Packets of magic – never underestimate the power of seeds

Remember the story of Jack and the beanstalk where Jack foolishly sold his cow for 5 magic beans? He wasn’t undersold, his beans were the passage to a store of treasure in the sky. And it’s true – seeds are natures treasures.

I have just received a parcel of seeds for this season and I can’t tell you how excited I was when the postman dropped them off. Along with the store of seeds saved from last year this promises to be my food for the coming year, the provide the colour and scent of my garden, the taste of fresh sprouting seeds in my salads and a year’s fun sowing planting and harvesting. Who needs a gym when you have access to a garden or allotment a few packets of seeds and a few tools.

Seeds may be tiny, but they’re packed with nutrients like protein, fibre, iron, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. A seed is life. It is a living food. Seeds also provide most cooking oils, many beverages and spices and some important food additives. In fact food from seeds, beans, nuts and grains (all seeds) forms the majority of human calories.

To get the most out of them remember the golden rule – raw food provides the highest sources of vitamins and cooked food helps the body extract the highest amounts of minerals so vary the way you eat them. Salads, raw seed and nut dips for vitamins and added to bread, biscuits or toasted for minerals.

Eating sprouted seeds adds another dimension of flavour and texture as well either raw in salads or cooked in stir fries.

Totally Tomatoes!

It’s February, the time of year I start getting my tomato seeds on the go. As readers of my blog will know I am a bit obsessive about tomato growing and the hardest part of it is deciding which varieties I am going to go for each year.

Figures vary on how many varieties of tomato there are, but a conservative estimate is 7,500. So you can see my problem, I have only got room for about 10 varieties, that is if I want to grow anything else and I try to grow a mixture of outdoor and greenhouse, beef, plum, cherry,and of various colours, so the calculations are complicated. Add to that the fact that I have a shoe box full of tomato seeds and I to rotate them so that the seeds don’t get too old. 

The seeds I have come from a variety of sources, some bought from seeds suppliers, some I save myself or from friends’ saved seeds but mostly I get them from seed swaps. Over the years I have found some really interesting tomato varieties at seed swaps, at the Arundel seed swap we used to get a visitor whom we called Mr Tomato because he grew vast numbers and always brought along interesting varieties. It was from him that I first found Ivory Egg, Livingstone’s Favourite and Bloody Butcher. 

So what am I going for this year? On the large side I’m going for Cherokee Purple, a delicious sweet tomato great with a bit of olive oil and pepper and for small Piccolo, a sweet red variety I grew from seeds saved from a tomato that originally came from a ‘well known’ supermarket. One year the piccolo plant came through as an orange tomato that lasted on the plant until late November and stored in a basket until January. Replanted these seeds have stayed true and I call them Golden Piccolo, they will be in the greenhouse again this year as it is lovely to have fresh tomatoes in winter.

So where am I? Oh yes, the next is Jazz Fever, from Mr Tomato, a red fruit which I haven’t tried before. I always have to grow Black Cherry, my favourite large cherry, so sweet and juicy it is very hardy and prolific. Then Green Zebra and Ivory Egg both for the taste and colour variation. Then two from seed that I actually bought – Pomodoro Costoluto Fiorento from Franchi seeds and Crimson Crush from Dobies. The Crimson Crush I grew from plants last year, these are sold as blight resistant and whether that is true or not they were delicious and grew outdoor with no problems.

Then there is ‘Big Plum’ I don’t know if this is the right name but it certainly is a big plum and great for cooking and last but not least Sungold, whose little golden fruits brighten up a salad.

I think that’s eleven but who’s counting?

I’ll let you know how I get on and if I can restrict my self just to these. Meanwhile do visit your local seed swap and try new varieties. Here’s some options or look in your local press for one near you.

Seedy Sunday 

Garden Organic Seedy Sunday

 

Totally Tomatoes

The tomato seeds are coming on. I’m sure yours are further ahead than mine but I am still excited. I think I should be signed up to TA (Tomatoes Anonymous) and I am trying to keep the varieties I plant each year to a reasonable number. This year there are nine varieties, Piccolo (taken from seed from a Tesco tomato many years ago) a lovely sweet cherry tomato, Golden Piccolo which sort of mutated from the ordinary Piccolo and which last year I was still picking in November and eating fresh in January, Sub Arctic Plenty - Allegedly developed in the 1940′s by the U.S. Military to provide fresh tomatoes to their troops in Greenland, Marmande, Black Cherry, Ivory Egg, (a prolific cream coloured plum tomato), Clear Pink Early, Black Seaman (a beef type tomato which is a Russian Heritage tomato), Euro Money (I don’t know what these are like I’ve never tried them before)

Most of my tomato seeds I have got from seed swaps and some are not available anywhere other than swaps. So I keep my seeds going by changing the varieties I grow each year. Do you have a favourite tomato?

Looking forward to a nice bowl of tomatoes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are looking for a bit of inspiration on how to grow tomatoes or what to cook with them here are a couple of suggestions.

In Praise of Tomatoes - http://shop.refriedbooks.co.uk/in-praise-of-tomatoes-11028-p.asp

 

 

 

 

Tomatoes and How to Grow Them - http://shop.refriedbooks.co.uk/tomatoes-and-how-to-grow-them-12247-p.asp

 

Swapping is a Growing Habit

It’s that time of year when all of us gardeners are stuck with our noses in the seed catalogues making lists of all those things that are going to grow so successfully this year. The garden or plot is so full of promise.

But before you send off that order check that there isn’t a better and cheaper way to get your seeds.

Seed swapping is really popular, and for a good reason (or several).

Because you have a plant you love and want to grow again. - It could be the perfect blue campanula, the best tasting tomato or a champion pumpkin. You never know when a seed company will discontinue your favourite seed to make way for new varieties. Saving your own seed is the only guarantee.

To help safeguard our genetic heritage. - In the past 100 years we have lost over 90% of our vegetable varieties in the UK. Nowadays, just three corporations control a quarter of the world’s seed market, vying for power over the world’s food production and hybrid seeds (which cannot be seed-saved) are becoming commonplace in seed catalogues.

To save money - Seed from catalogues can be expensive. Saving your seeds means that you get more for less.

To help preserve our right to save seeds. - The industry continues to place more and more restrictions on farmers’ and gardeners’ right to save seeds. Variety patenting, licensing agreements, and restricted lists such as that maintained by the European Union, are industry tools to wrest control of the seed from the commons and keep it for themselves. Thankfully last month MEPs voted against a proposed seed regulation that would further reduce the seed market but we do need to vote with our purses.

To find some thing different – There are lots of seeds that you only find through seed swap. I have found some of my favourites at seed swaps especially tomatoes and my favourite pea, that you can’t buy on the market. So I will be taking my list to the Worthing Transition Town Seed Swap on the 14th Feb to see what exciting things I can find. click here for details

Can’t find a seed swap near you? Don’t worry, you can find seed swap sites on the internet. Here are a couple in the UK but it is a worldwide phenomenon.

http://www.gardenswapshop.co.uk/index.php and http://www.seedswappers.co.uk/

Remember – If you like what you eat, save the seeds.

Don’t know how to save seed?  Back Garden Seed Saving by Sue Strickland is the book for you Click here

Seed Swapping

This time of year the garden and allotment are all about dreams, hopes and expectations. What am I going to grow? What will work? I love the promise of a packet of seeds.

One of the things I enjoy is being part of our local seed swap. It is a small affair but is now part of our growing year. This is the time of year for seed swap all over the country. Last autumn I managed to collect lots of chard seed, some unusual white aqualegia and lots of Lychnis, beautiful cerise flowers that will grow anywhere, to share around. This week we are having a seed packing session (with a bottle of wine to help of course) I hope the seed all end up in the right packets!