I'm not sure why I am so obsessed with foreign seeds. I suppose it is the endless desire to try and recreate that amazing cheesy cauliflower dish I once had in Aosta Italy, or perhaps I might one day have success making my favorite spicy Thai soup that is perfect for when I'm sick (because who wants to drive to that special soup making place all the way in Boston when you are sick?), or how about those crazy (good) cactus cocktails we had in Santa Fe....the beet soup in Russia...I could go on and on...
Rather than admitting my reverse engineering skills and then subsequent re-creation ability isn't up to the task, I choose to beleive that at least part of my culinary failure (or at least non-success) starts in the garden. You must have the right ingredients. For me that means growing all sorts of crazy vegetables from places we have traveled.
I am still on the all out hunt for the perfect cassoulet bean, but here are some sources I have found to grow vegetables from around the world.
Native Seeds specializes in the seeds of the Northern Mexico and the southwest united states. You will find a huge variety of amaranth, flour corn, sorghum, tomatillos and tobacco (amongst many other varieties that were grown by the Native Americans of the region). (Hint: make sure you click through to individual seed pages to get pricing on packets that are less than 4 oz).
Seeds From Italy
I've got my eye on Cauliflower of Macerata from Seeds from Italy. Last year I grew their voluptuous Pomodoro tomatoes and can't wait to repeat that. If you have traveled through Italy with even the slightest adventurous palette, this website will be like a culinary scrapbook.
Kitazawa Seed Company
Years ago when my babies were actual babies we had the help of an aupair from Thailand who lived with us. She had trained in Thai chef school and she cooked amazing meals for us that unimaginably emerged from my own kitchen. For a time our nightly dinners not only were extraordinary, but they included decorative flowers made from peppers and other vegetables. We were so spoiled....and thankfully she taught me a few things. The biggest lesson...shop the Asian market if you want good Asian food. Or grow your own Asian vegetables with seeds from Kitazawa Seed Company. More Asian vegetable seeds can also be found at Evergreen Seeds.
Amishland seeds made me smile with their claim that due to the cold war we Americans know not the joy of Russian tomatoes. I have to admit, it's a claim that has me intrigued. Supposedly wonderfully tasty while also being cold tolerant and very hardy (for the tough Russian climate)-- northern gardeners take note.
Have you been to South America? I haven't checked that off my list yet, but Tropilab (which is based in Surinam) sells all sorts of seeds for vegetables that you might find in the northern regions of South America and tropical Central America. Jack fruit, Alligator peppers, fitweed and anato (whatever those are??...and more) are available here.
Seeds of India
Get seeds to grow the perfect veg for your favorite Indian curry at Seeds of India. Charmingly, they have a variety of seed collections that I find simultaneously mysterious and desirable (Gujarat Seed Collection, Middle-eastern Vegetable seeds, Caribbean seed collection, Andhra Pradesh Seed Collection and then the obvious Burgundy-colored vegetable collection)
images of lino cut block print vegetables available to buy from Rigel Stuhmiller on etsy.