Looking for a special holiday gift for the gardeners, cooks and green food lovers in your life? This first installment of our Holiday 2010 Green Food Gift Guide contains 3 clever, thoughtful and fun ideas that were featured on WTNH’s Good Morning Connecticut Show on Saturday, December 6.
For the Gardener:
Heirloom Seeds from Comstock, Ferre & Co. in Wethersfield, CT
Comstock, Ferre & Co., located in historic Wethersfield, CT, is the oldest continually operating seed company in New England and is set to celebrate its 200th anniversary this summer. Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company of Missouri recently purchased Comstock, not only saving it from demolition, but also committing to restoring Comstock Ferre to its original state.
The retail and catalog heirloom seed businesses are now up and running and the 260 seed varieties being offering this year were part of the original 1820-1950 heirloom seed collection. An heirloom seed is one that is at least 50 years old and has been selected to be saved and passed down from generation to generation because it grew well and tasted good. Heirloom seeds, unlike hybrids or GMOs (genetically modified seeds) will reproduce true to the parent strain. Rewarded with the same excellent vegetable they remember from past years, gardeners would again save seeds for the next season’s planting. You can save seeds too!
Many of the heirloom varieties sold by Comstock are at least a few hundred years old and trace their roots to the founding of our country. Squash and pumpkin, so-called New World varieties, are native to the Northeastern US and the seeds were originally acquired from Native Americans. Others were introduced to this country by the Pilgrims and other European immigrants, including the bulb onion (not to be confused with native wild onions). The legendary Wethersfield Red Onion served as a major cash crop in the 1800’s and today remains “an icon and logo of Wethersfield” according to the catalog where it is sold in packets of 300 seeds.
Illustrations of vegetables from antique seed packets found in the company archives now grace the covers of heirloom seed packets and decorate the newly minted 2011 catalog, all of which are sure to become collectors’ items. To order a Comstock seed catalog, register at the Baker Creek web site and anyone in the Northeast will automatically be sent one.
Note: No catalog orders are being taken until after Christmas.
How to Purchase Comstock Heirloom Seeds:
Seed packets are available for purchase at the retail store in Wethersfield, CT, just 5 minutes south of downtown Hartford. Comstock, Ferre & Co. is located at 263 Main Street in Old Wethersfield, and is open Monday through Friday from 9-4. Phone: 860-571-6590 or visit them online at www.ComstockFerre.com (this site is under construction)
For the Cook:
A Woolly Pocket Kitchen Herb Garden
Bring the garden indoors this winter in a Woolly Pocket Garden container so your favorite cooks have easy access to fresh culinary herbs. Made in the USA from recycled plastic bottles, Woolly Pockets make indoor gardening fun and easy because they are specially designed to keep plants moist and surfaces dry.
Woolly Pockets should be filled with good quality potting soil and healthy herb plants that will grow well indoors. Remove the guess work by heading over to Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens in Westport to talk to one of their experts. They steered me towards the Aussie basil because it grows straight up and does well indoors. Pictured here is the peacock blue Tina model from Woolly Pocket Garden’s freestanding Island line with Aussie basil, parsley, thyme, orange mint, and garlic chives from Gilbertie’s. Be sure to pick up a complimentary copy of Raising Herbs Indoors when you check out so the gift can be properly cared for. Also, Gilbertie’s is hosting a winter farmers’ market each Thursday from 10-1 starting December 9 and will offer free gardening lectures at 11 am.
Bonus: When you make a purchase on WoollyPocket.com, the company will donate a Wally One modular wall system to the school of your choice to help them build their Woolly School Garden. Wally One can be hung from a door or wall to bring the vertical space to life with living art.
For the Chocolate Lover:
Organic Fair Trade & Direct Trade Chocolate
Organic Fair Trade and Direct Trade chocolates make a delicious stocking stuffer that’s good for both people and planet. Organic growing practices protect and preserve fragile ecosystems and the Fair Trade Certification signifies that farmers receive fair wages and work under fair labor conditions.
Two of my favorites are Taza Chocolate and Equal Exchange. Taza Chocolate is a Somerville, Massachusetts-based sustainable and socially conscious company which produces a line of 100% stone ground organic chocolates made in the authentic Mexican style. According to the company, Taza Chocolate purchases cacao beans through a Direct Trade Agreement that provides high quality producers “with the economic security and flexibility necessary to conserve natural resources and protect the rights of workers.” These handmade chocolates are available in bars or discs in a wide range of flavors including Salted Almond and Guajillo Chili and fit neatly into a stocking or gift basket. Children especially enjoy making Mexican hot chocolate with the discs and I recommend viewing Taza’s head chocolate maker’s “How to Make Mexican Hot Chocolate” video on the site’s recipe page. Taza Chocolate can be purchased online via the company’s web site, where shipping is free through December 15 on orders over $50, or at Walter Stewart’s Market in New Canaan, Fairfield Cheese Company in Fairfield, and Caseus in New Haven.
Equal Exchange is a leading producer of high quality organic Fair Trade coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, healthy snacks and bananas. Cacao beans are sourced from over 40 small sustainable farm co-operatives in Peru, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, and Panama, and then made into fine chocolate bars in Switzerland. The 65% cacao Orange Dark Chocolate is reminiscent of dark chocolate dipped orange peels and new flavors include Organic Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt (55% Cacao) and Organic Ecuador Dark Chocolate (65% Cacao). Equal Exchange chocolates can be purchased at major retailers including Whole Foods Market and via the company’s web site.