The A, B, C and D of Seed Saving

If you are thinking of being a seed saver, here are a few inspirations to light your way.

A is for Abundance

For each seed you put in the earth, you’ll get back many hundreds.

From some herbs, flowers and food crops you may harvest many thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of seeds.

This is the quite consistent, astounding reality of seeds. We live in a world where the prominent worldview is so much about scarcity. Yet nature is infinitely abundant.

It’s really refreshing to absorb this super-abundance of nature. Let’s take the example of amaranth, a superfood awaiting its full discovery by North Americans.

One amaranth seed can grow half a million amaranth seeds in one summer. If each of those seeds were planted the next summer, that would make so many high-protein amaranth meals!

It is the good fortune of seed savers that seed abundance comes with so little work. You don’t have to teach the plants to grow the seeds! You just have to be there at the right time to pluck them, shake them or pour them into your containers. You then spread them on trays or screens to dry a bit more. Then they are stored in a cool dry place.

The abundance of seeds comes in very small, well-designed packages. So seeds require hardly any storage space. One small envelope of lettuce seeds will be enough for you, your friends and your neighbours for two or three years.

B is for Beauty

Beauty is something you can expect to see with every seed you save. Their colours, patterns, sizes and shapes will mesmerize and entrance you. You will also feel an energizing glow of energy coming from the sheer contained power of those seeds. It is a very special and rare treat that you’ll want to share, one not possible through any computer or TV screen.

Not only are seeds beautiful, garden plants go to seed with their own unexpected beauty. Who would think that a lettuce would so transform itself when going to flower that it would quadruple its height and form fountains of small dandelion-like flowers each to become clusters of black, white or brown seed? And who but a seed saver could know that the flowering stalks of different lettuce varieties rise and dance as they flower in such different ways?

A humble carrot in the ground erupts next summer into gorgeous, giant foliage with dozens of white flower umbels, each transforming into huge seed clusters.

The pods of the legume family members, such as chickpeas and favas, peas and beans, open when dry to reveal their fabulous treasure inside…the seeds and food of the future.

C is for Community

It takes all kinds of communities to keep seeds going.

It takes bees, birds, bugs, butterflies and bacteria. It takes humans working each season to decide together what best to grow and how best to grow it. The food crops we have in our hands today represent ten thousand years of continuous community. You become part of that community when you decide to become a seed saver.

You’ll be amazed to discover how many communities live where seeds live. For many seeds, especially if you’re a little late in getting your seeds, you’ll find all manner of insects that have made seed sites their home. They’ll be scurrying to get out of the light when you put your seeds on drying screens. Goodness gracious, where did they all come from!

Observation and timing are important skills for the seed saver and especially so in the context of communities. Abundance and beauty come with the respectful recognition that all communities are merely working to make more of themselves just as we are.

D is for Diversity

The more things you grow, the easier it becomes to maintain a benign balance of communities. “Diseases” or “pests” won’t be able to take hold and you will be able to relax and allow natural cycles to have their coming and goings.

Some years, seeds might not come to fruition because of extreme hot, cold, wet or dry weather. But, if you are saving seeds from a diversity of crops each year, you’re likely to always have many successes.

If kept cool and dry, most seeds stay viable for at least four or five years; so, if there is a seed crop that doesn’t make it one year, or even for two or three years, you can feel secure with seeds held in reserve.

A diversity of planting times also helps to ensure the maturation of at least one seed crop. Staggered plantings keep pollinators happy through the growing season and keep seed savers joyfully collecting seeds.

The A, B, C and D inspirations of Seed Saving add up to rich rewards for the person who saves seeds and bright blessings for us all.