A Chile Spring

February 28, 2012

It might be February, but dozens of honey bees are feasting on blooming crocuses in West Philly gardens.

Clearly, it’s not too early to start planning and planting seeds for the summer garden.

Landreth Seed Company’s 2012 Special Edition seed catalog arrived in the mail in January and its 78 illustrated pages of photos and folk wisdom beckon.

Landreth's Special Edition 2012 Collector's Catalog

Landreth’s Special Edition 2012 Collector’s Catalog

Just three pages in is a Children’s Garden Collection of old-fashioned vegetable and flower favorites, including the Chervena Chujski, a Bulgarian variety heirloom pepper which ripens from green to brown to shiny red. “The fruits taper to 6 in. and resemble hot peppers, but they are incredibly sweet,” reads the caption.

An entire page is devoted to hot peppers (p. 39) starting with Anaheim Chiles, and featuring other hot pepper varieties with names from around the globe – Caribbean Red, plus the mildly hot Black Hungarian Pepper, as well as the Bolivian Rainbow, with purplish-green leaves, that will produce tiny cone-shaped hot peppers of many colors on fully grown plants within about 80 days.

The Fish Pepper, featured before on this blog, is also represented. Other long-time favorites include Cayenne, Habanero, Jalapeño, Poblano, Scotch Bonnet, Thai Hot, Serrano, and Tabasco. For those who prefer white-hot to red-hot, there’s even a White Habanero.

Sweet pepper offerings are available further along in the catalog. These include the imperfectly shaped Bullnose pepper, introduced into the US in 1759, possibly from India. This bell pepper was originally used for stuffing and pickling. (See Mrs. Emlen’s Pickled Mangos) Another old standby is the Red Cherry Sweet, introduced before 1860, that produces small round, very sweet fruits, and excellent also for pickling or canning. Miniature Bells, perfect for container gardening, are available in three colors – chocolate, red and yellow. These sweet peppers are family heirlooms shared with Seed Savers Exchange, says Landreth.

Founder David Landreth originally started his company in Montreal Canada in 1780, but its harsh climate induced him to relocate to Philadelphia in 1784. His first garden center was located on former High Street, now 1210 Market Street, very near where the Loews Hotel resides within the former PSFS Tower. Landreth’s loyal customers included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Bonaparte.

Like William and John Bartram, the Landreths introduced a number of botanic firsts to Philadelphia – the Zinnia from Mexico in 1798; the first truly white potato in 1810, and Bloomsdale Spinach in 1826. And for a city that markets itself “with Love,” Landreth introduced the tomato, aka the Love Apple, in 1820.

•    •    •   •   •   •

Jeffrey C. Nekola from the University of New Mexico publishes a terrific website, the “Heirloom Vegetable Archive,” that depicts a broad array of heirloom vegetables along with great photos and descriptive captions.

Anita Mc Kelvey © 2011-2016
The Philadelphia Pepper Project

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One Response to “A Chile Spring”

  1. ilcorago Says:

    Anita, do you think Landreth was the earliest garden and seed supplier in the city? I found this advertisement of Landreth’s in a Claypoole’s Daily Advertiser from 1792:

    David Landreth, Gardener

    I’d bet he was selling chili pepper seeds!


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