Saving Seeds

Sunday, August 26, 2007
Winter Radish Seeds

While reading Barbara Kingsolver's new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, I found myself stumbling over this statistic: "Modern U.S. consumers now get to taste less than 1 percent of the vegetable varieties that were grown here a century ago."

And this: "Six companies -- Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Mitsui, Aventis, and Dow -- now control 98 percent of the world's seed sales."

Does anyone else find this alarming?

Arugula Seeds

My effort to save more seeds from the garden this year was driven by one part curiosity, one part frugality, and one part defiance against the way big corporations are running our food system. What happens when seed ownership falls into the hands of fewer and fewer people? We lose flavors and nutrients, we lose plant and wildlife diversity, we lose knowledge of what's in our food and how it's produced. We get genetically modified soy, canola and corn, and cheap high fructose corn syrup.

Red Russian Kale Seeds

Kingsolver's book gave me hope, as she and her family chronicled their year of eating local and homegrown food. They didn't go hungry, they didn't go broke, and it sounds like the entire family discovered many beautiful things along the journey. Their eloquently told story, with intermissions of seasonal recipes, made me want to do more to connect with food and food traditions. I want to grow my own asparagus, make cheese, and taste a turkey that wasn't born in a test tube. For simpler starters, I'm making a commitment to buy more heirloom vegetable seeds and saving seeds from the garden.

Onion Seeds

Here lie the seeds of future meals. I know saving seeds is just one small gesture, but it gives me hope. It's hope not to lose more beautiful things in this world, before we even realize what's missing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love to do a seed swap :)

This is a beautiful, thoughtful post. I just watched an incredible American program on just this topic on KCTS. It got me thinking about traditions, food origins, plant diversity and the NorthAmerican agricultural practices in general.

Nice to see you posting about it!

12:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yay! I found a great link to the program, it's called Chefs'a Field.

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm "down"in Australia collecting seeds too and have the most beautiful parsnips, broadbeans and leeks growing from seeds other people gave me ... it is such a beautiful thing to share and so is your post ... thank you

2:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a garden bloggers' seed exchange here:, too.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Ed Bruske said...

This is why seed saving has become a political act. Our seeds are now in the control of chemical companies. The Aug. 27 New Yorker has a great piece on the world-wide effort to save the planet's diversity of seeds. It's an uphill battle.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been concerned with food plant diversity for a long time. It's good to know there are others out there perpetuating heirloom seeds.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, and amen! I've been buying only heirloom seeds for a decade now and saving seeds to the things I can. I've yet to have successful tomato seed saving, they keep rotting. But I have a giant Black Krim tomato set aside to try again this week. I have much to learn and am grateful for the chance every summer gives me. Great post!

1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good on ya! I wish more people did this. I bought some seeds earlier this year that actually came with seed saving instructions, which i thought was brillint!

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! Great pictures!

1:39 PM  
Blogger My Chutney Garden said...

That's such a scary statistic.
Is everything genetically altered? I can't say for the tropics if we are better or worse because we don't have an amazing diversity in different things. A pineapple is a pineapple is a pineapple. What is a bit alarming is our rather indiscriminate use of pesticides. Luckily for us we eat a lot of root tubers such as yam, sweet potato and dasheen. Thanks for bringing to our attention in your post. It really wakes you up.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Almost Vegetarian said...

I've got the Kingsolver book on my bedside table (along with about 10 other books I mean to read), so this was a good reminder. But, I must admit, what really got me were your amazing photographs.


3:22 PM  
Blogger Christa said...

Thank you for the link to the Chefs A'Field program. I'm looking forward to watching a few of the episodes -- especially the one about our local Chesapeake Bay.

A Year in a Day,
Parsnips, broadbeans, and leeks from seed -- all sound delicious to me! Enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.

I'm definitely going to check out the seed exchange. Thanks!

Thanks for the heads-up about the New Yorker article. I definitely want to read that.

Lorinda, Kelly, Vegmonkey, Patrick... and all you seed savers out there. You give me hope! Thank you!!

My Chutney Garden,
Not everything is genetically altered, but it is surprising how much is. Check out this article from the San Francisco Chronicle: Food Conscious: The Shopper's GMO Guide. I was surprised to read that most baby formula contains genetically modified ingredients.

Also, about eating tubers...(and I don't mean to ruin your appetite for them!)...I also read in Kingsolver's book that potatoes (grown with pesticides) are one of the most polluted vegetables. I wouldn't have thought that, since potatoes grow underground, but pesticides used year after year accumulate in the soil. Makes me think twice about potatoes.

Almost Vegetarian,
It really was a great book. I wish she would write a Volume Two, so I could continue to follow her food adventures.

Thanks for visiting!

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am thankful to be part of a long family tradition of seed saving. (The seeds that will go into my flower garden this fall have been handed down from woman to woman in my family since 1850 -- luckily, we haven't settled in dramatically different climate zones!) Until recently, the really dedicated seed savers have been regarded as somewhat backward and old-fashioned. I'm glad to see a growing awareness of the importance of genetic diversity. Thanks for a thought-provoking post. Wonderful blog!

12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this post.
This is very thought provoking.
I am big on diversity.
The Photos of the seed pods are gorgeous.
I'm going seed collecting tomorrow.

2:04 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

I've saved some seeds this year, but need to seriously consider saving some others as well. Thanks for the reminder!

Great post!

11:49 PM  
Blogger Connie said...

Well said....I heartily agree!

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen to that, Christa. I weaken now and then and buy F1 seed, but on the whole I aim to save my own or else buy organic. There are some excellent heirloom seed companies now, so there's no excuse for supporting the agri-industrial devils.

7:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've just started saving seeds. I've got basil seeds (probably for friends, as mine are "volunteering"), green bean seeds (just a few) and seeds for "society garlic," or Tulbaghia violacea to give it it's proper name. Those seeds came from a friend's garden while I was dog-sitting. I don't have to worry about saving torenia seeds -- they self-seed VERY vigorously! Seemingly everywhere... They're duking it out with the impatiens this year, and may win. Next year I'm going to try for rosemary (also for friends). I'm going to plant a fall crop of radishes, and you've inspired me to try to seed save there too. Great post.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm in the middle of that book right now and really enjoying it. Good for you for maintaining bio-diversity.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just checked the Animal Vegetable Miracle book out of the Library to read. I have also recently viewed the dvd's The Future of Food, Fast Food Nation, and SuperSize Me. I am appalled at what I have learned, but especially about Genetically Modified foods, how they have been regulated, and the lack of testing that is done. Don't people wonder why heart disease, diabetes, ADD and a host of other illnesses are at epidemic proportions and people are trying to follow what the government recommends (the very people making food policy)....amazing!

So on to gardening. I am a seed saver but am determined more than ever to save seed from everything I grow this year. The rest I'll just have to buy local and organic! Bravo for your seed saving efforts which I just stumbled upon. Also your pictures are beautiful.

One person can make a difference!

PS Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions is also an eye opener and very informative on the depth (or lack there of) of studies done on nutrition that the government sets dietary standards on.

9:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:11 AM  

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