One of the most compelling articles I've read in the past year was the indepth Vanity Fair piece about Monsanto's genetically modified plant seeds. Scary stuff, indeed. Around the same time, I read Barbara Kingsolver's fascinating book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about her family's year-long commitment to truly living off the land -- growing their own food (or buying neighbors' produce), raising chickens, the works.
Both things got me thinking about heirloom foods, and how their superior flavors aren't the only reason to seek them out. Once you realize how much biodiversity has been lost as a result of industrialized agriculture, you'll start rooting for anything heirloom. As a friend of mine said about heritage turkeys (basically the heirloom tomatoes of the poultry world), "You have to eat them to save them."
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Which leads me to the gorgeous copy of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds that just came in the mail from a family-run business in Missouri. Their mission is to only carry non-GMO seeds from a network of 50 small farmers and seed collectors.
The full-color catalog is filled with photos and descriptions of more veggie varieties than you've ever seen (1,275, to be exact). Just the okra section alone features 21 different types, from the pale green Louisiana Long Pod to the deep scarlet Bowling Red. Want to see food porn in its purest form? This is it. -- Michele Laudig