Kitchen Gardening

J.L. Hudson, Seedsman

Here's a real throwback: a seed company without a single photo on its Web site. Why check it out? For the fabulous selections, of course.


When I first got the  J.L. Hudson catalog many years ago, it was a bit intimidating. There were no beautiful photos—no photos at all, actually. Just black and white pages full of Latin names. But oh, the plants! Whoever J.L. is, I love his taste in plants. They lean toward the new or unusual, and are rarely the expected.

  J.L. Hudson, Seedsman
PO Box 337
La Honda, CA 94020-0337

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For instance, one of my favorite plants is Solanum quitoense, a tomato relative grown for its big, fuzzy leaves and the vicious, deep purple spikes along its leaf veins. It’s incredibly easy to grow from seed, and it’s a star player in my containers every year. I wondered if there were any similar plants that I should be growing, and a quick trip to the Web site reveals five more solanums with intriguing descriptions.

Even common plants like basil have a few unusual cousins that you can find here. Check out the selection below, taken word for word from the Hudson Web site. It’s a mix of both the standards and a few exotic specimens you won’t find everywhere:


—Basil, Ararat. (b,h) OCIM-1A.
Packet: $2.50, 5 grams: $11.50
An interesting basil with leaves mottled purple and green, with a licorice flavor. Unique.

—Basil, Cinnamon. (1000) OCIM-1C.
Packet: $2.50, Germination: 96% Tested: 9/08, Oz: $9.00, 1/4 lb: $27.00
‘CINNAMON BASIL’. Spicy aroma, purple flowers, to 30″. A fine variety. Germinates in 1 – 4 weeks.

—Basil, Large Sweet. (a!,h) OCIM-1S. Packet: $1.50
Germination: 88% Tested: 9/08, Oz: $6.00, 1/4 lb: $9.00
The most popular and widely grown variety. Sweet and aromatic 2 – 3″ leaves. To 1 – 2 feet tall.

—Basil, Lime. (a,h) OCIM-1L. Packet: $1.50 ORGANIC SEED
Germination: 96% Tested: 9/08, Oz: $6.00 ‘LIME BASIL’. Has a zesty lime flavor.

NEW—Ocimum Basilicum Red Rubin.( a!,h) OCIM-1RR.
Packet: $2.00, Germination: 84% Tested: 9/08, Oz: $6.00, 1/4 lb: $18.00
Dark purple-red leaves with a good flavor. Bushy plant to 18″, a selection from Dark Opal, more compact and stays red longer into the summer.

—Basil, Ocimum gratissimum (=urticifolium) (b,h) OCIM-3.
Packet: $2.50
‘TREE BASIL’, ‘EAST INDIAN BASIL’. White or purple tinged flowers in 6 – 9″ long spikes. Woody shrub to 4 – 8 feet tall, with highly aromatic, sweet-scented 4″ leaves used in cooking. India, Africa, S. America. Said to repel mosquitoes, and is planted around houses for this purpose. Used to flavor tobacco in Africa. Grows well in the warm areas of the U.S., especially recommended for S. California. Grow as annual in cold areas. Germinates in 1 – 4 weeks.

—Basil, Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum). (a!,h) OCIM-24.
Packet: $2.50 OTC ORGANIC SEED 1/4 Oz: $8.00
‘HOLY BASIL’, ‘TULSI’. Sweetly fragrant bushy perennial to 1 – 3 feet, grown as an annual in cold climates. Profuse purple or white bloom, & sometimes purplish-tinted foliage. Tropical Asia. Held sacred by the Hindus & grown around temples. Sections of the stem-bases are used in rosaries. The leaves are used in salads, and the oil is an effective antibiotic, and the leaves are used medicinally. Nice, distinctive clove-like flavor, good in cooking, salads, or for tea. Good in herb breads and herb butters. Good bee plant. Germinates in 1 – 4 weeks. Organically grown.

—reviewed by Michelle Gervais

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