Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is a non-profit organization of gardeners dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. They have an outstanding reputation among gardeners as being a great place to look for unusual or hard-to-find varieties. SSE produces a beautiful 100 page catalog each year to help produce funds for their organization. The catalog includes:
- Heirloom Vegetable Seeds
- Heirloom Herb Seeds
- Heirloom Flower Seeds
The first question you might have is, “Do I have to be a member of SSE to order from the catalog?” Happily the answer is no — SSE sells their seeds to members and non-members alike! Members do receive a 10% discount and some other nifty benefits which you can read about on their website.
The SSE catalog is different from the standard commercial seed catalog you might be used to — we think different in a good way. This is a catalog geared towards gardeners who already have a pretty good idea of what they are doing. There are no Culture Boxes telling you how and when to plant. Instead, that space is used to offer more seeds! In fact, the SSE catalog is literally STUFFED full of beautiful color photos and descriptions of more seeds than you could ever hope to plant.
One of our favorite aspects of the SSE catalog is the uniqueness of their seed descriptions. You might learn when and where a variety was introduced, where it was popularly grown and why it was popular before falling out of favor. Basically SSE is teaching you the history of each variety and explaining why it is important that it be saved for future generations. We like that — a lot.
You won’t find the usual hybrid varieties that all of the commercial catalogs seem to offer. SSE only sells open-pollinated heirloom seeds. If you want a Better Boy or Celebrity tomato this isn’t the catalog for you. And therein lies the beauty of SSE — instead of seeing the same things you see catalog-after-catalog you end up finding jewels like the Black from Tula tomato (part of the description reads, “described by an SSE member as ‘the ugliest, most delicious tomato I’ve ever grown.’”) How can you not be intrigued by THAT? Or how about Dr. Wyche’s Yellow tomato? Apparently Dr. Wyche owned a circus and used to fertilize his garden with lion and tiger waste to keep out deer and rabbits! Now there is a tomato-lover ladies and gentlemen!
By now you might have gotten the impression we are big fans of the SSE and their catalog — and you’d be exactly right. We like seeing varieties that we don’t see anywhere else. We like learning a little about the history of the things we are planting in our garden. Above all, we feel that preserving our genetic heritage through the saving and sharing of heirloom seeds is an important thing to do and we applaud the SSE for helping us do that.
Do yourself and your garden a favor this year. Request a catalog or visit the SSE website and place an order. Grow something you might not have grown otherwise, something unique or unusual that catches your eye. Come harvest time you will be glad you did!