Saving Seeds (aka, Yes, your choices do matter)

Recently my housemate Jim took me to a garden that his friend cares for to harvest some of the abundance of veggies found there. The homeowners are wealthy retirees with a beautiful landscaped property, including a garden large enough to feed a small army. The two of them could never possibly consume all of the yummy vegetables they grow, so I was thrilled to spend time there.

My half an hour visit yielded 25 pounds of heirloom tomatoes, 5 pounds of huge carrots, chard, herbs and a few other random vegetables. But the tomatoes…ahhh. They had around 30 healthy plants of at least ten varieties. Because my own garden is pathetic, I was sooo happy to hang out in the 6 ft tall tomato vines, finding the ripest and most beautiful fruits.

I could go on and on about these tomatoes. But I’ll focus on just a few things I wanted to share.

The first dish we made with our newfound heirloom tomato wealth was a strange casserole with sauteed zucchini, mashed potatoes and sliced tomatoes on top. When I sliced into a 2-pound yellow brandywine, the center was still warm from the sun.

For me, the essence of food happiness is found in a fresh, still-warm tomato in all it’s delicious glory.

Because I love tomatoes so much, I did a little research into saving tomato seeds so I can grow them in my own garden next year. As I sliced carefully into each tomato, scooping out the seeds and goop into a jar, I thought about the cyclical nature of food. How each plant contains within itself the potential for hundreds, even thousands, of new plants. And how the only reason any of us are able to *live* is because of the variety and tenacity of plant life and all the supporting species that build our food system.

Real food does not come from a grocery store. It comes from the ground, nourished by soil and water and earthworms and bees and sunshine. This local food “movement” is quite simple at its core. We are rediscovering this most basic connection – of where our food comes from and why it’s so important.

I believe it is a basic human right to have access to healthy, safe, fresh food that nourishes us and others (like the bees). And I imagine how our food and how we eat it would change if we prepared each meal not only cognizant of where our food came from, but also, where our next meal came from. Saving seeds out of the tomato (or eggplant or pumpkin) means there will be more tomatoes, more meals. I now have the ability to nurture more life simply by being aware of how those plants grow and my part in it.

Even if you aren’t interested in (or unable to) grow a garden for yourself, you still have an enormous amount of power in determining the future of our food. If we want food that is delicious, healthy, safe, and available to all, then we must be aware of how our choices are impacting our food system. And because I’m now on a roll about the importance of food, I’ll make a few more declarations. Consider it a summary of how you can have better food.

Choose organic fresh food grown close to home. Learn where your farmers are, and get to know them. Seek out meat that is humanely raised, eggs that come from happy chickens, and food products from local sources. Give yourself more time to prepare food and share it with people you love. Stop throwing out food. Start composting, saving seeds, and growing them. If you can’t use it, give it away. Stop killing bees and grow more flowers. Invest in local food systems and ask restaurants where they buy their food. Take the extra time to read labels. Notice how your food tastes, what makes it better, and how it makes you feel. Stop pretending as if your choices don’t matter, as if you can’t change anything, as if what we put into our bodies doesn’t impact everything else. And when you are able, spend some time with plants and bugs and soil, and delicious tomatoes still warm from the sun.


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