— Nan Sterman
Seeds fascinate me. They look like little pieces of dead wood. But bury them in soil or potting soil, add water, set them where the temperature is just right, and they sprout. Care for them and they grow into plants, many of which we eat.
Have you ever seen a tomato seed? It’s tiny – just a few millimeters across. Eggplant and pepper seeds are nearly as small. Even a pumpkin seed is barely an inch across and as thin as an almond sliver. Yet, they each have the potential to produce pounds and pounds of produce.
This week’s episode of A Growing Passion is The Story of Seeds, From Breeding to Eating. This is the story of vegetable seeds.
Commercial Seed Farmer
We start with a visit to Patty Buskirk at Seeds by Design and Terra Organics just north of Sacramento. Patty breeds vegetables for farmers, farmer’s market growers, and home gardeners.
Patty tours us through her trial gardens, which include acres of peppers, tomatoes, squash, and so much more. Every summer, seed brokers, seed packet companies, and big commercial farmers visit Patty’s trials to see her new varieties and order seeds for two years in the future.
Once the orders are made, Patty and her crew get growing. They grow the vegetables so they can harvest their seeds. It’s different from growing vegetables to eat. When vegetables are ripe for eating, their seeds are not yet mature enough for growing. Zucchini seeds, for example, mature when the zucchini fruits (yes, zucchini are fruits) are way past ripe — more like when they reach baseball bat size.
Selling Seeds to Home Gardeners
We head to my friend Renee Shepherd’s garden near Santa Cruz. Renee owns Renee’s Garden seed company, which sells seed packets to home gardeners like you and me. Some of those seeds come from Patty Buskirk; others come from other specialty growers around the world, many of whom specialize in particular kinds of seeds.
Renee’s specialty is finding the easiest to grow, most productive, and best tasting vegetables to offer her customers. She’s a huge proponent of growing and cooking what you grow — as you well know if you’ve seen her seed packets.
And Renee’s garden is beautiful!
Specialty Seed Breeder
Near Los Alamos along the Central Coast, we meet Bejo Seed‘s tomato breeder Doug Heath, who has created hundreds of tomato varieties including different colored cherry tomatoes and even a seedless tomato. I am very picky about tomatoes so believe me when I tell you that Doug’s seedless is one of the most delicious tomatoes I’ve ever eaten.
Back home, we stop in at seed saver Brijette Romstedt’s urban farm. Brijette owns San Diego Seed Company and grows vegetables on an acre near San Diego’s City Heights. She grows, harvests and processes seeds, then sells them across San Diego County. You might think of Brijette as a pioneer but hers is a time-honored tradition of saving the best seeds to plant year after year.
I’m curious to know what you think of The Story of Seeds. What surprised you? What intrigued you? Will you garden any differently after seeing this show? Post your comments below and share your thoughts. Thanks!