Frank Morton

Wild Garden Seed
Philomath, OR


Frank began farming and growing his own seed in 1980. He learned the essence of plant breeding by playing with his crops during 18 years as a salad grower for fine restaurants. During this period, his farm-bred greens were major components of the unique Wild Garden salad, and were widely appreciated by chefs in Portland, New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. He and his wife, Karen, founded Wild Garden Seed in 1994, and now sell their organic seed to catalog companies, farmers and gardeners all over the world. They farm in Philomath, Oregon where they produce main 200 varieties of seed for their catalog.

Frank has crossing and selection projects in a wide range of salad green crops, especially lettuce, where his work is focused on striking appearance, flavor, texture, disease resistance, and seasonal adaptation. Intense pigmentation is a common breeding goal, and one of his current projects is enhanced internal red-rose color in heading lettuces. He is also creating pak choi and mizuna type greens with bright rosy colored stems. He is selecting kales with three different pigment patterns (deep purple, blushed, bright green) and leaf shapes out of breeding population parentage that survived the winter of 2013-2014, the coldest in 40 years. These are based on crosses between the best-flavored Lacinato and the most intensely purple kales available.

Aside from leafy greens, Frank has ongoing work in Italian peppers for earlier, more flavorful fruit, some of it emphasizing smoother, longer, straighter types for roasting, while other lines emphasize the grotesque beauty of twisted and crumpled shapes for salad and presentation. Adapting quinoa to local NW conditions has been a 30-year endeavor. This work is continuing with breeding goals related to seed size, color and texture, and resistance to downy mildew disease and seedhead sprouting, major challenges for quinoa growers west of the Cascades. Frank continues to fine tune a red cutting celery and lanceleaf Macedonian parsley, which have both been seen and tasted at CBN Variety Showcase events.