This is the time of year that many gardeners start ordering their seeds for the coming summer. One of the best and most interesting seed catalogs has always been Shepherd's Garden Seeds. Their catalog is geared to the "gourmet" cook and gardener who enjoys unusual varieties of produce. Onlinechef's Anne Bain & Cathy Galvin interviewed Renee Shepherd, founder of Shepherd's Garden Seeds, at one of Santa Cruz, California's most unique restaurants, India Joze. Renee has just finished writing her third cookbook with her business partner, Fran Raboff. Like her two previous books, Recipes from a Kitchen Garden and More Recipes from a Kitchen Garden, Renee's third book is centered around the bounty of a home cook's garden. I've used both of her previous books, especially during harvest time when I'm faced with too many zucchinis or tomatoes; the recipes are simple, elegant and they work. Let's join the conversation...
Onlinechef: One of the things I've always enjoyed about your catalog is the beautiful artwork and incredible variety of seeds. How do you maintain such a high level of perfection with each catalog?
Renee: Well, we've used the same artist for all our catalogs and cookbooks for years. That way we're guaranteed continuity throughout the years. With the seeds, I've worked with only quality growers throughout the world. Growing seeds is both an art and a science. We buy seeds from all over the world, beans from Idaho, tomatoes from South America, squash from South America. I have growers in England, Holland, France, Italy, Japan, Thailand, Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, and China. In addition, I've traveled to different countries to see seed trials and to search for new growers. For example, to make proper Thai food, you need Thai basil, a strain of basil common to Thailand but, until recently, impossible to find in the US until we started offering it in our catalog. Now you can go to a produce department of a grocery store here in California and find Thai basil in the bins.