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Uncategorized | New World Seeds & Tubers

Actually, we’ve been back for a while, but I didn’t want another false start on my hands.

Our new website is at

http://www.newworldcrops.com/zen

but here’s the deal; if you’ve already been there, you might have trouble seeing our new site. In that case, you can watch this video to find out how to flush your DNS cache. You should be able to find videos showing the equivalent procedure for other operating systems.

How to flush your DNS cache.

If you ever notice your internet getting slow for no obvious reason, sometimes flushing the cache will help.

Thank you for your patience. Have a great growing season and abundant harvests.

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Sorry. We jumped the gun on the new website. We need about another day of downtime. We’ve got about 25 orders that we will work on in the mean time.

Don’t worry; we have relatively plenty of stock on most items. We’ll be back soon and I’ll send out another notice. Thank you for your patience.

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Mashua harvested 11-13-2011

We’ve got a few a few late-breaking items listed including a couple of exotic Andean tubers, 5 new potato listings, and 9 new tomato listings. We realize that it’s late for tomatoes for most of you, but we’re glad to get them listed at all after we almost weren’t able to get anything listed at all this year.

We can ship tubers only to US destinations. Seeds worldwide to most destinations.

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New listings are online. Go to any of our sales pages and follow the link down to the end of the previous listings. 10 new tomato listings, 20 new potato listings, and 14 new other vegetable listings.

I couldn’t resist posting this picture, because it reminds me of two things.

The first is where these wild violets came from: I brought them up from Tim Peters’ dad’s place after he passed away. Too bad I never had the chance to meet him; I think I would have liked him. Tim has told me about what a great dad he had. His property where we did a salvage operation is where I met Tim Peters, and that’s where a lot of Tim’s breeding work was done starting, like Tom’s, when he was just a teenager.

That reminds me: I’ve got to sow more of his perennial Sorghum! And a few other odds and ends.

I originally shot the photo because it reminds me of the name of Tom Kleffman’s NEW BABY DAUGHTER: “Violet”. I’m pleased to report that she’s thriving…just like the wild violets.

The violets are blooming next to the steps going up to my back-yard. I don’t know what species they are, but they seem to be natives, not naturalized, in the mountains of southern Oregon. They look a lot like the sweet violets (V. odorata) of Europe, and bloom the same times of year (autumn and late winter), and I suspect they are even slightly fragrant, though it’s hard for me to tell. We have similar natives here, not as common, and it might be the same species. Our most common one is a creeping evergreen with tiny yellow blossoms, that blooms in February, Viola sempervirens.

I also brought back the beautiful local Iris that grows there.

It won’t be blooming until spring. I have pix but I’ll wait until it’s seasonal. Instead here is an Iris that is seasonal now, I. unguicularis, a native of parts of Greece and parts of the southwestern Mediterranean basin. I think this one is scented and if my memory serves me correctly it smells like ionine–the fragrance of violets. It lives next to the front sidewalk for passers-by to enjoy.

How about a purple vegetable to go with my purple flowers? Here it is: the famous “Tree Collard”. Some people call it “Tree Kale”. It looks sort of intermediate between a Kale and a Collard to me, and they’re different species with different chromosome counts. Whatever it is, it’s semi-sterile, rarely blooming, though they do from time to time and I’ve heard of people getting seedlings from them, but no followup. Are the seedlings perennial? Or is perenniality a side-effect of not regularly blooming and setting seed? Some biennials that are “monocarpic” (die after blooming) will behave as perennials if they don’t set seed.

It is one of the most productive vegetables I’ve ever grown. Unfortunately, being propagated vegetatively over and over and over again, first of all that might be the cause or one of the causes of the semi-sterility issue, and ultimately it will doom the plant to loss of vigor as viruses build up, much as has been happening with the banana for the same reason. Second, I suspect that if it did bloom regularly, it wouldn’t be as productive as it is. It’s the fact that it doesn’t bolt that makes it so incredibly productive. I get about 9 month’s worth of light harvests off it.

They don’t get as big here as they do down in California. Mine peak out around 4 feet tall or so. In California they can look truly tree-like in a few years. They’re not built for snow; the leaves trap snow and the stems are weak. I would guess that Seattle is getting close to the limits of their hardiness.

I think that a cut-and-come-again true perennial vegetable for a non-tropical climate will need to be one with an indeterminate growth habit, whose leaves do not turn bitter when it blooms. A few of us have been talking about it; some of the hardier members of the genus Hibiscus might be a possibility. What do you think?

One perennial vegetable that probably will work out better is Hablitzia. I’ve got pictures of the new shoots, but I’ll save those for another time. Will it finally bloom this year? And set seed that we can then offer to you? Stay tuned.

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HEY, WHERE’S MY ORDER?!

We’re down to the last 11 of the initial flood of orders we got hit with when we opened up shop. If yours is one of the last 11, apologies for the wait. We’re a two-man operation and can only pack about 5-6 orders a day. We could do more than that if the seed were already pre-packed, but it wasn’t because Tom’s long illness put us behind schedule…not to mention that we’re always pressed for time anyway.

The backlog prompted a number of customer service inquiries. When we’re answering them, we’re not packing, so, ironically, it adds to the problem.

Tom has long been generous with his time to talk about potatoes. At this point in his career, time spent consulting with specific people, especially as regards pedigrees, specific genes, and other detailed information, takes time away from packing seeds, packing orders, planting a new crop, and everything else we need to do to serve the rest of our customers.

If you do have a need for customer service, please either use our contact form, or send mail to

help “at” (name of this domain) dot com

Sending customer service requests to

  • Tom’s or my personal email
  • Post comments
  • Forum posts (on any of several different forums…)
  • Forum PMs
  • Facebook messages or posts

ties us up and makes your wait even longer. Time spent copying inquiries from inappropriate venues to customer service forms, so that credit card numbers and other private information doesn’t appear on a public web-page, or simply fall through the cracks, is time not spent filling orders.

Thank you for your patience with your order; we intend for all of them arrive in time for starting your seedlings. We understand that some folks live in hot climates and need to start them early. It would have helped if we were open for business late last year (we weren’t), and we intend to start earlier this year. Our ultimate goal is to have inventory on hand ready for shipment year-round.


At the moment much of Europe is frigid and the eastern USA has turned cold. We’re lucky to have mountains betwixt us and the cold fronts, though in recent years sometimes they burst right through the Columbia Gorge to the south and the Frasier River Valley to the north.

Better not turn too cold, as late winter blossoms are starting to show up. Some of them are pretty sturdy, like this snowdrop. It could turn pretty cold without significant damage to it. They’re built for cold weather, as are a lot of winter-bloomers.

Less sturdy are these Tazettas. They beat even Rejnveld’s Early Sensation which normally blooms this time of year (and isn’t quite open yet!). The Rejnveld’s Early Sensation is in my front yard, inches from the sidewalk, and unfortunately attracts thieves. The Tazettas are safely in my back yard, with a “hortcultural fleece” standing by in case it gets too cold for them.

Their fragrance is just wonderful. Not just typical Tazetta scent; these have some more exotic overtones. They’ve got some wild Tazetta genes in their backgrounds. I thought they might have some Narcissus viridiflorus genes in them, especially since they’re primarily autumn bloomers (which, like everything else in my life at the moment, got a late start), but no, they don’t. Ironically, the one that does have some N. viridiflorus background, doesn’t bloom in the autumn. Still waiting for that one to show her lovely face and spread her fragrance.

The Tazettas are next to a bed I prepared for Green Mountain Multiplier onions. Had to bring the survivors from the farm to my back yard, to rescue them from the deer. A surprising fraction of our inventory comes from my urban back-yard, because our farm is poorly suited to anything that needs to overwinter (or for that matter, is a deer-magnet). The low-lying riverbottom ground is too wet in the winter (indeed, it floods), and the higher ground has thin, gravelly soil that dries out in summer! Hard to grow things at the farm that need to be in the ground a long time.

When I’m not packing orders, I do a little digging in the back yard. Still need to transplant some Brassicas. We’re going to expand our Brassica selection.

In the mean time, more varieties of more seeds will show up before spring. Stay tuned. Now, back to work for me…still time to ship some orders for Saturday pickup.

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If you tried to order and found that what you wanted was out-of-stock, try again. I have just updated inventory levels according to Tom’s instructions.

At the moment I am flooded with orders, the streets are covered in ice, and Tom is still recovering. Your patience appreciated. Tom will see about finding more inventory to list as soon as he’s up to it. All in all I know we have huge amounts of potato seed (thanks, Doug); I dunno what tomato seed levels are like because I was only involved one day on that process.

Someone asked about Paypal. Sorry, we don’t do Paypal anymore, because the system was just unusable. It was impossible to download as many orders as we had for book-keeping purposes, probably due to a missing index on a SQL query, or something like that (nothing we have control over; it’s not our system), and Paypal’s technical support is useless. It was also a tedious and error-prone process for looking up open orders. For most people, not doing Paypal is a relief; it’s really not a very popular system. We are pretty flexible though and we even accept checks drawn on US or Canadian banks–there is an option in the order system that accepts checks. Folks overseas please use a credit card–they do the currency conversion automatically and can transfer the funds to our clearinghouse. We can’t cash checks from outside USA or Canada; our bank won’t take them.

We can’t send seeds to war zones; they don’t make it through. If we have problems sending seeds to specific countries (as we already have), we’ll have to stop accepting orders from those countries. We don’t want to disappoint anyone. So far Canada and Europe have not been a problem (knock on wood).

Thank you for your business, we appreciate it!! Love ya!

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I’m on the phone with Tom. He was taken by surprise by the rush of orders and was overwhelmed (“flummoxed” was the word he used). He says we’ve got a lot more of pretty much everything that I have run out of. I told him to package it up and get a specific count before I update the inventory. I will pack up the orders we have on Monday, which is a holiday here in the USA so the post office is closed anyway, and see if he’s ready by Tuesday.

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My inbox is flooded with hundreds of messages informing me that we are out of stock “of just about everything”.

Sorry, folks. We did our best to get something back up as soon as possible. I’ll visit Tom again as soon as possible to pick up more. At the moment, the snow is coming down hard and furious in Seattle, and it’s been coming down harder and longer in Everett to the north where Tom is located. Hopefully it won’t last too long.

Thank you for your patronage and patience, and thanks for all the prayers and well-wishings for Tom’s recovery. Let’s do this and make it work for everybody. Love ya all!

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I have recently learned that about 75% of honey purchased at a variety of grocery stores, cash-and-carry operations (like Costco), and drug store food aisles had no pollen in it.

It’s possible to filter it out, but it takes special equipment to do that, and it’s not necessary for quality because the pollen is microscopic and inconspicuous. You actually want pollen in your honey to prove that it’s real, the same way I prefer preserves over jelly because I want to see fruit chunks to make sure the product has any real fruit in it.

By the way, any one of dozens of tests commonly listed on the internet to tell if honey is real only catch the worst fakes. There is now a lot of fake honey coming out of Asia that has the right viscosity, color, and artificial flavor to be hard to easily distinguish from the real thing.

It’s possible to settle the issue using chromotography, but I have not heard of a definitive test being done on a wide scale to expose the fakes. I would be very curious to know the results.

In any case, I read an estimate that roughly 1/3 of the honey in the USA is fake honey from China. It’s not legal but there is apparently no process in place to prevent it from happening. We also some amount of subgrade honey from India that is not legal to sell in Europe (but is anyway; they “launder” it) due to persistent quality problems involving potentially hazardous pollutants. A lot of it probably tends to get mixed with real honey to even further complicate the issue–though you have to wonder why so much honey is missing any pollen at all.

Your best bet is to buy it from farmer’s markets or directly from the beekeeper. You might still get honey from bees that have been fed sugar, but incidents of outright fakes are still uncommon in those contexts. If you’re really intent on making sure it’s real, sometimes you can buy it still in the comb.

This explains why honey is as cheap as it is despite any number of problems that should have made it more scarce and expensive–except it’s not cheap honey; it’s very expensive corn-syrup.

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Mashua blossoms

Mashua flower buds

Yesterday I checked the weather forecast. Low in the 40s in Seattle, but 31F where our farm is located. Not unusual for this time of year.

Contrary to the weather forecast, we got hit by frost.

At first I wondered what I was looking at: one of the Dahlias looked a bit frost-bitten on one side of the plant. Then I noticed the Oca and the Ullucos: like boiled spinach.

The Ullucos are goners: they didn’t tuberize in time. No worries, I’ve got others that were more protected, that are getting ready to tuberize. I’ll have to put them under cover so that they can finish.

The Ocas have small tubers. They too were late to tuberize, thanks to a conspiracy of things gone wrong this year, including and especially bad weather. I’ll discount them for being small.

One lonely red-hot poker

A lot of things were unseasonably late to bloom, and a lot of things, like a gigantic hybrid Hibiscus, or the Mandevillea vine that climbs up my porch, never made it.

Mashua, aka Tropaeolum tuberosum, usually blooms late like this, which is unfortunate. Also late to tuberize; it’s day-length sensitive, as is common among Andean tropicals. There is a day-neutral cultivar called “Ken Aslet” but I don’t have it anymore, and another, non-day-neutral cultivar replaced it in the trade up here under the same (mistaken) name. Will my Mashua blossoms make it? Well, at the rate they’re going they might actually open, but they’re much too late to have hope of doing much.

Mashua is related to the annual bedding “Nasturtium”, Tropeaolum majus. Most of them seem to be perennials, and they seem to get more common further south. They’re an unusual bunch in many ways. Many of them are quite coldhardy, coming from alpine elevations, and they tend to be quite showy. I’ll post pix in the spring if everything turns out OK.

Great, as I type this, a windstorm is blowing in.

Anyway, at least it’s turning windy and humid, which implies no more frost for a while. I’ll head down to the farm to rescue more potatoes, see if anything can be salvaged of the tomatoes, and plant some more wheat. This time of year Tom and I are in a constant state of frantic rush.

Tom, however, is heading a different direction: you can catch him at Project Grow in Portland.

Last Hedychium of autumn

Here’s one last picture: it’s the last flower spike of a seedling of Hedychium densiflorum ‘Assam Orange’. Its ancestor was collected by Captain Kingdon Ward in 1938 in what was then called Assam, India in the eastern Himalaya. It apparently ranges up to a fairly high altitude as despite the subtropical latitude it’s one of the most cold-hardy Hedychiums. One of these days I should cross it to the other hardy one, H. spicatum, to see if I can raise something that’s ironclad hardy (well, for a Hedychium). The name, “Hedychium”, is Greek for “fragrant snow”. Good name for these mountain-loving (mostly) Gingers. Most people never notice the scent; some of them including this one are only fragrant at night. Smells like Orange blossom if my memory serves me correctly. I’ll check it tonight to see if I was right.

Uses? Maybe. H. spicatum is the source of Abir, which is useless to me because I don’t smoke (abir is an aromatic sold in central Asia to add to a hookah). Seems to me these beautiful, fragrant plants from the Ginger family could be useful for something–probably to utilize one of their aromas.

Notice that I’ve got some things that are purely ornamental. They’re artifacts from my (Rob’s) days of what one of my friends calls my decadent German Burgher background (read that with a Russian accent). I get seed from some of these–sometimes in copious amounts. Now I want to keep our focus squarely on edible plants (Arthur Lee Jacobson, the author, keeps referring to my pets as “bimbos”), but maybe if I have spare time I’ll collect some of my seeds of ornamentals and spin it as a micro side-business. Maybe it can help us raise money for much-needed infrastructure.

Besides, as vices go, ornamental plants are soulful.

If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one & from the dole,
Buy Hyacinths to feed thy soul.
–verse from the Rubaiyat of Omar Kayam
(except he wrote it in Persian)

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