What is it that gets people so excited about seeds. Is it gardening. Some people like to garden. It's peaceful, meditative, back to the earth. If it were gardening alone, then it wouldn't really matter which seeds we had, as long as they grow good food. There is something more. Seeds are alive. That's neat. A little baby inside a shell, with enough food for it to eat until it is planted. I love that. But most people don't know that. I think it is emotion. That the seeds we grow and love elicit emotion, they become very personal to us.
There are seeds that come with stories.
The trail of tears bean.
It was 1838. The government decided to take the land where the Cherokee people lived, and relocate them. They were marched from Tennessee to Oklahoma. It was winter and many died of starvation, and cold. Their path was named the trail of tears because of so much loss. Some carried these beans with them. A symbol of hope that they would have a home and food where they were going. It is a very sad story. And it brings forth the essence of the strength of a seed. Here it is today, in my hand. How could I not grow it, in their honour.
Philadelphia White Box radish.
Philadelphia, the 1890s. People grew these radishes in window boxes. Can you imagine little window boxes lining the streets where residents grew food. I never really thought about people gardening in a metropolis in those days. But looking at these seeds in my hand, I do.
Cream of Saskatchewan watermelon.
Brought to Saskatchewan by Russian immigrants. These seeds made a very long and cold journey across the ocean, deep into our country. The immigrant farmers grew it, they ate it, it helped to sustain them. And it too is here, in my hand. A piece of history. Kept alive by each of us who grows it. Stories make us stop and reflect, take us to a different time and place. For a moment we are carried away by thought or feeling, all because of a tiny little seed.
There are also seeds that become our own stories. My grandmother grew this kind of tomato. I remember eating the food she made with it, nothing else tastes quite the same. And so I grow it now, because it tastes good. And every time I eat it, I am brought back to my childhood and the feeling that I had when we would visit my grandmother, and the feelings that I have for her still, after so many years. All because of this precious little seed.
My neighbour has been talking about and showing off this kind of pepper for years, how he grows the best peppers. Well, I saw his seed packet and decided to buy some for myself. Won't he be surprised when he walks into my house and sees this giant bowl of truly the most beautiful peppers ever, on my table. I am very pleased with myself. These seeds are awesome.
I like seeds that come from here. I am part aboriginal. These are partly my seeds then too, are they not. I feel like they are. They are special to me because they are part of my own history. I do not remember my connection, but the seeds do. My great great grandmother came from the Tyendinega area. I never met her. But in my hand, I hold some beans. Potato beans some people call them. These beans, came from there too. My ancestors grew and ate them. Long before my other ancestors ever came here. Maybe she ate them too. These seeds are so much more than just food, they are my roots.
Some seeds we grow, we have never tried, or heard of. By choosing them, and in growing them, we create our own stories for them. This plant grew like crazy and I had so many pumpkins I didn't know what to do with them. My children and I made many pumpkin pies. Now when I think of this seed it evokes a feeling of abundance, and love and time spent with family. Just any pumpkin doesn't do the same, not the same feeling, a different overtone
I grew a black radish last year. Nero tondo. It had the craziest looking and textured skin. Like a thick, blackened, bumpy hide. I decided to try it anyway. I cut it in half. It was stunning. Bright white on the inside, nestled in black. And it was crisp. Not tough, not hard. Perfect. A perfect radish. But so shocking I say, when I pulled it out of the ground. I will grow them again because I remember the, wow what is this, a feeling of wonder and awe, especially when I tasted it and it was good.
I was at an event one year, selling my seeds. A lady came and bought some. We were chatting and from something she said I thought, oh, she will love this kind of lettuce and so I gave her a package to try. She came back a year later and said that those seeds I gave her were amazing. The lettuce lived all winter in a sheltered area and was one of the first green things to appear in early spring. She will always connect those seeds to me, and so will I, to her. She loves them, growing them makes her feel good, and that makes me feel good too. Those seeds have forever joined us together in a very small way.
If you garden, you have stories. The only vegetable that survived the drought that year, the squash I thought was lost months ago but look at all of them growing here under the weeds, the pole bean who never stopped climbing, The peas my best friend who moved away gave me, the watermelon that only actually ripens the odd year in very long, hot seasons but tastes so good that I grow it every year and hope.
Seeds are hope. Seeds are joy. Seeds are abundance. They connect us together, out in the world and in our homes. They endure with us. They make us remember. Seeds are what is inside their tiny little shells.
Seeds are life.
(Dawn Morden is the garderner behind the Mountain Grove Seed company. She sent the above article in last week, along with a note saying that she was feeling in a little bit of a funk early this year when she received a note from Bob Wildfong, the man who started Seeds of Diversity.
“He thanked me for all of my work with heirloom seeds. It got me thinking about what seeds are all about, his note was touching. And this is what came out,” she wrote. We thought it was fitting for a cold January week.