The membership card is printed on nothing more than heavy paper, perforated for me to carefully tear out and store somewhere. It arrived a few days ago and I felt so excited to officially be a part of Seed Savers Exchange. I had been meaning to join for some time – mostly because I support what they do and how they go about doing it – but maybe now because I find myself growing three distinct and rare vegetables in my beds this season: Cabin PL tomatoes, Chersonskaya squash, and Winter Fare beans. Each of these has a story of how they came into my possession, and it was not planned that they would all end up in my garden this year or that this was the season I would become and seed saver – officially. But, it was bound to happen. It makes sense. It is a small act that encapsulates how I feel about food and our access to it. It is not a showy act – but is a lifestyle choice that reflects a part of who I am and what I believe in.
Chersonskaya squash came into my garden beds first via the Seed Savers Exchange catalogue. They offered it a few years ago (and only for that one year) and I was immediately attracted to its blueish grey skin. Part of the fun of growing hard squashes is the variety of shape and color – and I had never seen anything quite like it before. It did well that first year in my garden, producing a handful of large, 10+ lbs large, squash. They have a nice, delicate taste and are excellent keepers. I wrote a few posts about them and the original is still one of the most visited posts on my blog. People are out there looking for these seeds. I attempted to grow them last year, but the vines were weak and did not set fruit. I had seven seeds left this spring and went all in, three in one bed, four in another. So far they are looking good.
The Cabin PL tomatoes came next from fellow WordPress blogger and gardener, Jimmy Cracked Corn, at Garlic and Honey. He grew these beautiful, mammoth tomatoes and then dispersed the seeds among bloggers who would take them, grow them, and then disperse the seeds further. I received my packet, sowed my seeds, but got very few tomatoes. This year I am trying again with the plants in two new locations. So far they are thriving.
And last, but certainly not least are the Winter Fare beans. These seeds came to me from Christina at A Thinking Stomach. As you can read here, she inherited a large portion of one man’s bean collection by way of the internet and past seed exchanges. She needed help planting out her holdings and called on her gardening community to give her a hand. We know very little about these Winter Fare beans, what they taste like, will they grow well here (the beans came from Michigan), etc. Over the course of 8 days 19 out of 30 seeds (63%) emerged. They are quickly starting their climb. As a lover of soup beans I am excited to see how they turn out, but maybe more excited to be a part of this project. I have a second variety from the same inheritance which I will plant in late July for a fall harvest.
So here I am with my Seed Savers membership card in hand and young rare plants in my garden beds. While gardening can be such a solitary activity, an aspect this introvert finds vital to her well-being, it can so easily be connected to something much bigger – and I make it so because that too is deeply important to me. Being connected to other gardeners in this way, preserving the bio and cultural diversity of our food supply is only the latest connection from my backyard to the bigger picture – and I can’t wait to see where this bend in the road will take me.