Indian Summer

One of my most cherished activities is found in the sheer luxury of being able to go into my garden in the early morning to pick the flowers that will grace my home, and the greens that will become part of my midday meal. All summer I have been blessed by the deep reds, oranges and all shades of yellow found in my reliable and persistent nasturtiums that continue climbing along the front stairs, wending their way into and around the assorted potted plants that live there. And the roses, oh, the roses! Huge, fragrant, (very) old dark red roses. Trellised Pepto-pink roses. Small yellow variegated ones. Treasures beyond belief. The pastel blue and yellow pansies. Tiny purple violets. Snapdragons. Honeysuckle. Lavender and pink clematis. Red sage. And rosemary, cilantro, oregano; the lettuces, and the treasured arugula! Yum!

And now all this is about to change. For it is Indian Summer. Harvest. It is seed gathering time, to help ensure that much of the above is all possible again next year.

My kitchen table is now literally awash in plates and bowls full of various seeds, all at different stages of drying. The soft, wispy white of Romaine and leafy lettuces. The dry tan pods of coriander. (Shall I plant or season with them? Coriander is cilantro, you know.) The miniature black seeds of the California poppy. Cream-colored round pods full of rows of flat, dry seeds from red, white and pink hollyhocks. Precious, wrinkled pale green nasturtium seeds, drying on a Portmerion plate. Fading purple stocks of amaranth unexpectedly yielding a plethora of shiny black seeds that spill across the paper towel where they are drying. And to my great delight, this morning I found the blue and purple morning glories that border my vege garden are full of round dry paper-thin pods, each carrying small triangular black seeds, so I gratefully gathered a nice handful of those and added them to the store. How wonderful! How promising! And free!

In the center of the table is a large bowl full of tomatoes. Red cherry, yellow cherry, Russian heirloom and Early Girls, the latter my first such crop and now to become a staple, for sure, so generous was their consistent bounty. Each of these juicy wonderful red and yellow fruits also offers the promise of seeds for next year, should I make this the year I actually learn how to do that! I think the yellow cherries would be my first choice, as they were the spectacular taste surprise of the season, no doubt. A kind local gardener, very active in has sent me instructions for saving tomato seeds (which involves fermentation), so perhaps I will find the time and inclination.

To walk into the kitchen and be greeted by the plates and bowls of the seeds for my next garden is a wonderful, uplifting experience, I must tell you. Each bears the unfailing promise of abundance, of deliverance, of sustenance. Within each tiny seed is the profound miracle of the gift of life. It is staggering to contem-plate.

I find myself wondering how many people are actually practicing this. I’m imagining it is largely a lost practice and one actually somewhat in jeopardy, as (and I don’t want to dwell on this as it is quite sad and disturbing) there are actually people in companies who spend their time modifying plants that will not bear seeds, shocking an endeavor as that is, leaving consumers with no choice but to buy new seeds each year. Can you believe it? But, enough said about that, though the luxury of gathering seeds from one’s own garden perhaps has a slightly new importance when held in that light.

In the natural world, gathering seeds and having faith in their promise is precisely one of the great gifts of which we might avail ourselves if only our attentions were drawn in that precise direction. I recommend it!

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