On Saturday and Sunday, the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center hosts its annual Mother Garden Spring Plant Sale. According to Doug Gosling, who has tended the remarkable treasure known as the Mother Garden for several decades, this year’s sale has what may be the largest selection of unusual and fabulous plant starts anywhere.
“We have two new state-of-the-art greenhouses,” Doug says, “that are producing the most beautiful babies.”
This sale always has the largest variety of tomato starts and this year is no exception. There are 190 varieties, including 38 varieties of black tomatoes, which have wonderfully rich, deep flavors and voluptuous textures. Most of these are from the former Soviet Union. There are several new varieties this year, including Topaz, a new white slicer with gold speckles; a black paste variety called Black Icicle and Orange Flesh Purple Smudge, which is orange with purple on its shoulders.. There are plenty of Andy’s Polish Pink, as well, which appears to be almost everybody’s favorite.
There are, of course, plenty of other warm season crops, including many you will find nowhere else, including both Padron and Shishito peppers, Persian Cucumbers, Aunt Molly’s Husk Cherries, Tamarillos, Dr. Wych’s Yellow Tomatillos, Mexican Runner Beans and Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkins. Greens include Orach, Variegated Collards, Golden Purslane, New Zealand Spinach, Malabar Spinach, Dandelion Greens, two greens from Ethiopia and Miner’s Lettuce.
Unusual crops from Italy include Agreti greens, Lupini Beans and Spigariello Kale.
The selection of herbs is international and if you’re interested in world cuisines, consider these starts: Tulsi from India, Shiso from Japan, Huacatay from Peru, Quillquina from Mexico and a recent favorite of quite a few chefs and caterer s, Smallage, a pungent relative of celery from Central Europe. There’s an edible cosmos from Indonesia and five varieties of tobacco!
This list represents just a handful of what you’ll find on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at OAEC. If you like to plan your garden in advance (a wise thing that I confess I rarely do), you can see an extensive list of selections here.
If you head to Occidental for the sale, you should allow time to take one of the free garden tours, offered at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
Occidental Arts & Ecology is located at 15290 Coleman Valley Road in Occidental.
Last fall, Meg McConahey wrote an excellent profile of Doug Gosling, which you can read here. He is a remarkable man and one of Sonoma County’s treasures.