Of all the wonders in this wide world, there is none quite like the seed. With time, sun, and a little luck, a brown speck that fits on your fingernail can grow into a vast sequoia. Last year’s spit picnic seeds can become this year’s watermelon patch. And flecks from a few potato flowers can feed a nation.
It begins tentatively: A root stretches into soil, a sprout reaches toward the sun. Yet contained within each garden seed is a living record of the long-gone farmers who, over thousands of years, nursed bitter wild leaves and toxic forest fruits into the greens, beans, and grains that sustain us today. With each crop, these farmers chose the tastiest, highest-yielding plants, saved the seeds, and passed those tiny pieces of magic down to their children, eventually creating the cultivars we now know.
“Just a couple of generations ago, everybody was a seed saver,” says Ben Cohen, a farmer and founder of the Michigan Seed Library Network and Central Michigan Seed Swap. “You had to be a seed saver to grow your own food.”