An inconspicuous little house on the east edge of Boulder seems like an unlikely place for a local food revolution.
Inside are shelves lined with a hundred or so glass jars filled with seeds for melons, basil, columbine, wheat, tomatoes,chilies and more.
These are no ordinary seeds, like those filling racks of colorful packets at supermarkets. The new Seed House at the MASA Seed Foundation farm is stocked with varieties grown on those 20 acres just off 75th Street.
“These are organic seeds that are not just regional, but local to Boulder County’s conditions,” says Laura Antelmi, assistant director for Masa Seed Foundation. “We don’t choose the prom queen plants. We select for resilience, the ones that will do best here.” As she talks, several volunteers fill packets with mugwort seeds.
The house was the historic home lived in by the family farmers who worked this land.
“We only sell what we grow organically,” Antelmi says. “These are farm-grown, open pollinated and locally adapted seeds, not hybrids” and not genetically modified.
The MASA Seed House is Boulder’s first traditional seed house open to the public since the seed house at Long’s Gardens closed in the 1960s, according to Richard Pecoraro, founder of MASA Seed Foundation.
“Seed houses were traditionally where farmers and gardeners went to buy or swap seeds for the upcoming planting season,” Antelmi says.
For Pecoraro, the jars lining the walls of Masa’s Seed House are full of environmental promise as well as potential flavors, colors and aromas.
Asked to recommend seeds to Boulder County gardeners, he winced as if he were choosing a favorite child. He did suggest planting the following varieties:
The bushy Maglia Rosa is a pink salad cherry tomato ideal for growing in containers. Start these seeds soon indoors.
The Tangerine Pimento chile produces squat, orange, sweet fruits that kids love to munch.
Easy-to-grow Kuroda Orange carrots are dark orange and produce an early sweet crop.
Prolific Cinnamon Thai basil produces a bounty of aromatic leaves for eating fresh and drying.
For flowers, Pecoraro recommends growing Natalie’s Monarch marigolds because the plants are very tough and produce a bounty of gold blossoms.
In total, Pecoraro estimates that the Foundation’s reserve seed bank currently holds more than 1,000 varieties of plants including hardy heirloom grains such as teff, millet and amaranth. The aim is to secure a supply of seeds adaptable to emerging climate change.
Besides seeds, the Seed House provides practical, local-gardening expertise, from planting to harvesting and seed saving given the Front Range’s variable sun, water, soil and wind.
MASA Seed Foundation’s mission is to secure a Front Range seed bank of selected heirloom and traditional plants and build regional food security, an issue that became more apparent during the pandemic supply chain challenges, Pecoraro says.
The farm’s ongoing effort produces a lot of seeds — hundreds and hundreds of pounds stored in cardboard barrels, including enough carrots seeds to blanket Boulder County. Some of the surplus is donated to nonprofit garden organizations that feed people, as well for schools and immigrant gardeners, Antelmi says.
Growing all those seeds also produces a wealth of organic produce, which is distributed through a CSA and also donated to local hunger relief organizations.
During the summer, MASA hosts a farm stand selling produce and plant starts. MASA seeds are also available from the foundation’s online store, at Nude Foods Market and this season at the Saturday Boulder Farmers Market. As a nonprofit organization, MASA welcomes volunteers all year round.
MASA Seed Foundation is located at 1367 75th S., just south of Arapahoe Avenue. The Seed House is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, or by appointment. Information and seed catalog: masaseedfoundation.org
Taste of the Week
Tucked inside a sprawling renovated Louisville home, Bittersweet Cafe & Confections, 836 Main St., could easily call itself a bakery. The big glass cases are filled with scratch-made muffins, scones, cookies and other sweet and savory pastries. I’m always drawn to Bittersweet’s big, yeasty cinnamon rolls, possibly because of their shiny overcoat of thick cream cheese glaze. There’s something deeply satisfying about gradually unrolling the treat and carefully dunking each chunk in a latte. The cinnamon rolls are also available in take-and-bake form.
Bittersweet offers a breakfast and lunch menu featuring a reputable Cubano pressed sandwich filled with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, Dijon and pickles.
Local Food News
Denver’s Postino WineCafe has opened a second location at 1468 Pearl St., former site of Kasa Japanese Grill & Bar and the award-winning 15 Degrees restaurant.
Front Range Brewing Company, a longtime Lafayette gathering spot for beer, food and live music, has closed.
The Boulder Farmers Market and the Longmont Farmers Market open for the season on April 1. Regulars will recognize many of the familiar farm and food producers, but the markets are also welcoming a bevy of new, local vendors. Longmont Market food court additions include Bruna’s Cheese Bread, Caspian Deli & Grocery, and Rang Tang Craft Barbecue, as well as Rising Tiger, which dishes noodles, onigiri, gluten-free taiyaki and breakfast “sandos.” New food purveyors at the markets range from award-winning Haykin Family Cider and Nude Foods Market to Grama Grass & Livestock, a regenerative Boulder County meat company, Colorado Farmhouse Cheese Company of Loveland and Boulder Valley Honey. Among the new growers supplying the market is Boulder’s Off Beet Farm, a queer-owned and operated vegetable farm. The Boulder Wednesday evening market opens on May 3.