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Onion Bliss

By Colleen Doty, Chair, Seed Library of Galiano

Harvest season might just be my favourite time of year. Opportunities for gratitude are all around us. Vegetables, fruits, seeds. It’s a time of reflection: what worked well this past growing season? What flopped? What would I do differently next year?

When it comes to collecting seeds I like to think about the stories and the people who contributed the seed that grew my food and enriched my life. This article is a small tribute to Doug and Elizabeth Latta, who taught me how to grow incredible onions. Allow me to gush: onions from my garden bring me immense joy. For that alone, I will be forever grateful to Doug and Elizabeth.

When I moved to Galiano I was not a seed saver, although certainly a veggie grower. I didn’t have the confidence or knowledge at that point to trust future gardens to my own saved seed. But with the critical need for food security, I wanted to learn about preserving and maintaining the building blocks of our food supply and biodiversity. Beginner seed savers usually start with beans and peas. Growing onions seemed like a distant challenge.

Working with the Seed Library immersed me in the world of seeds. Elizabeth donated the Ailsa Craig onion seeds and growing instructions. I’ve now grown the onions for three years. Each year, I select the largest ones for seed. Because of the biennial nature of onion seeds (food crop in first year, seed in second year), I alternate my onion crops with the Newburg onion, a yellow, long-term storage onion also available from the Seed Library. My Newburgs usually last me 13 months in storage (but that’s a different article!)

The finely-textured Ailsa Craig is delicious either fresh or cooked. When dried and cleaned properly they will store for months in a cool, dark place. The open-pollinated beauty is well-suited for Galiano. With rich, well-composted soil, topped up throughout the growing season, the Ailsa Craig performed well this year despite the heat dome of late June and summer drought. The Seed Library has lots of Ailsa Craig seeds in stock. If interested in growing them out, make sure you have your seed ready to start indoors on heat mats by the end of January or early February.

Seed Library Update:

Website: Thanks to a grant from the CRD, the Seed Library of Galiano will soon be getting a website. Stay tuned for our launch date.

AGM: This year’s Seed Library Zoom AGM is Sunday, October 24, 2021, at 7pm. Our guest speaker will be Grace Augustinowicz on the topic of composting and soil health. Grace has a Masters in Soil Science and is a member of the Board of Directors at the White Rock Farmers Market. Grace is deeply involved in community work, having recently started her new and exciting position as Urban Agriculture Program Manager with Urban Bounty (Richmond Food Security Society). Save the date.

Volunteers: It has been five years now since SLOG first launched. Our membership consists of over 10% of the Galiano population. If you are interested in getting involved as a volunteer, either on our board or on a committee, please let us know. We need help with maintaining the collection, seed sorting, and outreach. Without volunteers there would be no seed library.

Seed intake days: Sunday, October 3rd and Friday, October 15th at the Community Library, 12-2pm. Please return your saved seed (in envelopes or other containers), labelled with your name and seed variety. If you’ve lost your form, that’s okay. The seed is more important.

Any questions? We can be reached at:

Happy harvest,

Colleen Doty, Chair, Seed Library of Galiano

By |2021-10-19T22:09:35-07:00October 17th, 2021|Articles, News|

Great Camas

Common Name: Camas, Great

Variety: Leichtlin’s Camassia

Botanical Name: Camasia Leichtlinii

Family: Asparagaceae

Great camas is a perennial herbaceous plant that grows from a bulb. It can grow 24–48 inches (61–122 cm) tall. Leaves are long and narrow, stemming from the basal rosette. The inflorescence is a spike-like cluster on a leafless stem that is held above the leaves.[3] It can be mistaken for the more common Camassia quamash, which has an overlapping range.


It needs consistent moisture in the spring, but will not be harmed by seasonal drought after the seed pods mature and the leaves dry out.[3] Camas stands can benefit from seasonal fires as well, as they aid in regeneration and reduce competition from brush and weeds.[3]


The bulbs are edible, but must be baked at length. Traditionally, they were cooked in fire pits for at least three hours, and ideally for between one and three days. Caution should be taken not to confuse this species with the deadly meadow death-camas.[4]

Source: iNaturalist

By |2022-03-30T21:22:51-07:00October 17th, 2021|Past Featured Seeds|

The Seed I Dig: Papaver somniferum

By Tricia Sharpe
There are many types of poppies to enjoy: Iceland, California & Shirley varieties are all lovely. But if you want the culinary seeds rich in nutrients and antioxidants you need to look for Breadseed poppies. Papaver somniferum.

Besides providing delicious edible seeds, this variety is drought tolerant, deer resistant, loved by bees, and produces beautiful seed pods that can be dried for arrangements. The flowers range in colour from white, pink, red to purple that look beautiful planted en masse. Direct seeding is preferable as poppies do not like their roots disturbed.

The easiest way to grow Papaver somniferum in our climate is to surface sow seeds (they need light to germinate) in September-October, keeping the area moist until germination (7-15 days). They are hardy annuals, which means they are frost tolerant and will overwinter to bloom in May. If sown in early spring they will take about 90 days to maturity from the time of germination.

They require full sun and well-drained soil that is not too fertile. Excessive nitrogen in the soil results in poppies (and most flowers) producing abundant foliar growth at the expense of flower formation. Slugs love to eat poppy seeds and seedlings so better to plant extra then thin to 9-12 inches apart. Once in bloom, individual flowers only last a couple of days, but new flowers appear continuously from the same plant over several weeks. The seed pods will increase in size after the petals fall off.

If you are wanting to harvest the pods for dried flower arrangements or wreaths, the best time is when they are still a silvery-green colour, before being rained on. Water causes marks to form that create discolored brownish pods. To harvest for culinary use however, wait until late summer/early fall when the pods are brown and hard with the tiny windows open along the top of the pod. When you shake the pod, it should sound like a rattle, indicating the seeds have loosened and detached from the inner membranes along the seed wall. Ready to eat!

I like to cut the pods and place in a container that easily catches the seeds as they pour out. Allow to air dry for a couple days then store in a dry glass jar. Make sure to leave a few pods attached or scatter some of the ones you are cutting and they will happily re-seed themselves for you.

By |2022-03-30T22:56:15-07:00September 15th, 2021|Articles, Seedy Stories|

Artemesia annua – Sweet Annie’s First Summer

by Barbara Moore, founding member Seed Library of Galiano

This plant first floated into my awareness in 2012 while browsing Dan Jason’s Salt Spring Seeds catalogue. Our daughter had just survived a pretty intense bout of malaria after working in Cameroon. And now, here, I learned, was a locally available plant I could grow as a preventive and curative.

Artemisia annua, or Sweet Annie as it is affectionately known, is part of a large genus of plants which includes many potent and well-known medicinals, some of the most notable ones being A. absinthium (wormwood) and A. vulgaris (mugwort). In fact, the healing properties of this family are so vast and remarkable that in Spanish, wormwood is often referred to as the “Hierba Maestra,” or “Master Herb.”

Artemisia avnnua has been used extensively by the Chinese (known locally as ginghao) since 340 CE mainly to treat fevers. Yet it was not until the 1970’s that the essential Artemisinin component was identified and isolated as a treatment for Malaria. However, extensive recent research has shown the plant itself to be even more effective in treating and preventing malaria than the isolated pharmaceutical compound, because of what is known as the “synergy” between many active compounds within the plant. Our daughter and son-in-law have used it in subsequent stays in West Africa with repeated and remarkable success (in their words, “miraculous”). Amazingly, in contrast to the pharmaceutical treatments, the plant both cleanses the malaria parasites entirely from the blood, and also effectively treats strains of the disease which have become resistant to conventional treatment.

Even though malaria does not touch us in this part of the world, these findings speak to the incredible properties of the plant. For example, it has recently been featured as a possible preventive and cure for Covid-19. Though the verdict is still out on this use, the plant is currently being studied in major scientific research centres such as the Max Planck Society in Germany, who, after months of analysis, announced this past June that the extracts of dried Artemisia annua have been shown in the laboratory to be effective against the Covid-19 virus.

With all this in mind, I was curious to try to grow it. Dan Jason generously offered me a couple of packets of seeds which I successfully started and transplanted this spring. It’s always exciting to try a new plant and I was delighted to watch the tiny seedlings planted in late March sprout in our indoor growing area. Then they went to the greenhouse and finally into the garden in mid May. We left a couple of plants in the greenhouse with excellent results. The largest was a towering 8 or 9 feet. Most of the outdoor plants also did well and as luck would have it, our daughter and son-in-law were here in August at the opportune time to harvest them. The goal became to grow enough for tea throughout the winter. We dried and saved about one and a half kilos to supply tea two to three times a week for two people.

Sweet Annie is a stately delicate leaved annual, with a strong, arresting aroma, pungent yet sweetly aromatic. As a tea it is equally potent tasting! The flowers are tiny and inconspicuous, announcing that harvest is due just before they flower.

So this was a most intriguing plant to grow this year especially, and it really brought home reminders of plants’ abundantly generous properties to care for us – if we are open and aware and willing to work with them.

As is often the case, the pharmaceutical companies may discredit the ‘natural properties’ as opposed to the extracted essences which they have identified as superior. This big discussion often reveals the repeated themes of profitmaking control over locally trusted autonomy.

Certainly, this plant seems potent enough to be a useful part of a local herbal pharmacopeia. There are many, many articles and resources online. I’m also happy to talk to anyone about our experience with this newly loved member of our garden.
Now time to brew some Sweet Annie tea!

By |2021-10-19T22:07:13-07:00November 15th, 2020|Articles, Seedy Stories|

Tim’s Parsnip Seeds

by Joan Robertson

It was a gift – though unasked for – a passing on from an experienced gardener to a novice: parsnip seeds, jam-packed into an unused church collection envelope. Only when I got home and sat with my four gardening books did I find out about the low germination rate of parsnip seeds. “Plant thickly!” was the advice. I did, and I swear, every single seed sprang to life, and I spent hours that summer, on my knees thinning.

I’d met Tim years before, at a retreat for return CUSO (Canadian University Students Overseas) volunteers. While most huddled, unloading feelings of guilt for their part in the cultural imperialism machine, Tim drifted through, twinkle in his eyes, nodding kindly. He’d already been up to Cambridge to read History.

That sense of play never left. In 1993, he did time for his participation in the Clayoquot Sound protests. He’d been assigned to a minimum security facility, and was apparently greeted warmly as a tree-hugger. A friend, who worked for Corrections, hurried in to get him released. Tim, however, was in the middle of a game of bridge, and wasn’t leaving ‘till the round was over.

My gardening books had parsnip seeds, along with onions, placed firmly in the ‘1 year viability’ column. So the next year, still a novice and fearing failure, I planted thickly again, and again spent time on my knees – and so it went. What my books hadn’t mentioned was what I began to notice emerging around me: sturdy stalks, shooting skyward from the parsnip roots left unharvested in the ground. By fall, they became small trees, standing in the garden like sentinels, their tassels of diaphanous seeds dancing in the wind. Once bagged, however, those seeds seemed to like their own company, gathering together in clumps, so again tended to get planted ‘thickly’ the next spring.

Tim has now, in his words, ‘left the party early.’ There was no cure for his progressive, debilitating disease. Still on my knees, thinning in the late spring, I look up, imagining Tim laughing at me, with a twinkle in his eyes.
This spring, slugs enjoyed all but three of the parsnips. I missed the energy of abundant parsnips in the garden, and, this fall, I harvested next year’s seed with extra care.

By |2021-10-19T22:03:25-07:00October 15th, 2020|Articles, Seedy Stories|

The Seed I Dig: Pineapple Tomatillo

By Rob Butterfield

Our favourite seed of the year is… Pineapple Tomatillo! Chelsa and I got these seeds from our dear friend Nan, who has grown them for the past couple years. Every seed was viable! We sprouted them indoors in early March and ended up with so many starts that we were quickly trading them with other islanders. The plants were far more resistant to Pill Bugs (aka Roly Poly’s, Potato Bugs, Wood Bugs) than all our different types of tomatoes.

The Pineapple Tomatillos even ripened before our tomatoes and have made for a delicious fried green tomato style salsa. The seeds aren’t very noticeable when eating and the flavour is pretty sweet with a tart finish. I guess these are very similar to Gooseberries or Ground Cherries. The fun of husking the little paper lantern-like fruit is a fun ceremony unless you lack the patience to get to the centre of the Tootsie Pop, like me.

We will definitely grow these again!

By |2021-10-19T22:04:58-07:00August 15th, 2020|Articles, Seedy Stories|

Notes from the Field: Capsules of Magic

by Marlene Angelopoulos

I love seeds.

Can’t think of a favourite. They are all beautiful capsules of magic, but I really like the big ones! Pumpkins! Beans! Sunflowers! Easy to see and easy to handle and easy for the grandkids to watch them push through the soil and grow. Never a problem sowing too densely. Interestingly, the seed size doesn’t indicate plant size. For example, a little tiny tomato seed can become a six foot tangle of foliage and ripening fruit. Who would have thought it needed so much space!

Why do I grow and save my own seed? Seeds = food. To maintain a food chain free from GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) and to control my own food supply. To promote and preserve our agricultural heritage.

By growing seed genetically adapted to my specific climate and soil, I develop plants with proven performance, disease and pest resistance, superior quality, and most importantly: “Taste!”

Some saved seeds have stories. My sister and I still grow Dead Dad’s Beans. I know that’s a quirky name, but after he passed over 25 years ago it was how we started to identify them and it stuck. A memory. I still have a small vial of grain seed that was my grandfather’s. We are the living link of sometimes hundreds of years of growing heirloom plants.

Take your turn as a grower of these cherished crops. Save your seeds and keep planting!

By |2021-10-19T22:18:10-07:00July 14th, 2020|Articles, Seedy Stories|

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