2004 CATALOGUE - INTRODUCTION
Hello, friends and gardeners, farmers and plant-lovers! Welcome to our first-ever catalogue of rare and heirloom open-pollinated seeds, free of all hybrids and genetically-modified organisms (unless there's Monsanto pollen blowing around, in which case THEY may have the gall to sue US). Many of you signed up to receive this catalogue at The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur, Illinois, under the impression that the patch itself was going to be the sponsoring body, as indeed was our intention. Since our season ended in early November, however, we have decided to strictly separate the two businesses. Therefore, it is only fair to state that all opinions and views expressed in this catalogue are our own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The Great Pumpkin Patch or its staff.
I love seeds. So does my wife, Emily. This, in short, is why we are putting out this catalogue. Our particular emphasis is on seeds that no one else (or hardly anyone else) is offering for sale, seeds that are not available anywhere else. (You will find, however, that there are several commonly-available varieties for sale in the catalogue this year. Depending on how sales go, they may or may not stay in the catalogue as the years go on.) These seeds give rise to a marvelous array of vegetables, herbs, and ornamentals, many of which the average American has never heard of (not yet, anyway). But apart from the intrinsic wonder of these venerable plant varieties from all over the world, my wife and I feel it is really important to preserve, propagate, and popularize them while there is still time.
This is where the "revolution" part comes in. Whatever your political beliefs might be, and whatever you might think about what our country is doing in the world today (and my wife has very kindly encouraged me not to digress here into a long political rant), the case for a revolution in the way our food is produced, handled, and distributed is very strong. The sugar-coated policies and practices of huge corporations like Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, and Monsanto poison our environment, put small farmers out of business here and everywhere, and work to reduce the human race's rich diversity of food resources and knowhow to a few patented varieties owned and controlled by them, from seed to table. Plus, their food tastes like crap. Ordinary people, not corporations, should dictate how food policy is made and implemented, in this country and around the world.
One way to counteract the corporatization of our food supply is to promote the small-scale, decentralized use of food crops that you are not prohibited by law from saving the seeds out of, food crops with stories and history behind them, food crops that look great and taste GOOD, that are fun and interesting to grow and that promote healthy local communities, both physically and economically. Hopefully our catalogue is a step in this direction.
OF PROFIT AND GMOs
One of the most controversial issues in the world of food and agriculture today is that of GMOs, or genetically-modified organisms. There are all kinds of stupid things about these artificially-altered vegetable (and animal!) varieties, but I'd like to focus on just one: ask yourself, if you would, why should corporations have the right to patent a living thing, to patent (a form of) life itself? Did they make it live and breathe, grow and bear fruit? No, they'd just like to make a big profit off of that process and corner the market on agricultural production, using their undemocratic political muscle to legalize their takeover (already well-advanced) of agriculture from ordinary farmers and ordinary people.
Now, my wife and I would like to make a profit, too. In fact, I'd like to be able to support our future family with this business, because this is what I love to do, and Emily would like to be able to stay home with the kids. But we are not out to take over the world, or to see dollar signs every time some poor farmer plants his crop or buys something in the supermarket. I'm not entirely comfortable being an entrepreneur, which I become by mailing out this catalogue, so I hope that this business can do some good in the world in addition to providing an honest living for my family. With your help, I think it can do that. (Once again, my wife is reminding me that sending out my political rants to strangers is not the same thing as doing good in the world.)
There is plenty of food in this world (just drive by your local grain elevator with grain lying out on the ground because there's no more room in the bins next fall), and so-called Third World countries had no problem feeding their people before Europeans and Americans got involved in running things over there. Too many poor countries are busy growing coffee and tea and other crops (and beef) for export rather than concentrating on feeding their own people, thanks to foreign powers reorienting their economies to make money for corporations rather than to make their own countries more prosperous. Traditional agriculture is under corporate attack worldwide, and with this catalogue my wife and I join the effort to preserve plant varieties developed over thousands of years by the ingenuity, patience and perserverance of countless individuals in thousands of societies. Roughly 90 percent of the vegetable varieties available in the United States in 1900 are now lost to us. These are the real genetic treasures in this world, not potatoes with fish genes or soybeans you can spray the crap out of or whatever the hell those guys are doing these days. One way or another, whether through careful propagation of nearly extinct strains or old-fashioned, patient plant breeding, LET'S GET THEM BACK.
ARE WE ORGANIC?
Sadly, ours is not an organic operation. Nor do we know if we'll ever go through the hassle of becoming certified even if it is. This year all of the garlic, the multiplier onion, and the Ashe County Heirloom Pimiento Pepper are organically grown (but not certified to be so), and we hope to add to this total in the future.
SMALL AMOUNTS THIS YEAR
Many of the varieties (particularly the rarer ones) on offer in this year's catalogue are only available in very small quantities, to the point that another year's preparation and building-up of seed stock would probably have been advisable. Nonetheless, the catalogue is out and we are open for business. Hopefully not too many of you will be disappointed by this year's shortages. In the future we fully intend to be able to supply small farmers and large-scale gardeners with all the seed they need or want of these excellent varieties. For this year, please take note of items that are in short supply and do not be surprised if we run out of them!
WHEN TO EXPECT YOUR ORDER
My wife and I are very busy people. Emily works full-time and I am in graduate school full-time (and then some). Therefore there may not be a swift turnaround time on your order. It may take us several weeks to pack and ship the seed (and/or books) you select. If this occurs, please be patient with us-we will get your seed to you in time for planting for your climate. Shipping costs for seed are explained on the order form in the center of the catalogue. Garlic and multiplier onions will be shipped in August or September of this year for orders placed now. Don't worry, we won't forget you…
MORE ABOUT US ( AND ABOUT SEEDS )
I (Kit) grew up on a family farm that later became The Great Pumpkin Patch, a couple of miles outside of Arthur, Illinois. As the family business developed in the 1990s, I began ordering the seed for it each year and conducting detailed evaluations of the results of our plantings. One of our great frustrations at the patch was the inconsistent availability (and quality) of varieties we really liked. Sometimes varieties were dropped by seed companies just as soon as we found out we liked them. Sometimes the quality of a variety would decline drastically over time, leading us to experiment with different sources for the same variety. Sometimes hardly anyone was offering a particular variety in the first place, and seed was available only in very small quantities. All of this led to an increasingly obsessive search for all available seed sources, the beginnings of our own programs of breeding, hand-pollinating and isolating varieties for seed, and now, with this business, a stab at seed independence. Here, perhaps, a word about hybrids would be in order.
There are basically five kinds of seeds from the point of view of how easy they are for an individual farmer or gardener to propagate and preserve herself. Most difficult in this regard are genetically-modified seeds, which are not only very difficult but very illegal to propagate. They are owned by corporations and created with weird and advanced technology. Corporations, for selfish reasons, are contemptuous of measures intended to keep their GMOs from genetically contaminating traditional crop varieties, yet if they discover that their wayward pollen has landed on your crop, you are in trouble because the law presumes that you are trying to steal their wonderful new technologies. But who would want to? And there are farmers who are countersuing the corporations for messing up their non-GMO crops (hooray!). Anyway, the more GMO crops there are out there, the less ordinary farmers are able to save their own seed, adapt old varieties to new growing conditions, and create new varieties, as farmers all over the world have done for millennia.
The second kind of seed is for patented hybrid varieties, also known as PVPs (Plant Variety Protection or something like that). These are the result of ordinary, non-GMO crosses between two or more varieties that are then patented by the company performing the cross so that no one else can repeat it or sell their seed-or save seed from a year's harvest-without their permission. The third kind of seed is non-patented hybrid seed, which you are not prohibited by law from attempting to duplicate, and which you could legally (I think) plant the progeny of the next year, but you wouldn't want to, and here's why. Non-GMO hybrids, whether patented or not, are theoretically the result of crosses performed each year by the seed company selling them. The varieties they cross with each other (the "parent" varieties) are stable and will come true-to-type year after year if they are not crossed; but the result of the cross between the two, the hybrid that the farmer buys, is not stable and its progeny the next year are not predictable. Thus, seed saved from a hybrid variety that performed extremely well one year would segregate into various approximations of its parents the next year and potentially cause all kinds of unpredictable problems for the farmer. These two kinds of seed pose a threat to agriculture that is less severe than that posed by GMOs, but nonetheless extremely powerful: they, not GMOs, are largely responsible for the erosion of 90% of American vegetable varieties since 1900.
The attraction of hybrids is that they are usually large, uniform, and high-yielding, which is why they have muscled out (and made extinct) so many fine older varieties over the last several decades. The downside of hybrids is that they are far less flexible than open-pollinated varieties in varying environmental conditions and generally not as tasty (plus you can't save seed out of them!). We have certainly seen this in our own fields, as many hybrid pumpkin and squash varieties vary wildly from year to year in terms of yield-sometimes fantastic, sometimes a complete bomb-while the old open-pollinated varieties keep plugging away under different weather conditions, sometimes really good, sometimes not so good, but never a total loss like some of our hybrids. The Connecticut Field pumpkin, one of the country's oldest varieties, is a good example of this. Old, tried and true, open-pollinated varieties that can be preserved and improved by any farmer anywhere-part of the common heritage of humankind-are what this catalogue is all about.
(I should note, however, that even the venerable Connecticut Field was at one time a hybrid. A vast number of the vegetable varieties that have come down to us are the result of hybridization, even repeated hybridization over time, either intentional or unintentional. The difference is that seed companies go to some trouble to not stabilize the new varieties they create when they cross two parent varieties, so that farmers must continue to buy seed from them instead of being able to save it themselves. If you are actively trying to stabilize a new cross between two varieties, it takes about 10 years to do so, to develop a new variety that is different from both of its parents and able to reproduce itself with a great degree of consistency from year to year.)
The nastiest kind of seed I have saved for last, even though according to a logical progression it should have been first, since it is even more pernicious to seed-saving than the genetically-modified seeds I mentioned earlier in this section. Corporations are working on creating genetically-modified seeds with so-called "Terminator" genes-genes that render the seeds sterile, completely unable to reproduce. This is the ultimate in assuring repeat business, since the corporation is the only entity that has the ability to turn these seeds on and off, as it were. If you want to plant the same thing again next year, you need live seeds from the only people who can make them sprout. The consequences of such a genetic trait escaping into other vegetable varieties through wind or insect pollination are frightening, to say the least. These seeds, as far as I know, are not yet on the market (and hopefully never will be), having been put on the back burner to some extent through popular pressure. Ultimately only more popular pressure will keep these seeds in the laboratory instead of in our fields, since the corporations insist GMO technology is safe, beneficial, and under control. The only thing we know for sure about GMOs, though, is that they help corporations keep farmers under control-their control.
But I digress. Over the years at the Great Pumpkin Patch we have trialed about one thousand varieties (and strains of varieties) of pumpkins, squash and gourds. A couple of years ago I realized that we were never going to "get them all"-there is just too much diversity in the cucurbit family (see below) to capture in one place. But perhaps the most frequently-heard phrase at the pumpkin patch (besides "Where's the bathroom?" and "Johnny, you put that pumpkin back where you found it right now") is "I had no idea there were so many varieties." I have gotten to know them pretty well through maintaining elaborate statistical tables and descriptive notes (some would say too elaborate and too descriptive) on them for many years, and I am excited to share some of them with you this year.
In the summer of 1999 I left California to return to the farm and start a garden of my own. (This is where the other vegetables come in.) I do not claim any particular expertise in anything other than pumpkins, squash, and gourds, but I trialed a large number of vegetables and ornamentals, made many mistakes, fought legions of woolly worms and marauding hordes of mice and rabbits, let a lot of weeds go to seed because I thought they looked interesting, and in general began (or continued) what I hope will be a lifelong journey of, well, learning and discovery, as cheesy as that is. And of tasty treats from my garden.
I hope it is obvious that I have done a lot of research for this catalogue. Emily and I are both inclined towards this sort of thing, as she is a librarian by trade, presently at an elementary school in the area, and I soon will be (if I can get a job), as I am about to finish up my master's program in library science. We believe that amassing and preserving knowledge about these historic plants and where they came from is nearly as important as preserving the plants themselves. Luckily, as a double-librarian househould, we have to pester librarians far less than we otherwise would in the course of our research. (Really, though, librarians like to be pestered. Well, not pestered. They like to be challenged. Nicely.)
And finally, I should say something here about another sense of the word "revolution," a sense that evokes and signifies the round of the seasons, the rounds that the earth makes around the sun, bringing us back to the same point in space we were at last January 13th (except that the whole galaxy is revolving, or rather rotating, at a bazillion miles an hour, at the same time that it streaks out towards the edge of the universe at a kajillion miles an hour, so it's really not the same place), the rounds that the earth makes on its own axis giving us day and night, the rounds of the moon giving us tides and periods and werewolves, the rounds that crops make as they rotate through well-tended fields, legume to grass to cucurbit to fallow, and the endless, sacred round of seed to plant to flower and back to seed. May these revolutions never cease, at least until the sun completes its grand revolution from dust to dust and the universe itself starts all over again. Our seeds, and all of us, are caught up in a great kaleidoscope of revolutions and rotations, revolutions and rotations. (We thought about calling ourselves "Rotation Seeds," but it just wasn't as catchy.)
I would like to thank my partners in garlic, Robin and Daniela, for all their hard and dirty work in making our garlic patch a reality this fall; my family for providing the space for said garlic patch, for their unwavering support for the idea of this seed business, and for many other kindnesses over the years; my friend Nick for his various enthusiasms and assistances, including his internet savvy; all seed-savers past, present and future, in the cosmic sense and in the sense of Andrew, Robin, Mac, Jennie, Emily, Buck, Shana, Ginny, Bruce, Mary Beth, Gym, Mary Ellen, Courtney, Devyn, John, Grady, Lonnie, Lucy, Barbara, Sando, Jeremy, Amy, Linda, Rob, Gene, Christine, Imelda, Nursultan, and Craig; everyone else I have forgotten; and Emily, for helping me so much in all aspects of life, for putting up with all my procrastination, perfectionism, persnicketiness, poopiness, and other exasperating qualities, and for loving me so truly.
STATEMENT OF LIABILITY
The liability of Revolution Seeds is limited to the purchase price of the seeds in all circumstances. We are not responsible for any crop or lack thereof that may or may not result from these seeds. Nonetheless we strive to provide high-quality, high-germination seed that is true to type in all cases. Please drop us a note to let us know how our seeds performed for you. If there are any problems we would like to know about them so we can do a better job in the future.
In future editions of this catalogue we plan to include cultural information (that is, when and how to plant, care for, and harvest) for all varieties, as well as access to culinary information (including recipes) and pithy quotations relating to agriculture and vegetables, especially pumpkins. For now please submit your questions via e-mail or snail mail.
PHOTOGRAPHS ( OR THE LACK THEREOF )
We regret the dearth of photographs in this year's catalogue. We also regret that budgetary constraints compel us to print the few photographs we have included in black and white (when originally they were in glorious color). Glorious color photographs of many of the varieties listed below (and many varieties to come in future catalogues) can be found, however, piggy-backed onto our good friend Nick's website at (There is no link between and , so make sure you type in the full address. But make sure you check out Nick's website too!) We really appreciate Nick donating his cyberspace to us and for helping us construct this webpage. In the future we intend to have high-quality photos of all our varieties on-line, in the catalogue itself, or otherwise available to our customers.
OF "PUMPKINS," "SQUASH," AND "GOURDS"
After many years I finally realized that "pumpkins," "squash," and "gourds" are problematic terms that can mean anything anyone wants them to mean. There is no definitive answer to the question "is this a pumpkin or a squash or a gourd?" Botanists do not use these terms, or if they do they use them in a way that seems absolutely senseless to the layperson. Since the assigning of varieties to one category or another is so arbitrary, I have organized my squash (and pumpkins and gourds) according to the species each variety belongs to, because at least here there is some objective reality to hang onto. None of the varieties in one species will cross with any of the varieties in any of the other species. (Usually. See the Tetsukabuto.) But they will cross easily with any of the varieties that are the same species as they are. That seems like a good reason to lump them together to me.
For everyday usage, however, this is what I propose: a pumpkin is an orange thing, round or oval or squatty or tall, that you might carve for Halloween or bake in a pie. A squash is something else, either a different shape or a different color or both, that you cut open and scoop out the seeds and throw them away (or compost or plant in the spring, hopefully) and eat the rest. A gourd is something that is not orange (unless it's very small, and then it can be orange) and is pretty to look at and that dries out leaving a hard hollow shell, more often than not. A gourd is ALSO something that you cut open and scoop out the seeds and eat them and throw the rest away because the rest of it tastes like crap.
But there are exceptions to all of these, like the Styrian Hulless pumpkin, which is really grown for the seeds, and is not orange, but which I would (and do) call a pumpkin. And the Jarrahdale squash, which, apart from being blue, looks so much like a pumpkin that I have no problem calling it one. (I also have no problem calling it a squash, though, because it's blue and a different species than regular pumpkins.) And then there's the Buckskin pumpkin, which is shaped like a pumpkin and makes a mean pumpkin pie, but isn't orange and is also a different species than regular pumpkins (but is also not the same species as Jarrahdale). And what do you call those squatty miniature pumpkins you can buy in the supermarket? They're small and they're for decoration, so they must be gourds. But they look so much like pumpkins. And in Mexico and China they are prized for their eating quality, so they must be squash. But you could (and probably should, since they are so nutritious) toast or roast the seeds and eat them, so we're back to gourds again. But that's true of all varieties, although some seeds are more suited for eating than others….So you see you can just go around and around about this. The wonderful truth is that all of these varieties have so many uses and are so different and yet so similar to each other that they defy human categorization. They, like all life, will always be just a little bit beyond our best efforts to nail them down. Or, more likely, way beyond our best efforts to nail them down.
Botanically speaking, pumpkins, squash and gourds are all "gourds." Or, to be even more scientific, really they are pepos, which means a fleshy corky berry or something like that. And in a larger sense they are all cucurbits (meaning members of the Cucurbitaceae family of plants), along with melons and cucumbers and a number of other strange and wonderful things from all over the world. But don't be a pumpkin-head: squash your urges to use these terms or people will think you're out of your gourd. (Sorry.)
THE GREAT PUMPKIN PATCH
If you would like more information about The Great Pumpkin Patch, which in 2003 grew and sold nearly 500 varieties of pumpkins, squash, gourds and melons, provided produce displays to two prestigious botanical gardens, delighted tens of thousands of customers, and is becoming a center of information and knowhow on squash, pumpkins, and all their friends (and has been in my family for 143 years), please contact them at:
The Great Pumpkin Patch
R.R.#1, Box 100
Arthur, lllinois 61911
217 / 543-2394
The patch is open from September 15th (or a little earlier) to October 31st (or a little later) every year, and from 9 AM to 6 PM every day of the week. Arthur is three and a half hours south of Chicago, two and a half hours northeast of St. Louis, and two and a quarter hours west of Indianapolis. The countryside around Arthur is home to Illinois' largest Amish community and boasts many shops and cottage industries. Come and see us!
SPRING PLANTING FESTIVAL IN MISSOURI
My brother Mac and I will be speaking at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds' Spring Planting Festival and Heirloom Growers Conference on April 25th and 26th (Sunday and Monday), 2004 near Mansfield, Missouri, along with many excellent speakers. Find out more about this festival and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at 417 / 924-8917 or .
OF NATIVE AMERICANS The central role of Native Americans in domesticating and perfecting vegetables that make up a significant proportion of the world's food supply should never be forgotten. Tomatoes, potatoes, corn, peppers and many other indispensible vegetables we owe to their efforts over many thousands of years, but it is their incredible achievements with squash, pumpkins, and gourds that deserve special mention here, as this catalogue (and my family's business) rests on the shoulders of Native Americans, the giants of cucurbit domestication and diversification. Let us all try to be mindful of their achievements, horticultural and otherwise, as well as the centuries of oppression and murder they have endured at the hands of many of our ancestors (and many of our contemporaries). Let us remember whose land we are living on.
General Hoped-for Additions for the Future:
TOMATOES / Potatoes / Jerusalem Artichokes / Salsify / Sunflowers / Nasturtiums / Cardoons / Cauliflower / Chard / Lentils / Beets / Luffas / Brussels Sprouts / Woad / Rhubarb / Watermelons / Bitter Gourds / Snake Gourds / Chick Peas / Fava Beans / Lima Beans / Kale / Squirting Cucumber / Hyacinth Beans / Pepino Diablito / Sassafras / ...and… / CHAYOTE SQUASH