Seed Library: Learn – Plant – Grow – Return
The Blount County Public Library in Maryville, Tenn. has opened its first ever Seed Library. At the library, visitors can learn about heirloom seeds; donate any heirloom, non-GMO, non-hybrid, open-pollinated seeds; and check out seeds – for free – with a Blount County Public Library card. Then after you grow the plant(s), save some seeds from your harvest and return some seeds to the Seed Library.
The Seed Library operates through the growing season: March 1st – October 31st, and encourages local home gardeners to grow and save seeds, learn about the history, culture, and growing of all kinds of plants with an emphasis on Southern Appalachian heritage varieties, and share a portion of the seeds of their harvest back to the community. Sheila Pennycuff is the maker of the Seed Library at the Blount County, TN Public Library (with help from Ben Cohen and John Coykendall).
There are plenty of books available in the library to learn about seeds, seed saving, planting with seeds, and all things related to gardening.
Of particular interest may be “John Coykendall’s Seed Saving Guide” – a pamphlet available to take home from the library. The pamphlet is a hand-written “Beginners Guide to Seed Saving.” He talks about plants to begin with, such as beans, peas, field peas, and butterbeans. When growing these plants, leave several pods on each plant to mature and dry for seed saving purposes. He explains the process for collecting and drying seeds for the next generation of plants.
“If you are saving tomato or cucumber seeds, a fermentation process is required,” Coykendall writes. “Allow the ones being saved for seed to be fully mature, well overripe, but not to the stage of rotting.” He gives further details about the process of saving these types of seeds. Coykendall has a new book, Preserving Our Roots: My Journey to Save Seeds and Stories, co-written with Christina Melton, which just came out in mid-October.
Bill Best’s book Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste: Heirloom Seed Savers in Appalachia, introduces the reader to some of the heirloom fruits and vegetables from the Appalachian culture, such as The Brown Goose, the White Case Knife, Ora’s Speckled Bean, Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter. Best has helped preserve numerous varieties of beans, tomatoes, corn, squashes, and other fruits and vegetables, along with the family stories and experiences that are a fundamental part of this world. Seed savers have worked to preserve genetic diversity and the flavors rooted in the Southern Appalachian Mountains — one of the vegetative wonders of the world. Best also has a book on Kentucky Heirloom Seeds.
Why Heirloom Seeds? Cricket Rakita has the answers in an article on the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange website: https://www.southernexposure.com/why-heirloom-seeds-ezp-20.html. Rakita writes: “In the early part of this century (20th), most produce was locally grown. Vegetables and flowers were primarily selected for their looks, flavor, ability to perform well in an organic environment, and local adaptability. It was also important for crops to ripen over a long season so harvests could be extended. Many people grew their own produce and put up much of it for winter.
“During World War II, the United Stated made a concerted effort to ship large quantities of produce to Europe. After the war was over, there was the infrastructure in place to ship food over long distances. The commercial sector began to use this structure to raise produce where it could be done most cheaply and ship it to everywhere else. This set of growing methods brought a severely different set of selection criteria; most vegetable varieties are now selected for shipping ability, uniform ripeness, and ability to perform well in a chemical environment.”
So planting and using heirloom seeds fits well with the emphasis on locally-grown produce that is adapted to the local climate, less dependent on chemicals, not dependent on shipping long distances, and resulting in a healthier lifestyle. “In the world of heirloom seeds, there is a huge wealth of carefully selected varieties for every bioregion in the world,” Rakita writes. Heirloom seeds bring a wider variety of plants, and flavors, than the limited varieties of commercially grown produce.
Find out more about the Seed Library at: https://www.blounttn.org/1464/Seed-Library Perhaps you will check out some books on seed saving and gardening from your local library.
Seed Savers Exchange: https://www.seedsavers.org/legacy-donors-john-coykendall
The Gardeners at Blackberry Farm: http://www.blackberryfarm.com/farm/artisans/gardeners
APT Deeply Rooted: https://www.aptonline.org/catalog/DEEPLY-ROOTED-JOHN-COYKENDALL-S-JOURNEY-TO-SAVE-OUR-SEEDS-AND-STORIES
LSU Press: https://lsupress.org/authors/detail/john-coykendall/
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