Sunday was my birthday. It also happened to be the date of the Heirloom Festival at Comstock, Ferre Seed Company in Old Wethersfield, Connecticut, so guess where I went to celebrate? On our way down we stopped at Rein’s Deli in Vernon, CT for breakfast, where I went for a bagel with the works: cream cheese, lox, lettuce, tomato, red onion, cucumber, and capers. That’s a meal you could plow a half acre on before lunch.
Wethersfield is an old New England town on the Connecticut River just south of Hartford, settled in 1634 by John Oldham, who was kicked out of Plymouth Plantation for pulling a knife on Miles Standish (my kind of guy). The town of Wethersfield was built on the profits from selling the red Wethersfield onion, grown in the black soil of the Connecticut River flood plain (see here and here). Gazetteers of the period claimed the town actually smelled like onions. The onion trade fueled a ship building business to supply ships for the West Indies trade, which saw ships carrying onions and lumber to the plantations and bringing back sugar, molasses and rum. And Comstock, Ferre is one of the oldest seed companies in America, started in 1811 by Joseph Belden, and it helped make Wethersfield a center of the US seed trade.
Comstock, Ferre closed its doors in 2009 but in 2010 was purchased by Jere and Emilee Gettle, owners and founders of Baker Creek Seeds in Missouri. Jere is committed to preserving and promoting heirloom seeds, so this was right up his alley. He is starting to restore most of the 11 buildings in the complex and has resumed seed packaging operations using the antique scales and equipment. Charles Hart, another old-timey seed company is also located in Wethersfield, just down the street from Comstock, Ferre.
While the grounds outside have been turned over to the landscape contractors and are still a bit rough, not much had to be done to the inside to lend it charm. All of the seed racks and cabinets are intact, some still with replicas of the Comstock Ferre seed packets. The antique seed processing equipment is still in place and is being restored so seed packaging can be done at the facility. You can buy both Baker Creek and Comstock Ferre seeds at the store, and I took advantage of that, picking up some Gai Lan, Cosmic Purple carrots, Green Wave mustard and Amarylla tomatillo, an early yellow tomatillo from Poland.
It was a fun day, capped off with dinner at the Urban Kitchen and Bar in Worcester. Duxbury Island Creek oysters, grilled octopus and a pan roasted duck breast for me. The wife went traditional with a Caesar salad and a NY strip sirloin. A very good day and we had beautiful weather. Now back to getting the rest of the garden planted this steamy hot week.
Note: Hopefully this post is properly formatted. On the evening of May 26, Google changed the API used by third-party editors such as Microsoft Live Writer, which I use to edit my posts, effectively breaking them all. I published this with the Blogger Dashboard editor, which is not a great environment.