Once Upon a Seed: Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa
Since Seed Savers began, more than 25,000 plants have been collected and more than 1 million seeds shared. Diane tells of her experiences in her just-released book, Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver.
Part of Diane's mission is to get seeds into new hands and to grow an appreciation for them. She gardens casually and warmly, treating plants like family. Herbs, flowers and vegetables intermingle as though they happened to wander in and find a spot wherever. "Have you ever seen two flowers that don't look good together?" she says.
She often accents with celery, letting it go to seed (a common goal here). Clusters of cream-and-pink snail-shape flowers hide under a vine's arrow-shape leaves. It's not showy, but is subtly captivating. Thomas Jefferson, who grew this snail flower at Monticello, called it "the most beautiful bean in the world."
Old varieties can be like that: intriguing twists to today's plots. That circles back to the seeds. Workers set tables near gardens and carefully slice, measure and log tomatoes, then glean the precious seeds. A woman splits a beige squash, dips her hands into the goo, and plucks seeds like milky gemstones.
The greenhouses, orchards and fields--like living offshoots--surround the farmstead rooted at the core. Gilded in late-day light, 'Grandpa Ott's' morning glory deepens its purple glow against the red barnwood. The setting seems awash in timelessness: full of yesteryear; full of today; full of tomorrow. It is amazing, really, all that can be inspired by one simple seed.
Seed Savers Exchange is open free to visitors March-December (563/382-5990; seedsavers.org). The seed catalog - available online or by mail - includes a bounty of vegetables, herbs, and fruits.