WHAT'S GROWIN' ON
IN LAKE & MENDOCINO COUNTIES
You have probably heard the term "seed-saving" before. It is what is sounds like- the process of extracting seeds from something that you've grown and saving them to be used to plant again. What you might not know is how important its history is, and how it can help your garden and your community's future!
Seed-saving is practiced throughout the world, and has been since plant cultivation first began. For most of human's agricultural history, saving seeds was the only way one could plant crops for the next growing season. Now, in the modern age we have access to a variety of seeds from all over the world. This can include special varieties farmers have perfected over the years, but it also includes specific crops that are owned and patented by corporations (names like Monsato and DuPont may ring a bell). The effect of this is that anyone using these seeds must pay a premium price for them- AND it is illegal to save the seeds of these crops to be used, which means that farmers are often obligated through contracts to keep paying over and over for the use of these crops.
Why does this matter?
Many people believe that making seed-saving illegal is a violation of their rights. While corporations have every right to create and safeguard their products, taking away the autonomy of farmers to use the seeds of crops they have cultivated is essentially putting a price tag on a nature's bounty. Similar arguments can be made for the use of any natural resource, such as clean air and water, for which many believe that there should be free and equitable access for all. Saving seeds is a way of continuing the cycle of nature as it was intended! With this in mind, people have begun to reclaim the process of collecting and distributing seeds for no cost, just like what humans have done for millennia.
Most people in their home gardens buy seeds from a store or even buy already sprouted plants to begin their gardens. This is a wonderful way to begin, but for those who don't have the money to begin their gardens they are left without many options. By saving seeds, people can offer their excess to friends, families, and even charities involved in food production! This could be as informal as talking to a neighbor, or could be more established through a seed-lending program at a local library.
Saving seeds from certain crops means that growers can actually select for aspects of plants that they like. For example, if a gardener plants two different varieties of tomatoes and one does particularly well in a dry season, they can save those seeds for use in the future. Whether you are growing to feed yourself, to sell at a market, or just for fun in your backyard it is always helpful to have a big diversity of crops. You never know if pests might find one thing particularly tasty, you might not save those seeds for next year!
For many cultures, both indigenous and people who have immigrated, plant varieties are very important to their heritage. Saving seeds is a way to preserve these important ties for future growers. Some heirloom varieties only exist in seed exchange programs and can't be found anywhere else in the world. Having access to these resources is a tangible way to keep traditions alive. This is especially important for marginalized communities to allow their practices to thrive.
There are so many reason why it's important to save seeds. The next step is to learn how.
Check out a few of these resources on how to save seeds, and keep an eye out for seed-saving libraries or exchanges in your own community!
Saving vegetable seeds
Saving flower seeds
Seed library in Mendocino county
I have only been growing my own vegetables and preserving them for a few years now. The first thing I thought of was heat canning, and have spent a number of hours getting water to boil. This was not entirely satisfactory to me, however, because it just didn't seem very efficient. Heat intensive processes are inefficient at small scale, such as my kitchen! So this year I ditched the water canning and decided to try other methods.
I recommend the book Keeping Food Fresh and basically followed the guidelines there for drying, lacto fermenting and preserving in olive oil.
While you can't taste the results, here's what they look like.
These are dried veggies and I dried them with the sun. Great way to keep nutrient quality intact and very light weight for storage and transportation. Shown are onions, tomatoes, pears and peppers.
Lacto fermentation is a fascinating process. All you need is salt and chlorine free water. Here are examples of pickles, a vegetable medley including beets, and shredded zucchini.
Olive oil is a more expensive preservative. But the oil isn't lost, just borrowed while preserving and becoming a flavored oil when the vegetables are consumed. Many vegetables are sauteed briefly in vinegar before storage in oil. Shown are sweet pepper, tomatoes and a vegetable medley including carrots. Onions and garlic and herbs are often mixed into these.
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