Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The seed saver's dilemma

A few weeks ago I was talking seeds with some people from The Peterson Garden Project. I'm not really one of those seed people that just likes to buy seeds, but I flat out love harvesting seeds. There's something about growing plants from seeds that I grew that is just magical to me. It's an agrarian feedback loop.

I like the idea of the "backyard cultivar" as well--a plant that you've saved seeds from for so many years, that it's micro-adapted to your garden. I'm convinced my alyssum (which reseeds itself, no need to save them) and Black Krim tomatoes qualify.

Plus it's fascinating learning how different plants produce seeds--biennials that you leave to overwinter, and eggplants or cukes that you have allow to overripen so that the seeds get ripe too. I have rows of little jars of different colored tomato gel on the window sill, waiting to ferment the slime off so I can dry the seeds for next year.

But where was I? Right--talking to people from Peterson Garden, who introduced me to the idea of seed purchases as small business support. "I like to buy seeds to support the seed companies," my friend said.

And in the past two weeks we've seen this at work, with the imminent possible demise of Landreth Seeds, not only America's oldest seed company, but America's oldest company, period. Older than Chase Bank. Older than the New York Times. Older than Sears. And still local, family-owned and operated, and in dire straits.

I hope it's not because people like me aren't buying seeds.

Rainbow salsa
Golden, green, purple, and red tomatoes (plus any other color you have), about 3-4 lbs total, or 2 small to medium tomatoes of each color.
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 cup fresh cilantro, minced fine (will be less than a cup when minced)
1 medium onion, minced
hot peppers to taste (I used four shishitos, a small mild pepper)
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt to taste

Makes about 8 cups

Chop and mix the vegetables. I like to drain the tomatoes for about 10 minutes to reduce the amount of liquid. Mix it all together, let it sit overnight.

By the way, you can help Landreth, by placing your fall seed, bulb and set purchases with them, and by ordering a catalog, or ten.


  1. Eh, suck it. That is my well-reasoned and eloquent reply to anyone who tries to make me feel guilty because I'm not in a position to "vote with my pocketbook." (Not that I'm saying that's what your friend was doing.) I'm all for supporting local small businesses, esp. seed businesses, but the reality is a) I'm poor and b) I'm a seed geek. I love saving seeds, seeing the whole cycle, getting seeds over time adapted to my garden. I also love seed swapping with friends.

    I do buy some seeds each year (ones I couldn't get as a trade or even some new cultivars (gasp! of flowers! gasp!) and I did order Landreth's catalog, but I also save and share my own seeds and always will.


  2. I've just been reading Wendell Berry, and he has a wonderful essay on how the farm (sic) has to talk to the things growing on it, and the way in which the farm is smarter than the farmer--it will nurture the things that adapt to it, rather than trying to force things to grow that don't really like growing there.