Creaking, weathered wood floors and antique bulk bins fill the entry room at The Planters Seed and Spice Company, a River Market neighborhood fixture since 1928. Opened in 1924, it was the brainchild of German immigrant Henry Wertheim, who initially offered fresh seed for local farmers to purchase when they sold produce in the market area.
Ninety years later, Planters encompasses five adjoining buildings and approximately 10,000 square feet. Fifty-cent ‘candy cane sticks’ and caramel corn fill the counter above drawers that stock bush and pole lima, Great Northern and golden wax bush beans. White onion sets in a nearby bushel basket sell for $1.95 per pound.
But this is only a tiny sampling of around 45,000 seed packets and bulk seeds available at Planters — including 120 to 150 varieties of tomatoes. Scorpion, ghost and habanero peppers have recently become very popular, too.
Small truck farmers who can’t access large seed providers often purchase their seeds here, and Planters sells a lot of plant flats, inserts and seed starters as well. In addition to fertilizer and manure, there are helpful gadgets scattered throughout the store such as a Plant Nanny, which turns an empty wine bottle into a plant-watering accessory.
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Spring and summer aren’t the only time when customers are in their gardens. Some began planting lettuce, kale, radishes and carrots a month ago. By January, others will get their spinach started and March is a great time to plant onions or potatoes.
Through the decades, Planters has expanded their inventory enormously. The store offers more than 150 house-packaged herbs and spices, including curing salt and jerk seasoning, which hunters especially appreciate during the fall. Retail customers may purchase as little as two ounces or as much as a pound of their favorites.
This is a perfect place to find seasonings for home cooking and entertaining, from chicken soup base to buttermilk ranch dressing and jalapeno dip mixes, or Worcestershire powder. Several unusual offerings include black sesame seeds, Garam Masala and cardamom pods as well as the seeds. Baking enthusiasts will swoon over the huge array of extracts and flavorings that include Banana Crème, Rootbeer or Cheesecake. Edible oils range from anise to Washington Cherry or lavender oil.
If you’re in the mood for adventurous eating, try some dried cantaloupe or kiwi slices. Looking for a new flavor of coffee or tea? There are more than a dozen choices of each (although tea has recently become more popular).
Planters Seed and Spice Company continues to evolve, as one room becomes an Urban Hardware Department, whose stock is partially determined by customer suggestions. City dwellers can already access a natural brand of dog food, paint brushes and rollers, and heavy duty cleaning supplies in this area.
Whether you’re an avid gardener, cook, or home improvement buff, or a little of each, set aside a couple of hours to absorb everything that Planters offers. You’ll be glad you did.