Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Garden 2013: The Greens of Summer

Consider the source: Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed has been breeding and selecting lettuce and salad greens for decades on his farm near Philomath. He and his wife, Karen, were some of the original suppliers for Genoa back when it was one of the few restaurants in town featuring seasonal produce from local suppliers.

Cathy Whims, then its chef, remembers the packages that would arrive from the Mortons. "It was the most extraordinary salad, the likes of which I have not seen ever again," she said.

"The salad would come in bags of about eight servings per bag," she said. "The bags would be lined with this beautiful muslin cloth and stamped Wild Salad Mix. There would be layers of 20 different greens that would be stunning, wrapped up like a Parisian chocolate box."

Also inside the bags there would be a handwritten key to the varieties of lettuces and greens, along with pictures of the children and of the various lettuces in the fields. The key would be posted in the kitchen so the staff could check it if guests had questions about their salad greens. The photos were posted there, too, and Whims remembers, "We all felt like we were part of this family we'd never met."

This spring, after I experienced a dismal failure of an initial planting of lettuce seeds from another company (which, admittedly, might have been the result of extremely hot weather right after planting), Carol Boutard shared some of Frank's seeds that she and Anthony planted at Ayers Creek Farm. Those seeds, developed for the climate of the Northwest, have performed stunningly in my garden this year (top photo).

While you won't find packets of Wild Garden Seed in stores in the Portland area, you can be sure that next year I'll get my order in early on their website, and look forward to another great harvest next summer.

Read the profile of Frank Morton that I wrote for Edible Portland.

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