We talk in the mornings, my sprouts and I.
As I tend to my newly sprouting Summer Zest Pak Choy — a kind of baby bok choy that enjoys the summer heat — and Chinese leek, I’m learning much about myself and the world that has raised me.
While I watch my sprouts grow taller, I’m reminded of their resilience. They have weathered those unpredictable April showers and the equally unpredictable April heat. In gloom or in full sun, they remain brightly green and upright.
My story with sprouts starts with my introduction to seed sovereignty, a movement that exists to reclaim seeds — and all that they bring — as a public good. Freely exchanging seeds along with having collective ownership and access to them, allows us to sustain heritage, culture, and even our health.
When people used to save seeds year-to-year, they were able to sustain themselves and their communities with what they had. As seeds grew and plants adapted, small changes occurred in the biological makeup of the seeds. Over time, crops grew to withstand the natural conditions they existed in.
That’s part of how biodiversity in plants and crops happens.
Without the seed saving practices of old, seeds aren’t built for the climates we raise them in. If the same supplier sells the same tomato seeds to someone in New York as someone in sunny California, caring for those tomato seeds demands vastly different kinds of attention — but the instructions on the seed packaging don’t say that.
It also means natural biodiversity and heirloom crops are both quickly disappearing. Not very many people save their own seeds anymore, which means more and more of us are using seeds sourced from the same supplier.
Some seed suppliers are trying to shift the tide.
Kitazawa Seed Company, for example, is a seed supplier that focuses on Asian heirloom crops. It’s a bit of a cult favorite amongst Asian-American home gardeners and farmers, and it’s also where I got my pak choy and Chinese leek seeds from.
The optimist in me wants to hope that the tide is turning. It must turn.
By engaging with seed sovereignty, I’m constantly reminded of a future closely on the horizon, one that I tell myself can and must be better for all of us. One where we have closer connections to the ground beneath our feet, the food that we eat, and the communities we build around ourselves.
I’m reminded of a past too — one that cared so deeply about future generations and planned to save seeds because of them. I exist only in the present, knowing that in conversation with my sprouts, linear time ceases to exist.
- Read a book to your sprouts. Assume that all sprouts are multilingual.
- Talk to them in the morning. Share secrets over lunch. Say goodnight before slumber.
- Watch and listen patiently, and know that they are much wiser than all of us.