To finish up the bit of environmental activist kick I’ve been on the last two days, I’ll talk a bit about seed starting. For the most part, the home gardener doesn’t have to think too hard about this. He or she goes to his garden center or nursery (or perhaps big box store) of choice, chooses a few seed packets, and we’re off.
I was able to find some organic seeds this year, put out in a line by Burpee, and I didn’t have to mail-order them. I normally don’t go so far as to worry about whether my seeds are organic but I was buying them for growing micro-greens, something I’d eat when it had only two or 3 sets of tiny leaves, so I tried to get organic seeds when I could.
The commercial farmers have larger issues to worry about–are they going to buy the “Round-up Ready” line of seeds now available and thereby be beholden to the large agricompanies? Or will they struggle without them? For the organic farmer, of course, it’s not an issue–unless his neighbor is growing those seeds and possibly contaminating his seed stock.
The New York Times had a fascinating article about seed starting from the pantry. We probably all remember some variety of this as a child. Perhaps you sprouted a carrot or potato top, suspended over a cup of water by some toothpicks. Or maybe it got more exotic–you sprouted an avocado pit (it probably won’t surprise you to know that I did).
I even had a beloved grapefruit tree, grown from a seed that an uncle passed on to me. It lived for many years until it inexplicably died. Since the Uncle too was dead and the tree was named in his honor, I felt the loss keenly.
Again, I digress. In the Times article, the author talks about sprouting all sorts of unusual seeds, nuts and legumes from the kitchen–as well as citrus pits. He talks about the lentil plant and the color of its flowers (who knew–I confess I did not). But he also talks about how most of the spices in the spice cabinet–poppy and mustard being the exception–will likely not grow or sprout because they have been heat treated in some manner. After all, no one wants to find mouldy spices and moisture is the enemy of spices.
Citrus, too, often have seeds that are small or too poorly formed to sprout because we as consumers do not like to find seeds in our fruit (after all, isn’t that why we buy seedless watermelon and navel oranges?)
An expert at the New York Botanic Garden suggested buying fruit from small ethnic markets if seeds for sprouting are desired–they will most likely have varieties that have not been treated, or varieties that do have seeds.
Then, of course, there is always the old-fashioned way of getting good seeds for sprouting–find a good catalog or garden center that stocks them.