Book review: Seed to Seed: Seeding Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth

With a packet of seeds sometimes as low as a dollar, you may rightly ask why someone would go through all the bother of saving seeds. Well, in some cases it’s just ridiculously easy – with legumes, for instance, the seeds are the part you eat, so you’re saving them anyway. Another reason is adaptability. If you save seeds from your best and brightest for even just a few years you will have a plant that is better adapted to your particular microclimate than what you would get from the seed catalog. Generations of seed saving by gardeners developed varieties adapted to the climate, pests, and diseases of particular regions before large-scale plant breeding began.

I hear a lot of people saying that there is no good reason to grow heirloom vegetables – that commercial varieties much have replaced them for a good reason. A good commercial reason, yes, but not a good culinary reason. Many heirloom varieties prized by home growers are delectable but too delicate to be machine-picked, or bear fruit that will not ripen off the vine, or are too ephemeral to survive a week’s shipment to a grocery store.

OK, that diatribe aside, here’s what I have to say about Seed to Seed (sorry it’s so short, but it’s a succinct book): This handy book covers pollination methods, techniques for maintaining varietal purity, cleaning methods, and storage techniques for most vegetable seeds (and a few less-common kinds like Malabar spinach and skirret). This is a straightforward guide for the scientifically-minded non-scientist gardener. I definitely recommend it.

This year I saved bean seeds as usual, and also pumpkin seeds (another easy one), but armed with what I’ve learned from this book I will branch out a bit next year and save tomato seeds, cucumber seeds, and maybe some seeds from overwintered biennials like parsnips or leeks. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s the book, but I’m rather excited about the idea now!

— Amanda


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