The seeds of history


When I bake bread, I think about seeds — would poppy or sesame go well here as a topping? I contemplate whether the palmful of chia seeds I threw in my smoothie will be too crunchy, too gummy, or just right as I whirl the blender. Beyond my kitchen, I notice when the winged seeds of the maple tree helicopter from the branches to the grass below where they are plucked and used to decorate many a nose. Plucked too, are the thistle burs that cling to my dog and I when we're walking through a field of them, eyes set ahead on our less prickly destination.

But the real reason I pay attention to seeds is for the history they carry within.

I have a grapevine here on my property, with a lineage many generations long. It arrived in my hands as potted shoots passed on to me by my parents, who had been given their plant by my grandfather, and so on. At some point, that grapevine was only a tiny seed, its legacy within my family not yet established. It reminds me of my family's history each time I look at it.

We pass down recipes. We pass down tools. We pass down seeds. The desire is deep within our human bones to harvest and save, grow then pass on. That trait, when not skewered through with consumerism or hoarding or overabundance, is beautiful. It makes sense to pass on seeds, or the plants sprung from them. Unlike other items that families choose to cling to, saved seeds tell our story all while providing food, or at the very least, beauty.

There is a fine art to saving seeds, and I have not yet mastered it. Perhaps this is because I thoroughly enjoy picking out plants for my garden that someone else has grown; which is to say I don't have the skills or patience just yet to save, then grow all my own seeds. I probably never will desire to explicitly grow my whole garden from saved seeds, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to learn about it.

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Besides saving a few of my seeds each year and buying plant starters locally, I purchase seeds from reliable companies which share the vision of seed saving. Here in Vermont, we have High Mowing Organic Seeds. Another favorite of mine is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds with locations in California and Connecticut.

This growing season, my friend Chrissy extended her own family's lineage to include mine through a sharing of seeds. For my birthday she gave me a carefully wrapped package of butternut squash seeds. Months prior, she had planted

butternut squash in her garden while her father, who was in town visiting from Minnesota, joined her. The seeds sprouted and grew, produced flowers then squash to be cooked and enjoyed, the seeds dried and saved.

Like I said, every seed starts somewhere. I am elated to now know the opening chapters of my family's butternut squash seed story. More will be written with time.

Chrissy and her husband have three small children. They don't yet fully understand that their mama, thanks to nature, has learned that superhero seed miracle of being grown, then saved, then grown again. They certainly do know how to pluck and eat sugar snaps off the pea pods, and that grass seeds planted in a cup decorated with googly eyes and a hand drawn smile will grow green "hair" in time. She told me, "I really started propagating the seeds because I wanted my kids to learn where their food truly comes from."

If you grow something, you have a hand in knowing its life cycle, and through that, in fully appreciating and respecting what you have grown. When you grow something, you learn to know where your food is coming from, and that knowledge builds a curiosity of following the lineage of a seed or plant back to the very first time it was placed in the ground. Beginnings and endings coming together full circle.

Tina Weikert lives in Bondville and is a frequent Manchester Journal contributor.


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