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GARDENING : Catalogues Offer Foods on the Offbeat Track

March 07, 1992|From Associated Press

Corn that doesn't produce ears? Raisin trees? Polish tomatoes? Apples dating to ancient Rome? Substitute spinach? Dinosaur food? Home gardeners looking for the offbeat have lots of goodies to consider in the 1992 catalogues, along with more traditional offerings.

J.W. Jung Seed Co., 335 S. High St., Randolph, Wis., 53957, is offering broom corn, "not a true corn but looks and grows like corn without the ears."

It is described as growing six to eight feet high with two- to three-foot tassels or seed heads "that can be cut and dried for craft creations or the seeds can be combed out and the stalks tied together for straw brooms." Colors range from red to brown to purple to almost black. Birds are reputed to love the tiny seeds.

Northwoods Nursery, 28696 S. Cramer Road, Molalla, Ore., 97038, offers the Japanese raisin tree (Hovenia dulcis): "A unique deciduous small tree with dainty, fragrant, purple flowers. Grows 15 to 20 feet tall and is hardy to about minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The fruit is actually the fleshy flower stem, with a sweet, raisin-like taste. Easy to grow and adaptable to most soils."

Johnny's Selected Seeds, Foss Hill Road, Albion, Maine, 04910, reports on the Polish tomato, which is described as a large, pointed, plum-type with excellent flavor.

Suzanne Wyrostek, vegetable-seed trials manager, said customers over the years have suggested offering them, and this year 11 Polish varieties were included in the trials.

Kids who don't like spinach are not likely to cheer the idea of spinach substitutes. Pinetree Garden Seeds, New Gloucester, Maine, 04260, offers two that "taste quite similar and tolerate summer's heat."

Nichols Garden Nursery, 1190 North Pacific Highway, Albany, Ore., 97321, lists four. Both catalogues include New Zealand spinach, which Pinetree says "has been in use in this country since before the Constitution (and) is a staple of dooryard gardens at Sturbridge Village."

Southmeadow Fruit Gardens, Lakeside, Mich., 49116, includes a history of apples in its catalogue. Lady Apple, one of its offerings, is described as "the apple extant today that has the greatest antiquity." Southmeadow says that this red and gold apple was mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his 1st Century "Historia Naturalis" and that the common name dates to the Renaissance and the apple's tiny size, which allowed noblewomen to easily carry it in a pocket.

Bear Creek Nursery, P.O. Box 411, Northport, Wash., 99157, offers the White Winter Pearmain apple, which it dates to A.D. 1200 and describes as "the oldest known English apple" and "good for growing in low-chill warmer areas."

For something really out of the ordinary, Thompson & Morgan, P.O. Box 1308, Jackson, N.J., 08527, has "cycads, once food for dinosaurs." The offering is illustrated by a dinosaur munching on one.

The cycad is described as "very, very old, a living fossil . . . a good, slow-growing houseplant tolerant of household conditions. It will stand several degrees of frost so may be tried outdoors in a warm sheltered position or mild climates." Three seeds are $6.95, plus shipping.

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