Heirloom Recipes

Winter is a time for dreaming.  Both plants and gardeners take a well deserved rest while visions of next year’s blooms and plums (even if they aren’t sugared) dance in our heads.  It’s a perfect time to plan and prepare, even if our grandest dreams sometimes go awry.  A little extra legwork now can make some of those visions a simple reality, and can provide a very thoughtful gift for garden lovers in your life.

I love to give planters as gifts for my gardening friends, because they are so versatile and come in such stunning designs.  This year’s favorite?

The sueki urn

The thimble pots


The Sueki Urn is ideal for my very special gardening someone and the whimsical thimble pots are perfect for funloving friends and especially children who love gardening, both are available from The Trellis Store .  But I always hate to give planters empty, as attractive as they are, empty planters always feel a little forlorn.  Sometimes I find a nice set of garden tools or gardening gloves, or a few beautiful outdoor books.  This year though, with almost everyone I know crafting something special with their own two hands as a gift, I wanted to create something special and unique, something that people would know was from me.

While I was thinking about this, the Thanksgiving holiday launched upon me and I pulled out my mother’s recipe box for some old pie recipes.  It’s old and yellowed and some of the cards are a little sticky or are softly redolant of pie spices and baking cookies, but it’s one of my most treasured possessions from my mother because it has so much of her in it. 
It struck me that recipes need not only be for food, but could also be for plants.  I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve tried growing a new strain of vegetable or flower and been at a loss for certain bits of information at some point during the process.  When am I supposed to plant?  How much space between each plant? Is this leaf coloring normal or is a disease attacking my plant?  Those kinds of things.  I always give saving the seed packets the old college try, but somehow they inevitably get lost at some point.  So I was thinking of how useful it would be to have all that information in one memorable place, in some kind of order for me to reference.  A sort of recipe box for seeds.  Of course I can always purchase a gardening guide or plant reference book, but that is sort of like buying a generic cookbook.  How much more useful it would be if I had something tailored specifically to my garden, complete with tips, old wives tales, and pretty illustrations (if that’s what I want).  So I decided to try this project for myself and my close friends.
First, I needed to find a box that would fit both the file cards and seeds that I wanted to attach to each one.  I also wanted room for my collection to grow, so I found a large sturdy card file box. 
The one I selected features a seasonal design, since I intend to give it as a christmas gift, but you could just as easily use a photo file box or a paper mache box that can be decorated with paintings or pressed flowers, just as you like.  Any of these options is commonly available at a craft store such as Joann’s or Michael’s. 
Once you have your box and it is decorated the way you like, you will need some index cards.  Make sure to purchase cards that easily fit inside your box with room to spare.  I chose 4 x 6 cards and I will stand them sideways for a nice, roomy fit.

You can use index cards, recipe cards or pieces cut from sturdy paper stock

Once we are through putting down our “recipe” we can laminate them or cover them with contact paper to prevent wear.  This is a good step to take because hopefully these cards will withstand dirt, moisture and general mildewy conditions in a garden shed or right in the garden itself.
Next we need to choose which plants we are going to keep recipes of.  If you are making this for yourself, think of the crops you generally plant each year and start there.  If you are making this as a gift, try to think of a theme.  For example, this time I will make an herb garden box.  Perhaps you have a friend that likes mediterranean cooking, you could fill the box with plants like tomatoes, basil, oregano, garlic, onions, and eggplant.  That is not to say you must use several different plants.  If you have a friend that adores roses for example, you could include several different varieties of roses, or even several different bits of advice for just a few varieties.
Once you have chosen your variety of plants,  you can either prepare a small pouch with seeds you have gathered or purchase heirloom seeds for each plant.  Seed Savers is a good place to get heirloom seeds, with reasonable prices and a worthwhile foundation.  Why heirloom seeds?  Hybrids that you get from seed companies are only reliable for one generation.  If you collect seeds from hybrid fruits they may not be viable, but heirloom seeds always will be and this is a project that we want to last for our friends for years to come.  Each pouch should have a seperate type of seed and should be attachable (by glue or staple) to your card, that way, the correct seeds can be placed with their recipe card every year and it will be easy to tell what type you are planting. 
Next you can either use a photo from your own garden of each plant or you can draw your own version (I like the latter, it makes it more personal).  Be sure to draw as many pieces of the plant as you can manage, leaves, stem, flower and fruit or seed sac so that you or your receiver will be able to know at a moment what they are looking for. 
Next time, we will show you some pictures of our illustrated plant recipe cards and talk about what type of information should be on each card . . . so stay tuned!

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