Field of Science

Is rhubarb a fruit? Let's check a seed catalog.

A reader sent along a picture from seed catalog and to no one's surprise, rhubarb was placed in the "fruit" section. For those who like such things, fruits are flowers at the stage of seed dispersal. Rhubarb is a vegetable that is used as a fruit, but that does not make rhubarb a fruit. Specifically rhubarb is a petiole or leaf stalk; this is fairly obvious because of its U-shape in cross section. Some people think it's a stem but what we pluck is the whole leaf, but then the green blade is cut off, which is good because it's toxic. The fleshy sour-sweet leaf stalks are most commonly used to make pies, and one old nickname for rhubarb is "pie-plant", and divisions of mature clumps would be given to newlyweds to help them establish their garden. Boy, those were the days, when getting a barn built and planting your garden were top priorities.  And speaking of seed catalogs, Johnny's Seeds catalog (Winslow, Maine) showed up in the mail today, and if you can't find what you want in it's 240 pages then it really isn't for sale. This is a great catalog for browsing, but it's ridiculous for us micro-gardeners. This is really a catalog for small farmers, so to make up for them sending me this monster, I've provided the link for some online shopping. In particular, baby bok choi (or pak choi) is hard to find in most garden seed displays at shops, so TPP has to order seeds on line, and this is probably how the mailing list was constructed. This catalog features around 50 different kinds of microgreens, over 40 different "baby" greens for salad mixes, but be careful, some are sold in quantities up to 25 lbs. and that's a lot of greens my friends. Some aren't even sold in individual packets; they start at a price per ounce, and that's still a lot of seeds.They provide more information about germination and disease resistance than any catalog, TPP has ever seen. At any rate if any of you have a favorite seed catalog, let us all know in the comments. Mrs. Phactor has said the TPP will get an Italian seed catalog that she requested, so something to look forward to. And it's getting to be that time of year to place your seed orders. 

5 comments:

Joy Wannamaker said...

The photography in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog is stunning. Seeds are good, too, but their pictures belong in an art gallery.

One said...

Not much use in advertising a Finnish seed catalogue to people abroad but the Joyseeds catalogue is my favourite thus far. It doesn't have anything super fancy (it's a small stale country, we get every novelty later than most) but almost every spread has something that has me say "Huh, I didn't know that was a thing", like white-flowered Epilobium angustifolium, purple-leaved Anthriscus sylvestris, Alcea rugosa, Taraxacum pseudoroseum, and Trifolium repens 'Dragon's Blood'.

Also, about rhubarb: I've never really understood the appeal of it but apparently, my family is in the possession of a particularly good strain of it, one that comes from my great aunt. It's very mild and fleshy, people say, so there's a bunch of family and friends lining up to get a share every year. I guess it makes pretty nice rhubarb porridge but otherwise I don't find it or any rhubarb at all very palatable.

Anonymous said...

I've been buying items from Territorial Seeds for years. They are a West Coast company, but despite that I garden just south of the Arctic Circle, give or take a little, their seeds work very well for me. I used to be a big customer of Johnnys, but their emphasis drifted from home gardeners to small market growers. I still think that Fedco seeds has one of the best, funniest, most honest seed catalogs in the business. Their treatment of customers is impeccable. We Fedco customers feel like one big family. Go Fedco. But buy your garlic from Territorial.

The Phytophactor said...

Thanks for all the info so far. The Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds website is quite handsome, and as mention by Joy, the photography is stunning, and the website quite interesting and filled with interesting things. Well worth a visit. The Joyseeds website in Finland was a bit more standard, and fortunately Bing translates the Finnish. And just as a tip rhubarb is best in a pie, and in case TPP hasn't mentioned it lately, Mrs. Phactor is a master pie-maker. TPP also remembers when Johnny's seeds was a lot more down home, and TPP had also forgotten about Territorial seeds. Loved them, but a lot of the west coast selections are not happy in the mid-west. Thanks for the tip about Fedco. All of these were easily found with just a simple search, so saves the trouble of providing all the links.

Microsatellite said...

The efficacy and role of rhubarb is known by a lot of people, and some even thought it is a dog. Rhubarb taste a little bitter astringent.