Sunday, January 31, 2010

2nd Annual Seed Swap

In honor of National Seed Swap Day, a host of organizations (Forest Garden Urban Ecology Center, Center for Local Self Reliance, Sustainable Bellingham, Food Not Lawns, Earthcare Garden Designs and Transition Whatcom) sponsored our 2nd Annual Seed Swap. Held in downtown Bellingham at the Center for Expressive Arts, this was my first year to attend. Said to be for anyone with extra seeds to share or for those wanting seeds to grow, a presentation on why and how to save your own seeds was of particular interest to me.Hoping to learn something about seed saving and maybe pick out some varieties of beans that were well suited for drying, within minutes of entering the room, I felt welcomed by the group and knew that I would be very glad that I had attended this seed swap. I particularly enjoyed how shortly after the opening of the event, different people told a little about the history of some of the seeds they had brought to share. After listening to just the first few stories and their offers to share, I felt that this seed swap should have more appropriately been called a "seed sharing". They were amazing, heartwarming stories that left me wishing that I had ten times the garden space so that I could grow at least a few of each of their precious seeds and feed all my friends and everyone up and down my block. Here is just one of the many tables that was filled with seeds at the swap.One man shared a generous supply of Heirloom Imperial Scarlet Beans with me. Those beans, saved year after year, originated from a small supply carried in a pocket in 1912 all the way from northern Italy to Seattle. Said to have prolific yields on their 10' to 15' long runners, I can't wait to see what kind of trellis I'm going to be making this summer in order to successfully accommodate these beans. He had another bucket of special beans with him too, and said they had been originally brought to Ely, Minnesota by Slovakian immigrants in the early 1900s. Now, he simply calls them Ely Beans as even though the beans themselves have carried on year after year, over time the actual name of those beans got lost. He said they are excellent eaten as green beans, and when allowed to dry, make some of the best chili ever.

Remember, one of the reasons I had attended this seed swap was because I was interested in beans that would be good dried, but by the time I walked out of there, besides having been able to talk about growing things with the many awesome gardener friends I made there, those with seeds to share had not only loaded me up with their great stories, but loaded my bag up with seeds too.
Here's what I got:
  • Beka Brown Bush (from Krista's Bean Project* garden)
  • Blue Lake Pole (from Krista's Bean Project* garden)
  • Molasses Face Bush - Dry (from Krista's Bean Project* garden)
  • Black Turtle (from Krista's Bean Project* garden)
  • Ely Beans
  • Imperial Scarlet Beans
  • Painted Lady Beans
  • Organic Bean Blend - Bush (a mix of Royalty Purple Pod, Golden Wax and Dragon Tongue)
Wow, looking over that list of beans, it did get a lot. Except for the Imperial Scarlet Beans that were so generously shared with me, in most cases, however, I received as few as only 6 to 8 beans in many of the other varities. Often splitting the contents of a small packet that had already been made up with another gardener so that we could both try them, it looks like some of us will have our own Bean Project* garden.

While I haven't yet sketched out where exactly in my gardens each of these wonderful varities of beans will be planted, I suspect the best way for me to plant most of them will be in hills rather than rows. It's certainly a wonderful assortment of beans, and they all seem most appropriate to be included in my participation with the Growing Challenge, EXTREME Evangelistic Edition this year.

With the goal of saving seeds from each again for next year, I feel the need to first do a little research in not only how to grow each of these varieties, but more specifically in how close, or far, from each other they need to be planted so that I don't end up with a bunch of cross-pollinated beans at the end of this season.


  • Iron Leaf Spinach
  • America Spinach
Organic Herbs:
  • Cilantro
  • Dill - Bouquet
  • Parsley - Moss Curled
Organic Carrots:
  • Atomic Red
  • Gourmet Carrot Blend - Red, Purple, White, Yellow and Orange

Organic Radishes:

  • Cherry Belle
  • Pink Beauty
  • Sparkler
Other Vegetables:
  • Champion Collards
  • Organic Dark Green Zucchini
  • Jester Marigolds
  • Crocosmia Lucifer - bulbs, some with tender shoots
More pics from the 2nd Annual Seed Swap.

Like one of the speakers at the seed swap said, "we were there to pursue the survival of the species - and have a good time." This seed swap, an absolute success. And we certainly did have a good time!
* Krista's Bean Project garden came about because over the years the history of heirloom beans that do well here in the Pacific Northwest had gotten lost - but the bean seeds had not. So, Krista said she grew beans and grew beans and grew beans, year after year in her garden (which really sounded to me to be a bit more like a good sized farm than merely a garden) and documented her findings, coming up with a list of beans that are best suited to our cooler temperatures and somewhat shorter growing season.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a great time. Wish I could have come too!


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