Miracle for a Dime

“Now seeds are just dimes to the man in the store, and the dimes are the things that he needs. And I’ve been to buy them in seasons before, but have thought of them merely as seeds; but it flashed through my mind as I took them this time, “You purchased a miracle here for a dime.”

Edgar A Guest penned the above lines. The English born American poet lived between 1881 – 1959. I am not sure when he wrote this poem but his lifespan gives you a loose idea of the economics of the time period he lived in. Here in 2016, 135 years after Edgar’s birth, you won’t find seeds for a dime.

mature woman chooses  seeds at store

Having said that, I did pick up some flower seeds the other day for forty-nine cents a package, which is only five dimes. It was in a discount bin of-I’m assuming-expired seed, but for five dimes I took a chance on a miracle.

They say most seeds are viable for three to five years, but I am always hearing of people discovering ancient seed in a tomb and managing to get them to germinate after a few thousand years…which is a lot more than three to five. Keep them in a cool, dry, dark place and most seeds last a very long time.

That said, Rhoda Cutbush of the U.K. managed to resurrect the Crimson Broad Bean after discovering three seeds in a tobacco tin in the corner of a garden shed…hardly the most temperature controlled environment. You can read the post about it here.

Rhoda Cutbush

 

Rhoda Cutbush: Shown here with a handful of the Crimson Broad Beans she helped rescue from extinction is Rhoda Cutbush of England. Rhoda passed away in 2003 at 98 years of age. Photo Credit: Garden Organic

I wonder how the first people felt when they discovered plants produced seed that in turn produced more plants. What a mind blower that must have been. It is still a mind blower. I don’t know of a single gardener who doesn’t think so, even after decades of seeding. You never get jaded. You always look at those specks in your palm and think of all the potential packed in such tiny packages.

And the faith! You drop the seeds into the potting soil, water and patiently wait for the promise to be delivered. There is no overt evidence that the Bonnie Best tomato seed really is a Bonnie Best tomato, but you trust that it is true.

Yesterday I started my tomatoes, cucumbers and an assortment of flowers. Some packets cost three or four dollars and when I opened them up I discovered a mere dozen seeds hiding in a corner. Others were so generously filled I was able to start all I needed and still have plenty to store away for next year.

Tree of Money - Vector Illustration

People store up investments and savings and even gold and silver, but the greatest riches lie in seeds. Open pollinated, non GMO, heirloom seeds that make a miracle out of every planting. You can’t eat gold, but tomatoes and broad beans are a different story. Its a reality that the folks at Monsanto were clever enough to recognize. If that bothers you there are lots of ways to protest; write letters, join rallies and boycott GMO products to name just a few.

However, the biggest and most radical thing you can do to stop the food giant in its tracks, is to simply save your own seeds. It’s a lot better for your blood pressure too. Letters and rallies can make you crazy, but planting and harvesting your own vegetables is all about health and spending quality time with nature. It is the most peaceful and productive of protests.

Saving seed

Winner, winner, vegetable dinner!

If you are interested in saving seeds Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth now in its second edition is a great read…

seed saving book

If you can’t save your own seed, but still want to grow your own vegetables, it makes sense to keep at least a years supply on hand from your favourite open pollinated, heirloom seed supplier. To find such suppliers check out the Online Catalogues tab at the top of the page.

Thanks for reading this and happy planting!

Close-up of child holding dirt with plant

Crimson Flowered Broad Bean

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The story of the Crimson Flowered Broad Bean has everything Hollywood could hope for; a gorgeous protagonist, passion, disaster and a hero rushing in to save the day at the last possible second.

The titillating tale begins with the first mention of the bean’s cultivation in 1778. For almost two centuries gardeners enjoyed its presence both in their gardens and on their tables. It’s hard to fathom how this beautiful bean fell from favour, but fall it did. By the 1970’s it was no longer being offered in catalogues and had all but disappeared. One might think it was a matter of taste; but one would be wrong. These broad beans taste as good as they look. The only plausible explanation is that humans are a fickle bunch, always chasing after something new. Even when the recently introduced broad beans had boring white blooms and lesser flavour, gardeners added them to their seed orders, ignoring the poor Crimson Broad Bean into oblivion.

Rhoda Cutbush: Shown here with a handful of the Crimson Broad Beans she helped rescue from extinction is Rhoda Cutbush of England. Rhoda passed away in 2003 at 98 years of age. Photo Credit: Garden Organic  Shown here with a handful of the Crimson Broad Beans she helped rescue from extinction is Rhoda Cutbush of England. Rhoda passed away in 2003 at 98 years of age. Photo Credit: Garden Organic

Well, not everyone. Not Rhoda Cutbush of Kent, UK. Her father originally received the seeds for this heirloom from a cottage garden back in 1912 and Rhoda grew up eating this wonderful bean. As the bean’s only known proponent, Rhoda continued the tradition of cultivating the plants, saving her own seed and replanting year after year. And then…disaster struck! In 1978 at the age of 73, a crop failure wiped out every last one of Rhoda’s beans. Searching through a shed she stumbled upon a tin holding three Crimson Broad Bean seeds. In desperation she sent them to Lawrence Hills, founder of the Heritage Seed Library who took on the enormous responsibility of rescuing the bean from extinction.

Ironically, the Crimson Broad Bean’s near demise also proved to be its saving grace. The story captivated gardeners the world over and the laws of supply and demand helped the bean slowly regain its rightful place in seed catalogues. Today it is still an all too rare sight in gardens, but happily no longer in danger of extinction; at least not for the time being.

If your interest in heirlooms is big, but your garden is small this is a story to keep in mind. No matter how diminutive your plot might be you can surely manage to save three seeds. As the saying goes, never underestimate the power of one person to change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has! I challenge you to choose one heirloom that interests you and become a champion for its survival.

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Fava Facts

• Broad beans are also known as fava beans.

• A small percentage of people, usually of Mediterranean heritage, experience a severe allergic reaction to fava beans.

• Unlike heat loving bush and pole beans, broad beans are cool weather crops and should be sown the same time as peas.

• Plants can reach bush-like statures of 4-5 feet (1.2-1.5 metres) high. The Crimson Flowered Broad Bean is a bit smaller usually topping out at approximately 3 feet (0.9 metres) with robust 6 inch (15 cm) pods. Sowing to harvest is approximately 100 days.

• Crimson Broad Beans will occasionally revert to white blooms. Should this happen remove the rogue plant immediately to keep the crimson genes intact.

• Beans pull nitrogen into the soil making them an excellent cover crop.

• Broad beans can be eaten pod and all when young or shelled for soup beans when they are older. Skin on older beans can be rather chewy. Happily, the beans naturally shed their jackets while being boiled, exposing their tender, inside morsels. Simply scoop out the boiled beans and leave their jackets behind. They can then be consumed with a dab of butter or splash of olive oil or tossed into your favorite fava recipe.

• Beans are largely self pollinating but broad beans are often visited by bees; bumblebees in particular. To help ensure seed saving purity, plant only one type of broad bean in your garden.

• Broad beans are frequently attacked by black aphids. The simplest and safest method of dealing with these pests is to blast them off with a garden hose. Many gardeners report the Crimson Flowered Broad Bean doesn’t seem to be as bothered by aphids; just one more reason to be grateful we still have this bean in our gene pool!

• In Canada the Crimson Flowered Broad Bean is available from the following suppliers:

Heritage Harvest Seed
Box 40, RR 3
Carman, MB R0G 0J0
Fax (204) 745-6723
Phone (204) 745-6489
Email: seed@heritageharvestseed.com

And of course, once you start saving seeds, the Crimson Flowered Broad Bean will be available from your own address! I am germinating some seeds I saved to make sure they’re viable. If they are I would be happy to share a handful with anyone who is interested while supplies last. I just have a mason jarful so if the demand is high I can give six seeds to at least a dozen people. If they made their comeback from three imagine what can be done with six : ) I just planted four seeds today so I’ll let you know in a later post when (if?) they sprout and where you can pick them up. Despite needing 100 growing days mine did just fine in our Zone 2b…but as we know here in the north, so much depends on the year and every year offers its own unique gifts and challenges.

A special thank you goes out to Neil Munro, current manager of The Heritage Seed Library, for his help with facts about their role in the resurrection of the Crimson Broad Bean and for providing us with a lovely picture of Rhoda Cutbush. Anyone interested in finding out more about this seed saving organization can check them out here. And thank you to Gardens West who first published a version of my article in their magazine in October 2012.

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Urban Harvest…Another Heirloom Souce for Seeds

Just added an old–but new to me–source for heirloom seeds to my Online Catalogues page. Urban Harvest is based in Ontario and has been selling heirloom seeds since 1998. Here are just a few of their interesting offerings. All images and descriptions are from Urban Harvest.

CREAM OF SASKATCHEWAN

$3.25

A small pale yellow fleshed watermelon that probably was brought to Saskatchewan from Russia. It has a quite thin, light green with dark green striped rind, with sweet flesh and black seeds. It can grow well in cool climates. Weigh up to 3 kilos. 25 cm in diamatre. 80 days, Heirloom. 21 seeds

bean_lina_sisco

Bird Egg Bush Bean

$3.25

According to Seed Savers Exchange. “these beans were brought to Missouri by covered wagon in the 1880s by Lina’s grandmother. Lina was one of the six original members of SSE, which was founded in 1975”. We are happy to be able to offer these grown here in Southern Ontario and certified organic like all of our seed. Dried cranberry type bean. Tan with deep red markings. Productive and hardy. Bush. Heirloom. 85 days. 30 seeds

.corn-double-standard

CORN DOUBLE STANDARD

$3.25

An early maturing, open pollinated, bi-colour corn. Good germination in cool soil with excellent old fashioned flavourful ears approximately 14 cm (7”)long. Full sun. 65-75days. 50 seeds.

tomato-black-seamanCM

Black Seaman Tomato

$3.25

NEW FOR 2013
This Russian Heirloom tomato produces small semi-
determinant, potato-leaf plants that yield an
abundance of rich flavourful mid-sized tomatoes.
This is one of our new faves. Heirloom. 70 days

Enjoy!