... than gardening.
But it's still pretty fun.
Some of my best recipes came from garden company seed catalogs. In order to promote the purchase of their seeds, catalog companies include recipes within the pages of their catalog. While browsing pages of lettuce seeds, directions for making unique and tasty salad dressings are tucked within the descriptions of the latest varieties of romaine, butter and loose leaf greens.
I've even tried a few, although more often than not, I make a mental note to go back to those pages, and ultimately don't get to it. But who can resist trying things like honey mustard lima bean salad or broccoli and walnut pizza, both recipes included in the catalogs and also available at www.cooksgar-den.com/recipes.
I mention The Cook's Garden because it was one of the first companies to send me a catalog more than 20 years ago that contained more than just pages of descriptions, prices and a centerfold order form. There were others, but this particular catalog always comes to the forefront of my brain when they start showing up in my mailbox around the holidays.
The Cook's Garden seems to specialize in lettuce, although they also offer a multitude of vegetable and flower seeds of all types. But lettuce occupies several pages in the book that has changed in appearance over the years, but in a good way. Unique salad dressing recipes always can be counted on inside those pages.
I still remember my first catalog. It was different. The pages held cute little drawings and interesting descriptions. The company's owner wrote a little column inside the front cover explaining their travels all over the world to find new varieties. Other catalog companies soon began including these types of literary offerings inside their pages as well and before long, reading a garden catalog became the equivalent of reading a magazine.
I have something in my possession that comes close to the excitement of the current batch of garden catalogs. It is a publication my mother passed on to me several years ago, a catalog dated 1908. Lacking photos, it has colorful drawings of flowers and vegetables, but these drawings are vintage and suitable for framing, although I can't bring myself to pull apart the delicate pages. The seed company, from Ohio, is long gone, and the varieties of plants listed are considered heirloom by today's standards. Even they were once new species of plants that people then couldn't wait to put into their gardens.
But that's not the best part. Inside the front cover is a handwritten list of orders that neighbors, friends and relatives made up for their season of growing. It was common in those days for neighborhoods to get together, browse the one catalog that someone managed to get their hands on, and create one community order for all to share.
Browsing garden catalogs isn't just for people looking to buy seeds anymore. I often keep my catalogs from year to year using them for reference and to keep track of what I want for a future planting.
Hang on to those books. They are golden, not to mention they have some great recipes.