By Analiese Paik
Comstock, Ferre & Co., located in historic Wethersfield, CT, is the oldest continually operating seed company in New England. The company celebrated its 200th anniversary this past summer thanks to a recent acquisition by Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company of Missouri. Baker Creek has kept Comstock’s retail and catalog heirloom seed business under the Comstock brand rather than merging it with the Baker Creek seed business, making good on its promise to conserve and restore the business to its former glory.
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 2012 catalog, all of which are sure to become collectors’ items. The Comstock 2012 seed catalog is now available for ordering online (free) or viewing online. Of course you can skip the catalog altogether and just click on the vegetable and fruit categories on their website that strike your fancy to find tantalizing seeds, like the banana melon, a variety I am very tempted to try despite my dismal luck at growing melons.
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.
Visiting Comstock Ferre
Seed packets and local craft items 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 Sunday through Thursday from 11-4. Phone: 860-571-6590 or visit them online at www.ComstockFerre.com.