Seed Saving and the Cultivation of Nature

Wild Asparagus seeds

Hello Everyone!

Well, I think we’re just about done with the garden this year. Now I’ve had a lot more time to start looking into plants for next year, planning and reading. I came across a book, completely by accident (thanks to an Amazon suggestion) and ordered it from the library. It’s totally changing my life….uh oh.

I’ve been reading The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food by Janisse Ray and it’s wonderful. I knew that saving seeds would save us money, but I never thought about the cultural or genetic impacts of saving seeds. Since 1900 we have lost over 95% of genetic diversity in edible plants. That’s thousands and thousands of plants that are extinct. Most of these plants were specifically suited to the area they grew in as well, which means better production and disease resistance. We’ve lost all that now and it’s a heavy blow.

I’ve already begun saving seeds, but while reading this book it seems more important than ever. Now, I’m not a prepper, but if something with the food system goes wrong, I want to be able to feed myself. With Monsanto patenting DNA and there being about 10 types of wheat only for 83% of commercial production, a global-scale Potato Famine could happen with wheat, corn or soy, it’s completely possible.  I don’t know about you, but that scares me a little bit.

Benefits of Saving Seeds:

  1. By picking the strongest plants to save seed from, you ensure a plant that is particularly acclimated to your climate and micro-climate. This means better yield and resistance.
  2. Seeds are expensive, if you save your own, you save money.
  3. Seeds have a long shelf life. You don’t need to buy new seeds every year if you keep them in cold storage. Some varieties can even last for 10+ years.
  4. Seeds are the ultimate insurance policy. If food prices go up or someone loses a job, you can still eat.
  5. Seeds carry stories and culture with them. By saving and cultivating seeds, you are saving the stories associated with them and keeping the people alive who cared for them. It’s sentimental, but still awesome.
  6. By saving heirloom varieties you save the genetic diversity of the plant kingdom that is in desperate need of saving.

These all seem like good reasons to save seeds to me! I’m mostly excited about the adaptation to our climate and the money saving. It’s hard to find seeds with a story or culture behind them because no one saves them anymore. Even my grandparents think that seeds must be coated in pesticides for them to be viable. Hopefully I can create my own stories with my seeds.

I did save some seeds this year, I wish I would have saved more. I just didn’t really know how to do it, but I’m remedying that. So far we have: Borage, Yellow Pear Tomato, Top Crop Bush Beans, Mammoth Grey Sunflowers, Boston Pickling Cucumber, Morning Glory, Asparagus, Calendula, Thornless Honeylocust, American Bittersweet Vine, Box Elder, Eastern Redbud and a type of Sumac I think. Some of those are trees, but I’m trying to build a little type of forest here as well. Some of these seeds I’ve found in town, or on the side of the road, I just keep grabbing a handful of any I see.

Box Elder Seeds and American Bittersweet I found on the side of the road!

This coming spring my leeks will hopefully flower and I’ll save some from them. I’m also planning on growing my own onion sets in the hopes that they will go to seed so I can have years worth of seeds. I have River Birch seeds sown now, I’m just waiting for germination and then I’ll follow that with more tree seeds. I also have the wild asparagus seeds I collected and I’m going to sow them soon. They will be perfectly acclimated to our climate since I collected them on our property from a wild plant.

Next year is going to be a lot more work, but I’m excited to attempt to grow all my own seeds as well. The trees and onion sets give me something to grow in the winter as well (on my DIY grow shelf).

So I challenge you to save your own seeds, even if it’s just a few of them. Take your homesteading and gardening to the next logical step!

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Chris says:

    Folks should be careful they can distinguish between American bittersweet and Asian bittersweet before they collect seeds. It is a bit tricky. I had a better resource than this but can’t seem to locate it.

    1. I have, don’t worry. American bittersweet has orange husks and fruit at the terminal end of the vine. Asiatic bittersweet has yellow husks and fruit all along the vine. Mine’s definitely American.

  2. Grower says:

    Seed saving is a great practice. I have collected, saved and propagated wild-collected seeds for my ornamental gardens for decades although that has tapered off a bit. For the kitchen garden I just stick to the ones that don’t need drastic isolation like tomatoes and beans. Consequently, I have more varieties than I can grow in a given year. Good thing they keep–and I have found that many of them keep longer than the conventional wisdom says. I’ve grown lettuce seeds that are over five years old but I wouldn’t want to rely on them. Have fun, connect with other savers/traders and find some of the other seed saving books out there. Seed Savers Exchange is a great organization I’ve supported for years.

    1. I have a catalog coming from Seed Savers, I just signed up for them last week. I’m hoping to build my stock of seeds and really get them acclimated to the climate here. It would be wonderful to have a variety that works better than the hodge-podge I order from across the U.S. I want something specific to our area.

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