While attending a marriage seminar on communication, Tom and his wife Peg listened to the instructor declare, "It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other." He asked Tom, "Can you describe your wife's favorite flower?" Tom leaned over, touched his wife's arm gently and whispered, "Pillsbury All-Purpose, isn't it?" The rest of the story is not pleasant. —Author unknown

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Dream garden veggies for 2010

'Purple Viking' potato/Photo: seedsavers.org

'Purple Viking' potato/Photo: seedsavers.org

Ah, the feast days of winter! No, I’m not talking about the Super Bowl goodies we’ll dish up on February 7. I’m salivating during my long, delicious forays into luscious-looking veggies so brightly displayed in print and online seed catalogs. Yum.

If I had to pick just one vegetable from each, these would be on my list. Take a look, then find your own faves.

Seed Savers Exchange, based in Decorah, Iowa, should be required reading for anyone who loves great photography. This is summer on a page! My pick: ‘Purple Viking’ potato. Not only does the name give a nod to my Norwegian heritage, the catalog says it’s ”gaining the reputation of a great tasting, slightly sweet, general purpose potato.”

I’m a sucker for the sweetness of black tomatoes, such as ‘Paul Robeson’. But just to try something different, I’d go for ‘Carbon’ from Tomato Growers Supply Company. They say: ”This is among the darkest of the ‘black’ tomatoes that we’ve seen and one of the very best tasting tomatoes of any kind that we’ve sampled. Its flavor is exceptionally rich yet sweet and the essence of delicious summer tomato flavor.”

'Carbon' tomato/Photo: www.tomatogrowers.com

'Carbon' tomato/Photo: www.tomatogrowers.com

The darling family—Jere and Emilee Gettle and their young daughter Sasha—that owns Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri, wins my vote for optimism. They host tons of special events, own a restaurant and are even setting up a shop in California. The catalog comes packed with 1,200 fruit and vegetable varieties and features recipes (great idea!) . They even put a quote on nearly every page, such as: “We have guided missiles and misguided men.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

'Extra Dwarf Pak Choy'/Photo: rareseeds.com

'Extra Dwarf Pak Choy'/Photo: rareseeds.com

I am intrigued by ‘Extra Dwarf Pak Choy’:

“This tiny pak choy is picked when just 2 inches tall! It has dark green, wrinkled leaves with thick, white petioles and can be used whole to make amazing salads and stir-fries! Very tender and delicious!”

Renee Shepherd, the dynamic owner of Renee’s Garden, displays her seed packets with beautiful botanic drawings (but you can click on photos, too). One of her particular strengths is offering beautiful vegetable combinations. If you’re just starting out, try her Easy to Grow Collection Rainbow Kitchen Garden.  It includes: Farmer’s Market lettuce mix: A rainbow of salad colors and textures; Garden Candy cherry tomatoes: Red, orange, yellow and sweet as sugar; Tasty Duo scallions: Red and green skinned, savory and crisp; Tricolor bush beans: scrumptious purple, yellow and green pods; Tricolor zucchini: gold, light and dark green, with buttery flavor.

'Garden Candy' cherry tomatoes/Photo: reneesgarden.com

'Garden Candy' cherry tomatoes/Photo: reneesgarden.com

Farmers Market Lettuce Blend/Photo: reneesgarden.com

Farmers Market Lettuce Blend/Photo: reneesgarden.com

Tricolor Bush Beans/Photo: reneesgarden.com

Tricolor Bush Beans/Photo: reneesgarden.com

Tricolor zucchini/Photo: reneesgarden.com

Tricolor zucchini/Photo: reneesgarden.com

Delicious Duo scallions/Photo: reneesgarden.com

Delicious Duo scallions/Photo: reneesgarden.com

Looking for other veggies? Sample the tried-and-true from Burpee’s, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Park Seed, Jung Quality Garden Seeds and more.

For the largest selection of organic seeds, I like to visit Seeds of Change. I’d probably get some leek seeds, since I’ve been cooking with leeks a lot more lately. Check out Thomas Keller’s amazing Leek Bread Pudding recipe printed in the New York Times from his new cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home. Some people think “YUCK!” when they hear the name. But when they taste this savory stuffing, they’re instantly converted! ‘Bandit’ leek looks like a winner.

'Bandit' F-1 leek/Photo: seedsofchange.com

'Bandit' F-1 leek/Photo: seedsofchange.com

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