Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saving Seeds

     I’m working magic and miracles this week. That’s how I always feel when seed planting time comes. Last week I started some flats of tomato, cabbage and pepper seeds (yes, you readers of my earlier columns, I succumbed and bought some Peter Pepper seeds.) The first sprouts are uncurling themselves from their seedy homes and stretching out to the sun. Every day is like Christmas. I run to the window to see what new plants are presenting themselves for their first inspection. This morning there were enough green shoots that I could take off the protective dome and allow them to bask in the full strength of the sun.
     In addition to the seeds that I bought, I have also started some heirloom seeds. In the fall when we eat tomatoes and beans and squash, I always scoop out some seeds to dry on paper towels. Then they are labeled and sealed in envelopes to wait for spring. I also do this with marigolds (which my five year old Scott used to call “miracle-golds”) and zinnias. My grandmother always hung bouquets of flowers upside down in brown paper bags at the end of the season. By spring, they had dropped their seeds to the bottoms of the bags. I follow her example and always think of her when my zinnias bloom.
     There is a real joy and satisfaction in saving seeds. When I married Joe, one of the things that came with him was the “Dr. Stover Bean.” The first Stover Bean was given to my mother-in-law by her family physician, whose name was… guessed it….Dr. Stover. The beans produced by this seed are flat-podded and grow on a bush. They stay tender all the way through the big bean stage which is the way my family likes them and they don’t have any strings. I’ve never found anything in a seed catalogue that matches. Every year, I plant an extra few feet of beans just so we will have seed for next year. Joe’s brother does the same and if by chance the harvest is slim in my garden, then I can call him for seed next year. Justin is dating a girl whose family grows a very similar bean which they call the Refa Bell Bean. Like us, they carefully hoard the seed each season to ensure next year’s crop.
     We also love a sweet tomato that’s marbled with red and yellow. Geneva had seeds for that as well, but after she died I couldn’t find them and I don’t know what it was called. I’ve tried Old German and Mr. Stripey and this year I’m trying one called The Hillbilly tomato which originated not too far from here. When I finally grow one as sweet as Geneva’s original, I will save the seed for my children and grandchildren. Their inheritance will be found in little glass jars full of seeds, carefully labeled and stored on the cool shelves of my root cellar. I like to think that, like me, they will feel connected to their past, as the first sturdy sprouts of Dr. Stover beans poke their heads out of damp soil beds.

1 comment:

  1. For those of us city slickers who have become completely detatched from how our food is grown (you mean peas don't spontaneously generate in huge freezers with a Green Giant label on them?), it's wonderful to read about your fascination with and preservation of seeds. I so enjoy your writing about a part of life that my own life has by-passed.


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