WILD KITCHEN & APOTHECARY — Seeds for Future Generations

November 3, 2018

By Angela Kingsawan

Recently I was invited to give several herbal demos during a weeklong seed sovereignty conference in Acoma, New Mexico. I am so grateful to have been given this experience. It gave me the opportunity to step outside of myself and view seed and food sovereignty through a different lens. 

I was reminded that the movie Seed reported that in the United States we have lost more than 90 percent of our seed diversity in the past 100 years. That statistic was published in a 1983 Rural Advancement Foundation International study that compared the number of commercially available fruit and vegetable varieties in 1903 to the number of related varieties found in the National Seed Storage Lab in 1983 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The seed storage lab, a “gene bank”, was built in 1958 to preserve seeds and information about their provenance and about the plant characteristics the seeds produce.

The native corn seeds displayed on the table were offered in swap for seeds brought by those who attended a seed exchange conference held in Acoma, Ariz. Photo Angela Kingsawan

The organizer of the Acoma conference brought seeds that stopped me in my tracks. She was given a collection of seeds by the family of a Native American elder who had passed. She said that his family found seeds stashed away throughout his house. Some seeds were found in old butter containers or in jars. All of the seeds they found were rare and hadn’t been grown for generations. Some of the varieties were thought to have gone extinct.

Conference attendees were invited to participate in a seed exchange and were invited to be stewards of the seeds. As held I the seeds, I knew I was holding history in my hands and I was truly humbled. But the reality of what has happened to heritage seeds came flooding into my heart.  In North America and all over the world, we have lost plant species through hybridization and hyperdevelopment of land.

As I stood in awe taking in that display of seeds, my three-year-old daughter Elena dove right in! She was so happy and touched everything. All I could do was laugh and follow her lead. I observed what she was drawn, to and those were the seeds we chose to take home. 

I shared some of the corn varieties that I grow — Guarijillo Blue, Oaxacan Green Dent, Tarahumara Cacareno, Mountain Pima Maize Azul, Ho Chunk Red — and an assortment of my herb seeds.

Herbs provide us with so much. They can heal physical, emotional, and spiritual ailments. Herbs can be used to flavor our food, as medicine, for body care, and as cleaning products.

It is important that all of us realize the value of what is growing around us before it is too late. It’s also important to recognize that not only Native American seeds are endangered. Seeds from all cultures and all corners of the world need to be saved and protected. I encourage seed saving and sharing of seeds wherever I go, but it has to start at home. Listen to what speaks to you, regardless of the culture it originates from. Pick out one plant and commit yourself to growing and saving its seed from year to year. If we all do this, we can ensure a future filled with diversity and abundance.

It was heartwarming to see the different experience of participants, some who have grown gardens for many years, some who were new growers, and some, who, because of this conference, were inspired to begin planting for the first time. 

Even though we all came from different parts of the country, our hearts were very much the same. Sometimes we just need a little prompting to take action.

Flo and Leland Vallo made the ceramic seed pot that Angela Kingsawan displays in her hand. She is also holding Ho Chunk red corn seed, white ceremonial Acoma corn seed, and Mohawk yellow and red corn seed. Santana Phillips designed the seed container. He and Flo and Leland Vallo are members of the Acoma Pueblo in Acoma, Ariz. Photo Angela Kingsawan

Native Americans see plants as our relatives and our plant relatives reach out to us. Plants are here to nourish and heal us on a deep and meaningful level.  We, in return, are required to be responsible stewards of our environment to protect the plants.. We can fulfill that responsibility in a number of ways.

You don’t have to be an active gardener to save seeds. If you come across rare and beautiful plants, save their seeds. Or, you buy non-GMO open pollinated seeds, especially heirloom and heritage varieties, accept seeds from someone else, or gather seeds from nature. 

Once you have your chosen seeds, make sure they are completely dried before storing. Any moisture on or in the seed will cause them to mold and they will lose their viability. Store them in a clean and dry container. Synthetic materials don’t provide the moisture and temperature control necessary for long term seed storage, so I prefer glass or ceramic containers. Always label your jar with the name of the seed and the date which it was stored. This will be helpful later, just in case you forget.

If seeds are stored properly, they can last successfully for many years. There have been seeds found in ceramic vessels at archaeological sites that were still viable after 1,500 years.

Please realize that by saving seeds we all have the power to make a positive impact for our future generations.   

More seed saving advice:

Angela Kingsawan is the herbalist and garden coordinator at Core El Centro, a wholistic healing center. For information; core-elcentro.org

Articles by Trowbridge students

November 25, 2008

Kids in school lab Introduction
By Laura Schultz, Grade 8

Last school year, Trowbridge School began an emphasis on water studies. It started when teachers, parents, and community members got together before the school year began. They looked at the needs of our neighborhood. They realized that Lake Michigan was our biggest neighbor by far. They also had the vision that the students would benefit from intensive study about Lake Michigan, the Great Lakes, and water studies in general. We found community partners that would assist us in learning more about water. As the year continued several teachers took classes at UWM so they would have current knowledge about the impact of pollutants and toxins found in lakes. Our eighth grade class then conducted experiments about the effect of lead on fish. Each classroom participated in learning about water studies through guest speakers, field trips, and experiments. »Read more

Across the Line

September 27, 2008

By Katlyn Putney, St. Thomas More High School

I remember the day perfectly. I had just come home from a quick morning sail on the Gulf of Mexico. On my yellow Laser Radial, I had sailed from Fort Meyers Beach over to the bridge that goes across to Sanibel Island. My 15-year-old body handled the seven-knot winds easily. The sky was a bright blue and the sunshine beat down on my tan arms and legs. My wet and salty shoulder-length brown hair cooled my head in the heat. I even saw a few dolphins swimming under the bridge. It was the perfect day. »Read more

St. Lucas Roundtable Theater

July 25, 2008

(Photo by Rosie Jankiewicz)Almost half the fifth through eighth grade students of St. Lucas participated in Romeo & Juliet as actors, backstage crew, or event hosts. The St. Lucas Roundtable exists to introduce students to theater, to appreciate the beautiful language of Shakespeare and other playwrights, to grow in confidence in public speaking, and to challenge each student to grow academically, socially, and spiritually. Next year’s show will be William Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 13-14 at 6:30pm. »Read more

The Process Involves Practice

July 25, 2008

By Eli Midthun, 6th Grade

William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet was definitely an experience that will help me throughout my life. The first day we gathered in a classroom, went over the expectations and schedule, and then decided whether or not to commit to the play. For the first two weeks we watched a movie version of the play and listened to a CD of Shakespearean actors to better understand the characters and the play. Once we were done with the movie and CD, we had auditions. Then we decided what we would cut from Romeo & Juliet because we were trying to keep the show around two hours. »Read more

Much More Than Just What’s on Stage

July 25, 2008

By Claudia Reyes, 8th Grade

(Photo by Samantha Miller)Playing a role in my school’s production of Romeo & Juliet was a lot of fun. It brought a lot of new experiences, such as watching theater develop in our classroom. We had a stage in the middle of the classroom. The stage was definitely different and interesting. Mr. Gurgel, our teacher, was a foot taller! We had to really look up at him.

At first, the stage was merely a wooden platform. Then, slowly but surely it evolved into a stage. The stage crew added pillars and flats (scenery), then lights. Eventually, our classroom looked like a genuine theater. Each night before the show, students took the classroom desks out and carried in our “theater seating.” »Read more

All the Classroom’s a Stage

July 25, 2008

By Ashley LeRay, 8th Grade

(Photo by Rosie Jankiewicz)Have you ever heard the saying “All the world’s a stage”?

Well, the eighth grade class sure did as we transformed our classroom into a stage for the St. Lucas Roundtable’s production of Romeo & Juliet last fall. The stage took a week to construct but the preparation for the actual production took about three months.

Along the way, many of us learned new aspects about the world of acting, including blocking (stage directions) and auditions. Playing Juliet was a lot of work but also really fun because I got to hang out with my friends after school and began to know other students better. »Read more