to help out. But I probably wouldn’t have seen them share, or know that people have been busy sending him things too.

And this is the thing, I have seen some old friends sharing, and I have watched new friendships blossom. And this is where the most joy has come for me. Watching these interactions, and seeing the friendships grow, even if the seeds haven’t all been planted. You are a pretty generous lot in the main, and I love to see it.

This is not to say that the seeds have not been growing. Mine have sprung to life, I’m just hoping that the frost doesn’t get them before I get home. Michelle at Veg Plotting has also updated me to say that the fennel that she was sent have done well. Although she planted them a little late to produce big fat bulbs, she has been enjoying the herby fronds in her salads. She has them under cover for the winter now, so I hope there is still quite a bit of mileage in them yet. Have you seen any progress? Let us know in the comments.

From Twitter:

Carla has already enjoyed some of her leaves

@Saralimback hello.the very baby leaves of the ruby chard are utterly delish with mixed leaves .#SeedyPenPals#thoughtYouMayLikeToKnow

Lorraine even had time to plant beans, and is cropping them now, as well as fitting in a little baking.

Outdoor work done,#SeedyPenpals beans picked for tea, now time to make my first ever bread from scratch. Have been inspired by#GBBO .

@5olly Those beans were delicious. Still more growing, not a bad haul from 6 seeds.. #SeedyPenpals

I’ll add more if you have tweeted them.

I have to admit that I am not at home at the moment, and that I don’t have the promised photos of the amaranths that I planted from my first Seedy Packet. But, my penpal Charlotte and I have also kept in touch, and this month we sent each other a food packet too.

Food Parcel

A Box of Tricks

Mine was garden inspired, and I sent her foodstuff that I had grown, made or foraged, as well as a few Dutch goodies, and some hibiscus tea (which I didn’t grow).

Semolina and Jelly Desserts

Unusual afters

All I can say about my parcel is wow; if Charlotte managed to pack this much into such a small box, then I’d love to see her skills at Tetris!

Indian Goods

Interesting Indian Food

I got loads of her favourite things, like the semolina/ jelly style desserts, the butter chicken, the sardine paste and the Reese’s pieces. She also sent me some things from her travels – the curry leaf powder, popadoms, the savoury oatmeal (yes, savoury, I am fascinated), chilli popcorn (unpopped) and a small bottle of biryani. It is fragrant with cloves, and has really got me thinking what I can use it with. It scented the box beautifully.

Portuguese Packages

Portuguese Packages

As well as the sardine pate, I got some interesting seasoning. Charlotte says it makes any savoury dish amazing, so I am looking forward to experimenting.

Chinese Foods

A Taste of the Orient

There were some East Asian delights too. A really interesting pumpkin miso, tea and pickled vegetables. I love me a good pickle, so these will be the inspiration for a good meal later in the week.


This Should Have Been With The Other Indian Goods

Harissa Paste

Fire in a Tube

I got a tube of a nice fiery Harrissa. I love this stuff, and will be adding it to soups, stews and many random things in the near future.

Sweet Treats

Sweet Treats

There was also some more nougat and exquisite Turkish delight. Unfortunately I scoffed most of it forgot to take photos of that, but it has inspired me to have a go at my own. I often have egg whites knocking about, due to my custard habit, and I can feel experiments in foraged fruits coming on too.

Mint and Jasmine Toothpaste

Floral Fresh

To make sure all the treats didn’t send me to the dentist, she also included this gorgeous toothpaste. Mint and Jasmine. Brilliant, definitely a change.

Thank you Charlotte, I have been so inspired by your box, and I have never tried ay of the items in it, so I’m looking forward to trying them all out.

And thanks also to all you Seedy Penpals, for bringing me such joy – especially in ways that I wasn’t expecting.


Filed under Farmed

Seedy Cuttings and Other Updates

Seedy Penpals Blog Badge

The last Friday in the month is here and now is the opportunity to update you all on progress in the Seedy Packet Patch, but I have also been doing a lot of other stuff with seeds this month that I thought that I would share.

This month has been busy for me. I’ve planted some of the amaranths and some radishes that I got as part of my first Seedy Packet. Unfortunately, I only managed to get these in this week, and there has been very little sign of sprouting so far. I will spare you a picture of bare earth, but there will be green and lovely photos next time, I promise.

We’d love to hear about any updates that you have too, so please share any posts in the linky below, in the comments, or contact me or Carl for a guest post, like Gillian did to share her Seedy Packet

News of Seedy Penpals has been spreading. I think I have probably mentioned this a lot, but I am really enjoying seeing the wider effects swapping seeds online can have. I have seen new friendships form, and other links being made. Loads of people have said very kind things about the scheme. Thanks for being wonderful penpals, for the duration of the first swap, and beyond. I hope that the community will continue to grow and support each other.

Thanks to Michelle at Veg plotting, I reached out to a gardener, who also runs a postal seed exchange; Patrick at Bifurcated Carrots. He was very generous with some tips on the practicalities of seed exchange in an international setting, and he wrote up a lovely post about Seedy Penpals. On top of that, he is practically a neighbour, so I hope to meet him very soon, and discuss all things seedy (not a euphemism, honestly)!

Last week, I found out about Cityplot. I got in touch with them (there seems to be a general theme of Seedy Penpal stuff making me braver. I’ve been reaching out in more directions than a party of octopuses on a fairground ride), and funnily enough, Ann got back to me straight away to say that she had heard of me and Seedy Penpals through Bifurcated Carrots, and she’d intended to get in touch. I love the serendipity of things like this.

I booked myself on the Cityplot Seed Saving course, run in conjunction with Urban Herbology, and from the conversation  I had with Ann, things seem to have snowballed (in the very best way).  Last Friday, I found myself meeting up with Jennie and a bunch of other enthusiastic people, and heading off to a little patch of wilderness on a burdock seed forage in preparation for the workshop on Sunday.

Burdock Plant in Autumn

Urban Warrior

Harvesting seed from a very irritating plant, covered in bandanas and swimming goggles is a very quick way to unify a group of strangers, let me tell you.

Burdock burrs, ready for picking

Prickly Customers

We all donned gloves to harvest the driest of the burrs from the plants in the patch, before having to wear more protection whilst we shook , stamped on and rubbed the burrs to encourage them to release their seedy treasures. Our unconventional attire seemed to get a lot of interest from passing dog walkers and cyclists. Some of them came and asked us why we were all covering our faces; they went off happy that we were doing no harm, and were just protecting ourselves from the prickles that cover the burrs. We did have to explain ourselves to some parks police, and the actual  police did a slow drive by a couple of times. Nothing that a friendly explanation couldn’t quickly clear up, but left us amused.

Collected Burdock Seed

The Seeds of Our Labour

It was all worth it, and we had collected and winnowed enough seeds for the workshop, plus we all got extra to take home with us. It is edible, but quite bitter. I am experimenting with bread, and I am also sprouting some, so I hope that will appear on a salad post sometime soon.

On Sunday I headed to the seed saving workshop, where there were a lot of new faces, most of whom were fairly recent gardeners, but with some more experienced people. We learned about seed harvesting for both domestic and wild seeds, discussed open pollinating, and the importance of  seed saving and sharing. It was a good mix of theory and practical work, as we headed out to the kitchen garden of the restaurant, which is maintained by Cityplot, to look at different seed type and how to save them. There were plenty of envelopes and seeds to take for all. It was really fun, and was accessible to all abilities.

I guess you are wondering what we did with all that burdock seed? Well, we made a tincture and have instructions of how to mix it, and filter it to make it usable  Everyone who attended the workshop went away clutching their tinctures, which are powerful skin and liver cleansers and a warming tonic for people who feel the cold. This was entirely new to me. I love to forage for food. I am greedy. The herbal and health side of things is not really my speciality at all. It was great to meet with new people and acquire new knowledge.

Cityplot hold a number of other workshops including vermiculture, and growing exotics. Urban Herbology run a number of similar workshops and foraging walks. If you are in Amsterdam, I really recommend them, you’ll have a lot of fun, and learn useful skills.

Also through meeting Ann, I learned that a local arts group, Mediamatic, are having a “Sharing Exhibition” and were looking for examples of sharing. I went along to tell them about Seedy Penpals. One thing led to another here, and Cityplot, and I are looking at ways we can do a seed swap as part of this art project. So, Seedy Penpals could be going from virtual to physical for a couple of months in Amsterdam.

Don’t forget that you can join Seedy Penpals anytime, and that the next swap will be taking place in February. See here for more information, and to sign up. I’d also love to read about any progress your seeds have made, so let me know more.

Disclosure: I was not paid to promote either City Plot or Urban Herbology, and neither was I asked to write about them. I paid for the course, and mention them here because it was something that I enjoyed, and is relevant to seed sharing. I think that others may enjoy their courses and get a lot from them too.

However, I have met like-minded people, and we are looking at ways to collaborate in the future on foraging and cooking, as well as the art project.  I hope that they will become friends too.



Filed under Farmed

Seeds with a Story

Seedy Packet August 2012

A Packet of Seeds

I am pleased to report that Sally got my seeds on Tuesday, and she sent me a lovely e-mail to say that she enjoyed my packet. I did my best to include seeds with a story, since I struggle to find heirloom varieties over here.  I often have to get them from the UK, and all the suppliers that I talk to laugh, since a lot of their seed is grown over here in the Netherlands. I find this pretty frustrating, as there are very few varieties on offer here and even less choice if you want organic seed. Not to mention the crazy seed miles that they have to travel. Anyway, I’m glad that Sally liked her parcel; I hope to be able to save some more seed, so I should have some more variety in the future.

Yesterday, it was my turn. As I mentioned in my last post, my penpal Charlotte has been to India. Lucky me, I got lots of lovely seeds from India, and some from elsewhere too. Charlotte was really good at getting plants that suit my shady garden, or my sunny windowsill, as well as being some of my favourite things to eat.

From India, I got:

  • Bangalore cucumber mix – with a random tomato seed. Charlotte picked up a pack of cucurbits, including some oblong ones, and there were a few random seeds in the pack, which she shared with me too.
  • Ash gourd, which is a popular Ayurvedic plant in India, particularly good for strengthening the digestive system, and protecting against indigestion and urinary tract problems. I am lucky not to currently suffer frequently from either, but now I can make sure they stay away!
  • Unknown squash, Charlotte couldn’t be sure of more than that, because the packet was in Mayalam. She postulates it is a winter squash, and recounts an unsuccessful attempt at explaining what a courgette is when she was trying to find out more.
  • A variety of yard long beans. Unknown, as again the packet was in Mayalam. I can’t wait to be able to grow these, I love beans and surprise varieties are always welcome.
  • Some Lab Lab beans. I am assured that these have beautiful flowers. I am already trying to think of some construction that will show them off near the house.
  • Palak Bhaji and Dhanta Saag, both of which are leafy greens, possibly amaranth types. They will be a different flavour to add to my salads and as cooked greens.

And it doesn’t stop there, Charlotte also sent me seeds that she enjoys, and that she chose because I prefer things that you can eat. All of the seeds she sent have a story, but I particularly enjoyed some of the stories with these seeds.

The stories and the seeds are:

  • Kimberton tomatoes; a yellow tomato variety developed by the members of Camphill Village, an intentional community in Kimberton, Pennsylvania for people with developmental disabilities. They grow their own fruit and veg, and develop varieties of plants. Charlotte is actually from a town very near to this community, so these are seeds from both her home and her homeland. She mentions that the packet says “Grown and selected for many years by the late Hupert Zipperlin from Camphill Village, Kimberton”, so thank you to Hupert for these seeds too.
  • Sokol Breadseed Poppy. Charlotte sent me these because the seeds are easy to collect, due to the unique way the seed heads form. She thought that they would be interesting for me, despite the fact that I don’t grow many flowers. I have previously not seen much point in flowers, but I am trying to garden using permaculture principles. I am seeing increasing uses for many flowers, and have learned a lot about edible flowers, and parts of flowering plants. I’m looking forward to benefiting from an abundance of beauty as well as the tasty seeds next year.
  • Nautica Beans, which are a particular favourite of Charlotte’s. She says that they are thin, tender and tasty, and remained so for the duration of her trip to India. She says she thinks they are amazing, and may not grow any other variety of bush beans. High praise indeed, I’m looking forward to these in a thousand different dishes already.
  • Minutina (Buckhorn Plantain) was chosen because I like to eat weeds. Or what others may consider weeds, in any case. I have found most of them to be delicious. Foraging is even better when you don’t have to look too hard.
  • Radish Munchen Bier, which are podding radishes. You don’t eat the root; you wait until they go to seed and eat the seed pods. I’ve never tried these before, so I’m looking forward to these too. Charlotte recommends stir frying them.

I also got Nardello peppers to grow indoors and some bunching onions and mixed lettuce, which will be great for the 52 week salad challenge.

You may have noticed the glorious yellow scarf underneath the seeds in the photo. Charlotte also sent me this, another present from India. Isn’t it beautiful? And as we head into winter, or even if we get another summer like this one, it is a vibrant reminder of sunshine, and happy hours in the garden.

Thank you, Charlotte. There is certainly a lot to challenge me, and a lot of brilliant plants to look forward to.

Anyone can join the Seedy Penpals, whether you have a window box or a wood. I can vouch for the fact that people have enjoyed the first one, and that you get some great surprises and new and interesting plants. If you are interested, see here for more details and how to join up for the next swap, which will be in the spring. New seeds, new varieties, new friends. What’s not to like?


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Seedy Survey August 2012

Seedy Penpal Blog badge

So, here we are. It is time for the first Seedy Survey. Please do join in, and add your link to the widget. If you don’t have a blog, but would like to write up what you got, Carl and I are more than happy to host your write up,  drop us a line.

If you don’t think that a blog post is for you, you can also add a comment here to talk about your parcel, we don’t want anyone to feel left out.

I have been really cheered to see all the chatter about #SeedyPenpals  on Twitter, it seems that you have enjoyed seeing what you have, and I know a few of you have already got seedy and planted up your haul. Brilliant progress, and I thank you all for taking part and for your enthusiasm.

I would also like to thank Ian at Foodies Heaven, who really ran with it, and set up this forum, if you’d like a place to chat about your Seedy Packet, or growing things in general.

We have also launched the Resources Page, with information on seed saving, autumn sowing, and growing in general. We’ll update this regularly, so let us know if there is anything that you think should be up there.

We have had a few teething problems, and we are learning as we go.  I’d like to say thank you for your patience, and encourage you to give us some feedback, so that we can improve. We got over 4 people joining  this time (and more for the next round already), so we would like this to become a regular thing.

My first match was with Sally of Constant Gardener. She is not wrong, she is a very experienced gardener and garden writer, so I fear that I have not really set her a challenge with my Seedy Packet, but I hope that she likes the seeds I sent. I remain hopeful that they will arrive with her today, as the post office promised. I got a bit of a flu, in the heat wave, and couldn’t post it on time (terrible, as one of the hosts I know, but I did let her know – it’s all in the communication people). I’ll let you know when they arrive.

I was matched with Charlotte, who tweets here. She was in India for work, and has unfortunately been a bit unwell since she got back, so I am still waiting for my Seedy Packet too. As my best friend would say, god never pays his debt with money! Again, we have kept in touch, so I know that it will arrive, and I’ll get things planted for the winter, so no worries. I’ll let you know what I get. And I hope that Charlotte feels better soon.

The great thing about Seedy Penpals is that it happens twice a year, so it doesn’t matter too much if you join in a little late (as llong as you have discussed this with your penpal), plus there is also Seedy Cuttings, where you can link to updates on your progress at the end of non-swap months, if you want to.

I have really enjoyed Seedy Penpals, and have been bowled over by the response. It has been great to meet many of you, and to learn a bit more about the growing habits of friends old and new.

If you aren’t sure what to write about your Seedy Packet, you could try using the questions in the Seedy Survey as a starting point. I know a number of you have already written up some great posts. The link widget should post to both Carl’s and my blogs, so you will only need to post it once.

If you would like to join in, you can sign up any time, and we will remind you closer to the time about the exchange. If you feel that you cannot participate for whatever reason, then just let us know at the time, so you don’t need to worry that you are obliged to do something, we all understand that life happens.  You only need to sign up once, so that’s a job less for you at each exchange.

I’m really looking forward to reading your experiences in the links and in the comments.


Filed under Farmed