I’m a part of Cordwainers Garden. This year we’ve dedicated a plot to seed-saving for this project.
I grow my own vegetables because I really enjoy growing things, and being able to grow things that I know are healthy and nutritious. I like doing it with other people, as part of a community garden. And it’s always nice, each year, to try something different and experiment. And I like being outside in the fresh air.
I save seeds for a few different reasons. For political reasons around seed sovereignty. There’s lots of worrying regulations at a global level around seeds. Also because I’ve learnt that the seeds that you save yourself from your local area and climate and conditions are always, each year, more adapted to the environment. And it means you have free seeds. We always get a lot of seeds so we can give them away to other people. And also it’s just really fun! I’m quite fascinated by seeds, so being able to save them and collect them is something I really enjoy doing.
Food sovereignty is linked with having control over our food and the plants and the crops that we grow. Over the years lots of seed varieties and heirloom seeds have been lost in favour of commercially grown crops. So for me seed sovereignty is about taking the control back and being able to collect our own seeds and being able to carry on doing practices that farmers have been doing for a long time all over the world.
My parents would grow vegetables and always had a vegetable patch. My Dad is from Egypt, so there were certain things that he grows like broad beans (or fava beans). I really vividly remember (and also there’s a photo of me) podding peas as a child. Because they always saved their bean seeds, when I did start growing crops on my own that just came naturally to me because it was what I’d seen and what I’d grown up with.
I usually feel quite relaxed. Although we’re still in quite an urban area, we’re quite hidden. People can see us, but you sort of feel like you’re a little bit tucked away and a bit hidden, almost like no one can really find you. It’s quite nice just to have a real break and just be away from technology or from things. And it’s really nice just having the sounds of the garden. It’s very different to any other kind of day-in, day-out city environment. Mostly I feel quite calm and relaxed and it’s always having a bit of a time out when you’re here, even if you’re working quite hard.
I like growing herbs to cook with and it’s a nice one that you can have raw, add to a salad, the flowers are really pretty. I think the bees quite like the flowers because they’re purple flowers, and it’s a really nice fragrant herb.
The seeds originally came from a packet of seeds that I bought, but I’ve been saving them from plants I’ve grown.
The seeds take quite a while to germinate and have to be at quite a high temperature. So I usually germinate it indoors in a heated propagator.
Sometimes there are seeds that don’t work and you have to sow them again. But I had one successful batch, so I just separated those out and then planted some outside and some in a little greenhouse. So you either have to have an indoor space and use a higher temperature or you have to wait till later in the season until it’s warmer and the ground has warmed up.
I usually transplant them into their own pot, and put that in the mini greenhouse until they’re about ten centimetres. I then plant them outside, in June or July. The ones in the greenhouse grow a lot faster. They come from a really hot climate so they like a lot of sun and heat. And they like to be watered but not waterlogged. So more like humid heat. They’ve done ok outside.
You can crop it quite hard a few times and it will bush out.
After it’s flowered you just let it go. Wait until it looks brown and dried out. Then you can just take the seed heads off and crumble them. The seeds are inside little seed-casings. It’s quite easy to get the seeds out if you harvest on a dry day.
I add it to salad. I use it as a garnish on curry or spicy dishes. And I also made a sugar syrup and infused that for herbal cocktails. I’ve made tea from it before and that’s quite nice. It’s sweet, and very fragrant.
Three years ago I went to one of the events of the London Freedom Seed Bank and everyone was encouraged to take some seeds away, and that was the pack that I took.
I planted some straight in the ground, and I also sprouted some first, soaking them and waiting for the shoots to come out and then only planting the ones which had germinated. And that worked quite well. And then watered them, gave them a feed a few times through the season. I fed them with a mix of a nettle tea and some compost tea from the. Got quite a good crop of them, not as good as in past years I think because it was so dry. I’ve left most of them to go to seed to collect. They do like quite a lot of water. The more sun they have the healthier the plants will be and the more they’ll produce.
Make sure you build quite a strong structure for them to grow up. They can grow quite tall and become quite heavy. So if they’re in a windy spot they can fall over.
I quite like eating them raw. So I chop them up and put them in a salad or just boil them or steam them. They’re really versatile to use.