In the past few days, I faced the fact that the old seeds I rediscovered in my garage are probably not going to germinate. Extreme temperatures and improper storage have robbed them of life and they do not appear to be viable. I mourn their loss, but at the same time, I rejoice in the living seeds I have, treasured heirloom seeds that once thrived in my grandmothers’ gardens and now grow in mine.
While planting pepper seeds last week, I recalled Granny dried her beautiful peppers and hung them from strings. During the winter, she added them to many dishes she prepared, giving a spicy heat to beans, meats and other cold-winter meals. When spring planting time arrived, her pepper pods served as perfect seed-storage containers. With this memory fresh in mind, I called my mother. I told her how I remembered the long strings of dried peppers and how I wished I had taken a strand from Granny’s home when she died, in 1986. To my surprise, my mother asked, “Would you like to have the peppers I have?” I never thought to ask if she had any, but Granny gave my mother a beautiful blue Mason jar, complete with a glass “sealer” in the lid, full of her dried peppers. Her instructions, my mother said, were to put them in any cooked dish she wished to add heat. The answer to my mother’s question was a joyous, resounding, “YES! I would love to have the peppers!”
I drove to my parents’ home and my mother handed me the jar. I immediately opened the lid and removed a pepper, grown by Granny, and admired the beautiful color it still held. Breaking the pod open, I placed a seed on my tongue and offered some to my parents. My mother was brave enough to try, but my father, who is not a fan of spicy foods, declined. The seed left a spicy taste, delightfully “hot,” but not painfully so, although I did accept my mother’s offer of a glass of cold water!
Back at home, I placed some of the pepper seeds in a small bowl of lukewarm water in order to give them a “boost” for germination.
Many of them immediately sank to the bottom of the bowl, which I took as a good sign. Seeds that sink in water usually are viable and I pray this is the case. After an overnight soaking, I planted the seeds in a tray of potting mix, added water and prayers, and placed them under a grow light. Will my Granny’s peppers be included in my heirloom crops at Heart & Sold Gardens this summer? Is it possible for seeds, stored in the dried shells that held them when they were born, to germinate after more than thirty years? I’ll let you know . . .