'Seed keeper' Phil Seneca strives for hearty stock

March 3, 2012 12:00 am
  • Phil Seneca with some of the seeds and crops he's grown on his family's fourth-generation farm in Marshall.
    Phil Seneca with some of the seeds and crops he's grown on his family's fourth-generation farm in Marshall.
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Another winner in his trial garden is 'Hog Heart Paste,' a big meaty heart-shaped tomato with dry flesh and what he describes as superb flavor. It's saddled with the leaf wilt gene, but "it tastes good enough not to care," Mr. Seneca says.

'Rat Tail' radishes are not grown for their roots but for the tasty young seed pods that appear after the tiny pinkish purple flowers. The pretty blossoms also attract beneficial insects. Mr. Seneca plants one or two in squash beds to help deal with bad bugs, harvesting some of the pods for the kitchen and then the seed for next year's crop.

Ground cherries are closely related to tomatillos, but they are smaller with a yellow husk. They are a very sweet annual plant and easiest of the nightshade family to grow, according to Mr. Seneca. They taste like something between a strawberry, pineapple and tomato, with each fruit having a slightly different flavor, he says.

Half his catalog is filled with interesting tomatoes, but he also offers greens, herbs, grains and other plants. Mr. Seneca is on a mission to provide crops that will grow in variable conditions with seeds that can be saved year after year. Gardeners are buying more than just seed, he says.

"They are going to get better nutrition, they're going to have an easier time gardening and they going to be taking part in a tradition that goes back to the very beginning of time," he says.

Information, catalog: Good Mind Seeds -- www.goodmindseeds.org.. Mr. Seneca is always looking for new varieties and is interesting in trading. Email him at goodmindseeds@gardener.com. Mr. Seneca will join Doug Oster at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show in the PG Showcase on the second floor at 4 p.m. today. He will be giving away a limited quantity of 'Punta Banda' tomato seeds.

First Published 2012-03-02 23:52:37

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