Seedy Stories


By Barry New

I wanted to write an article about beans. Then I realized that I wrote my best thoughts two years ago. But I still wanted to write more. I include here a story that might bring it all back home.

Thirty four years ago I moved to Sheffield, in 1988, and right away I signed up for an allotment. It came through shortly after that. It became a retreat from my busy working life and an oasis from urban concerns. I had had it for 20 years before I gave it up to return to Canada. Fortunately, my neighbour from that time, Jack, adopted it and most of my plantings. Seeds from that plot were part of my baggage when I came through Canadian customs in 2008. (That is another story!)

Anyways, I was fortunate to be able to revisit Sheffield last October, 2022, after a five- year gap to reconnect with my oldest/best friends. One special day, I sauntered among the many allotment sites on Sheffield’s outskirts. I didn’t know what to expect after being away for 15 years but at my old plot I saw someone moving amongst the overgrowth. It was Jack!

We had first met 33 years before and he had kept my old plot. Some of my trees were still there and my old shed. It was late in the season and he was harvesting some beans and more. He gave me some of runner beans to share with the couple I was staying with. Interestingly he was growing much of the same things I would be growing on Galiano; Brassicas, squash, greens, and tomatoes. He shared some ‘tree spinach’ seeds I will be trying this year.

It was probably the most emotional episode of my trip. I walked back to my ‘digs’ noting how all the shopfronts had changed. While my mind was elsewhere, my legs that had taken me home a thousand times knew the way.

Upcoming Events:

SLOG will have a number of “Seedy Saturdays” planned this winter and spring.

We will have seed lending, sorting, and drop-offs on the following days:

Jan. 21 (Winter Market, South Hall 11-1)
Jan. 28 (Library 12-2)
Feb. 18 (Winter Market, South Hall, 11-1)
Feb. 25 (Library, 12-2)
Mar. 4 (Library, 12-2)
Mar. 11 (Library, 12-2)
Mar. 18 (Winter Market, South Hall, 11-1)
Mar. 25 (Library, 12-2)
Apr. 29 (Winter Market, South Hall, 11-1)

If you’d like to learn more about the Seed Library, our inventory and other resources are available on our website at:

By |2023-01-30T22:01:03-08:00January 30th, 2023|Articles, Seedy Stories|

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|

Favourite Food, Favourite Plant or Favourite Seed?

By Barry New, Seed Library of Galiano

I could give a number of answers but in the end for me thinking about seeds, it must be beans. I am now growing broad beans, bush beans, pole beans and especially Scarlet Runner beans. My runner beans could have been with me from 25-year-old saved seed. It is only recently that I have found a better way to enjoy the variety of dishes made from them. Beans do well in our soil and climate and it is not a crop that we have to be concerned about crop rotation. They enhance the soil.

Eat them fresh and young or open the pods for the more mature bean and use in many dishes. It is very useful to have a crop of beans dried in the pod to use throughout the winter. These can dry on the vine well into the Fall without concerns.

Beans are a staple food for many cultures, significant in nutritional value, and complement potatoes and grains. I am surprised broad beans are not more popular. I ate a young one this morning; May 23rd. They have a very long season and could be prolific. The best dish I have found is to make a bean pate with the dried bean: soaked overnight, boiled until tender and then easily peeled and flavoured to taste.

Beans are fun to grow. They could be problematic with planting them in the cool wet weather we have here in the Spring. They are vulnerable to slugs. Otherwise they germinate relatively quickly and are robust growers once the season warms up. To be sure, start them in seed trays or small pots or directly in the soil; I do all three.

By |2021-10-19T22:15:38-07:00June 11th, 2020|Articles, Seedy Stories|

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