Since I discovered “treasures” in January, I have planted ninety of the three hundred and four tomato seeds in rich potting soil and have supplied them water, light and prayers, but so far, there is no sign of germination. While I wait for that first tiny seedling to emerge from a thirty-year dormancy, I remain hopeful and although I realize the odds are not in favor for these seeds to become plants, I still “feel” life in them after they soak. Perhaps that is imagination or a connection to my grandmother, but time will tell and there are two hundred and fourteen remaining chances. Although Granny’s tomato seeds have yet to emerge, other heirloom plants are beginning to grow, continuing a life cycle I regard as miraculous.
Celebrating the first day of Spring, my son, Clark, and I planted a salad bed in the small kitchen garden at our home. A variety of lettuces, radishes, onions and shallots will offer delicious treats that are more easily accessible than plants grown at our farm, a ten-mile drive from home. Since the lunar calendar dictated that March 20th was also a good day to start seeds, we filled trays with potting soil and 257 seeds. Forty types of tomatoes and twenty-eight pepper varieties are represented in our carefully labeled trays. As we talked about the different peppers we were planting, I remembered the many strands of dried peppers hanging from a door in Granny’s home. Mental head slap; that’s where she kept her pepper seeds! Dried peppers could be used for cooking and the remaining ones would have been used to start the next year’s plants. Even dried, the colors were beautiful and I wish I had kept some of those for my own garden. . .
The following day, I filled an aluminum baking tray with soil and took two of the five Sungold tomatoes from a bowl in my kitchen, where they had rested since last Fall. Although a bit dried and a little rubbery, I could feel the juice inside and after I squeezed the tiny cherry tomatoes over the dirt, I licked my fingers and the taste of heirloom tomato, pure Summer goodness, was still there. I then put twelve more of Granny’s precious seeds and a jalapeno pepper, dried from my garden two years ago, in small bowls, filled with lukewarm water, to soak. The following day, I placed those seeds in the “birthing chamber.”
On March 25th, my daily morning check of seed trays was a time of joy. Two tiny green shoots had emerged and I lifted the interior tray to read the label. Snow White! Isn’t it interesting that, of all the hundreds of seeds I planted in March, the first to emerge from that state of suspended animation is none other than Snow White? A lovely cherry tomato, Snow White was one of the most prolific producers at our farm last Summer and I am thrilled to have her rejoin us this year. Just in the past two days, a few eggplants, numerous celery seeds and several other tomatoes have germinated, including eight Sungolds, the very ones that were planted from leftover tomatoes just four days earlier.
Although our North Carolina days are still chilly and the nights have been downright cold, the bright green seedlings in my greenhouse and “birthing chamber” are harbingers of Spring and I welcome them with gratitude.