What gardener wouldn’t fall for the line, “If you’ve seen one seed catalog, you’ve seen them all…right?”
My guess is that most gardeners have never seen a catalog like the one from Native Seeds/SEARCH, a non-profit conservation organization located in Tucson, Arizona. The word SEARCH stands for Southwest Endangered Aridlands Resource Clearing House and the group is dedicated to ensuring that ancient crops and their wild relatives are around for generations to come.
The Seedlisting features an assortment of beans, corn, chile peppers and other varieties that just aren’t offered in any other seed catalog.
I’ve grown peppers in my garden for years, but I’ve never had the chance to grow Del Arbol “Tree Chiles” from Chihuahua or Alcalde, a native chile pepper from New Mexico.
The pages of the colorful catalog are filled with descriptions of purple-silk Hopi Sweet Corn and Teosinte, the wild ancestor of modern corn. There are Rattlesnake beans that can survive on summer monsoon rains and the Tarahumara Ojo de Cabra “Goat’s Eye” pole bean that produces beans with purple stripes.
These are the food crops that have sustained traditional communities for centuries and also include gourds, greens, native herbs, melons, squash, tomatoes and tomatillos.
Perhaps the catalog will inspire you to order corn, squash and bean seeds for a Three Sisters planting in a backyard Zuni waffle garden.
This year Seedlisting is introducing a new line called Tucson Seed. These are desert-hardy varieties of familiar vegetables for gardening like arugula, beets, carrots, cucumber, and kale.
The group also offers a number of interesting products such as chile powders and flakes, dried beans, grains, blue cornmeal, and organic popped amaranth. Mole powder (a blend of chiles, spices and fruit) is available in different combinations to blend into sauces to serve over chicken, fish or even iguana!
The catalog is a fascinating view of the area’s ancestral gardeners—the original seedsavers. Their practice of acquiring seed, planting and saving seed dates back 10,000 years.
The organization has a membership program and encourages donations to support its important seed conservation work. Native Seeds/SEARCH also distributes free seeds to Native Americans living in the Greater Southwest.
With every order, gardeners will receive a wallet-sized booklet called Seed Watch. This seed buyer’s guide is designed to educate and to “support genetically diverse, sustainable, small scale, bioregional agriculture.”