10 Vegetable Seed Suppliers

Where to buy exotic, heirloom, and regional vegetable seeds for your home garden

By Roxanne Webber

Fedco Seeds Territorial Seed Company Hudson Valley Seed Library

Johnny's Selected Seeds

One of the best things about growing your own food is being able to plant varieties that are either unavailable commercially or 10 bucks a pound if you do see them. Here’s a list of places where you can order seeds that will turn into things like black-skinned peanuts, vegetables that can stand a summer frost in the mountains, and a rainbow of heirloom melons, tomatoes, and even garlic.

1. Fedco Seeds. This Maine-based cooperative specializes in cold-hardy plants for the northeast climate. The company will replace anything you’re not satisfied with, or give you a refund for it.

2. Territorial Seed Company. Territorial has a research gardening staff that tests seeds to see how well they’ll do in the Northwest, how tasty the vegetables are, and how well the seeds germinate. It offers a replace-or-refund guarantee and will answer gardening questions via telephone.

3. Pinetree Garden Seeds. Pinetree sells packages of seeds that are smaller than many other companies’, so it’s easy to experiment without being stuck with a bunch of leftovers. In addition to the more common varieties, it offers a selection of seeds for Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin American vegetables such as Egyptian fava beans, shiso, and Thai peppers. Everything comes with a replace-or-refund guarantee.

4. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Missouri-based Baker Creek sells only “non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated, and non-patented” seeds, and specializes in rare and heirloom varieties. Its catalog is full of exotic vegetables: tiny Thai eggplants that look like green peas, Tigger melons with bright red and orange stripes, ugly wart-covered winter squash with amazing bright orange flesh, and pages of tomatoes organized by color.

5. High Altitude Gardens. High Altitude is a 25-year-old family-owned business based out of Arizona that specializes in varieties that do well in the cold, short seasons found in elevated regions (it has test gardens at 6,000 feet). There isn’t a ton of variety in its catalog, but you’ll know you’re buying seeds that work where you live—if you live up high.

6. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. This company in Virginia carries a smallish selection of heirloom vegetables that do well in the mid-Atlantic region. Interesting varieties include burgundy okra and heirloom peanuts.

7. Hudson Valley Seed Library. A cool project we learned about from the Slow Food USA blog, the Hudson Valley Seed Library aims to create a local seed supply for its area, and to sell exclusively local seeds by 2014. Check out the 16 different seed options in cool packages designed by local artists, or browse the nonlocal heirloom varieties.

8. University of Hawaii Seed Program. The university’s seeds are on the expensive side, but the cost might be worth it to know you’re getting varieties tested for the Hawaiian climate. Hippies look elsewhere: The focus is definitely more scientific than back-to-the-land.

9. Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Johnny’s has a large selection of vegetable seeds, some heirloom, some organic. The company is employee-owned and offers a full refund-or-replace guarantee on its seeds.

10. Seed Savers Exchange. Maybe the most well known of the heritage seed companies, Seed Savers is a nonprofit organization that operates the largest nongovernmental seed bank in the United States. It sells heirloom vegetable seeds to nonmembers, but if you join you gain access to an additional 12,000 varieties. It also provides instructions on how to save your own seeds.

Roxanne Webber is a senior editor at CHOW.

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