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The Bold Hope of Seed Saving

This past weekend was sunny and dry enough for me to gather and begin drying some of the seeds our garden produced this year. Seeds from three kinds of sunflowers, four varieties of lettuce, two of broccoli, two of kale, two of chard and several kinds of tomatoes now sit drying in little bowls scattered across our various kitchen surfaces. Once they've dried sufficiently, I'll pack them away in small envelopes labeled with descriptions of the previous generation's attributes: large petals, delightful texture, complex flavor.

Putting the seeds out to dry I felt a deep connection with our most distant ancestors. What man or woman, how many millennia ago, first decided to keep the seed of a favorite fruit or grain with the explicit hope of tasting the same fruit again the next year? What determination it must have taken to carry the tiny seeds through the dark, cold winter months, what discipline to not grind the cereal seeds into flour and bake bread as February (etymologically "hunger-month") grew long and food stores dwindled to dregs.

All civilization is founded upon the cultivation of food, and thus the simple act of saving seeds shows as much respect for our civilization's highest ideals as any of monument. But more than just a nod toward Virtue, there is also in the simple act of saving seeds a bold declaration of hope. Hope that there will be a "next year," hope that the sun will shine and that the rains will come, hope that the rats and roaches won't decimate the crop before it reaches maturity, hope that blight won't smother the tomatoes in furry white rot before they can be canned.

Indeed saving seeds is, at its most sacramental, a proclamation and a participation in the hope of resurrection. For to save seeds is to submit ourselves to the truth that every dry, brittle seed must pass through the necessary burial if there is to be any hope of new life in the coming spring.

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Posted: 2010-10-05 10:45:59


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