Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Really Long but Important Article on Seed...

Wondrous Seed

Have you ever stood under a Giant Sequoia? If you never is a remarkable experience. No matter how many times I see them in person I am always amazed at how enormous they are. The feeling I get is as if I am standing at the foot of a Brontosaurus or some other larger than life dinosaur. While not as old as the is amazing to think that one of those tree's has been recorded as being as much as 3,500 years old! That antedates the ministry of our Savior!

Not only are they old...they are tall. The tallest of these trees is named "General Sherman" and now towers some 274.9 feet! To get the whole tree into the viewfinder of a camera is a feat. I can remember myself and a group of Japanese tourists backing up away from the General....further and further...unable to photograph anything more than the trunk...and then finally turning and walking a good football fields length from the tree before we could photograph the whole tree!

What baffles the mind is that these giants are borne out of the growth that comes from a tiny...seemingly insignificant fleck of a seed. The seed is held inside of a scale-like seed case...and it is the size of a pinhead!...and yet...bundled up in that minuscule seed lies all of the genetic information and life required to give us one of the absolute wonders of nature.

Seeds truly are a marvel. They have the ability to lie long-term hibernating bears...awaiting the conditions that will make it possible for them to survive. We count on them to lie dormant until we "wake them up" at a time we choose...when we go to plant our gardens. As we prepare our garden beds to plant our precious saved seeds...and run our rakes back and forth disturbing the soil we may also wake up potentially unwelcome dormant weed they find their way to the surface and find the sun...moisture...and air that they also need to begin their lives.

As I pour my seed into the palm of my hand out of a seed packet...I am amazed at all of the sizes and shapes...and colors...some with swirling tails...spots...or wings. Many are as much a wonder as the plant they produce. In my minds eye I romanticize a heavenly art studio...where an artist sits at an art desk busily designing seeds and the plants they will produce.

The Creator and Seed

While that may or may not be how they are designed...we do know that they exist by the command of the Creator. The opening chapter of the Old Testament records...

Gen. 1: 11-12, 29

11 "And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

29 ¶ And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat."

So...the Creator made seeds to produce after their own kind....which means that a seed taken from the mother plant will produce a plant like the mother plant. Are you aware that there are basically two types of seeds on the market nowadays? Those that are made as God made produce after their own kind...called "open pollinated" seeds...or those that have been artificially hybridized by man in an attempt to increase some sort of desirable trait...such as disease resistance...yield...etc.

Open pollinated seeds have the ability...with produce a seed that can be saved from generation to generation. The best of these are generally given an "heirloom" status which basically means that they are of good enough quality to have been kept for a long time. The hybrid plants will produce a seed that is not reliable to grow a plant like the mother plant...and if it grows a plant at all it will be quite inferior to the mother plant.

For preparedness...I am a huge advocate of using only open pollinated/heirloom variety seeds. While I can concede that one would be hard pressed to find a variety of open pollinated corn that can compete with the sweetness of a hybrid variety...and that there may be some hybrid types that are desirable for their various traits...I say emphatically...THERE IS NO LONG TERM SELF RELIANCE TO BE HAD IN HYBRID SEED!!! With hybrid are at the mercy of the seed supplier to give you new seed every season! What if they close down their business.? What if you have no way to get the seed delivered? What if the supply runs out...or the price goes so high you can't afford it? Without the seed supplier...with hybrid seeds you have one plant to grow and then you are done. That will work fine if your time of disaster is only one season...but what if it is longer?!

I agree with Alma who said...

Alma 32:31 "And now, behold, are ye sure that this is a good seed? I say unto you, Yea; for every seed bringeth forth unto its own likeness."

The Book of Mormon and Seed

Ezra Taft Benson said in "The Book of Mormon- Keystone of Our Religion"

"Each of the major writers of the Book of Mormon testified that he wrote for future generations. Nephi said: “The Lord God promised unto me that these things which I write shall be kept and preserved, and handed down unto my seed, from generation to generation” (2 Ne. 25:21). His brother Jacob, who succeeded him, wrote similar words: “For [Nephi] said that the history of his people should be engraven upon his other plates, and that I should preserve these plates and hand them down unto my seed, from generation to generation” (Jacob 1:3). Enos and Jarom both indicated that they too were writing not for their own peoples but for future generations (see Enos 1:15–16, Jarom 1:2).

Mormon himself said, “Yea, I speak unto you, ye remnant of the house of Israel” (Morm. 7:1). And Moroni, the last of the inspired writers, actually saw our day and time. “Behold,” he said, “the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you.

“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing” (Morm. 8:34–35).

If they saw our day and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is not that how we should study the Book of Mormon? We should constantly ask ourselves, “Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?”"

There is no fluff in the Book of Mormon. Prophets that saw our day...and events in our future put those things in it...that would be of use for us in OUR DAY.

So what does the Book of Mormon teach about seed that we should know for our day?

First I will say that the word "seed" is probably the most often used piece of agriculture in all of the scriptures. A bulk of the time it is used as a metaphor for ones posterity. The rest of the time "Seed" seems to be used in the context of a literal seed that one would put in the soil to grow a plant.

Here are most of the Book of Mormon uses of the word "seed" in that context that I could find...

The following three scriptures are from Lehi's families journey...

1 Nephi 8:1 And it came to pass that we had gathered together all manner of seeds of every kind, both of grain of every kind, and also of the seeds of fruit of every kind.

1 Nephi 16:11 And it came to pass that we did gather together whatsoever things we should carry into the wilderness, and all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given unto us; and we did take seed of every kind that we might carry into the wilderness.

1 Nephi 18:6 And it came to pass that on the morrow, after we had prepared all things, much fruits and meat from the wilderness, and honey in abundance, and provisions according to that which the Lord had commanded us, we did go down into the ship, with all our loading and our seeds, and whatsoever thing we had brought with us, every one according to his age; wherefore, we did all go down into the ship, with our wives and our children.

After they arrived in the promised land the record states...

1 Nephi 18:24 And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance.

To summarize what is a family that was commanded by God to gather provisions for a journey and then to flee a wicked homeland and to make their way through a wilderness to live on a ship...shut out from the outside world for what could have been a year or so based upon the dates in the lower corners of the pages...which meant that for a time they would survive on only their stored provisions...after which the circumstances would allow for them to be able to till the earth and plant all of their seeds to have food to eat after their stored provisions had been depleted.

Nephi wants us to know that they did not casually grab a few seeds...but instead stored "seeds of every kind". He tells us this 4 times! If there was a chance that you could one day be surviving on what you could produce in a garden like the Lehites...would you store a few seeds...or would you store "seeds of every kind"?! I would store the latter...and do. I want to make sure that I have a variety of plants that could grow in different seasons and have a multitude of uses.

We were told by Marion G. Romney in General Conference April 1975 that "We will see the day when we will live on what we produce." In light of that prophecy that was repeated in General Conference at least another 2 times...once by Victor L. Brown and another time by J. Richard seems prudent to store seeds of every kind in preparation for a day when we may have to live on what we can grow.

Here is very similar story of a Book of Mormon families experience...

Ether 1:41 states the Lords command to the people of the Brother of Jared to gather together "the seed of the earth of every kind"

...and then Ether 2: 3 states their follow through with the commandment...

"And they did also carry with them deseret, which, by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees, and all manner of that which was upon the face of the land, seeds of every kind."

Ether 6:13 states that "they went forth upon the face of the land and began to till the earth"

To summarize this families experience...their family was told to gather provisions...and to flee a wicked homeland to ultimately board a ship...separated from the outside subsist upon food they had stored and other provisions for the space of 344 days...just under a year...until circumstances were such that they were able to come out and plant their seeds of every kind and eat their planted food as opposed to the now depleted food supply they had been surviving on.

Sound familiar!? Basically the same experience.

Now read 2 Ne. 5: 11, which covers a different time and place...

"And the Lord was with us; and we did prosper exceedingly; for we did sow seed, and we did reap again in abundance. And we began to raise flocks, and herds, and animals of every kind."

Here...during a time of political/civil unrest...a people separate from a wicked people and flee to another land seeking safety...they till and plant and have success.

Now read Mosiah 9:9...

"And we began to till the ground, yea, even with all manner of seeds, with seeds of corn, and of wheat, and of barley, and with neas, and with sheum, and with seeds of all manner of fruits; and we did begin to multiply and prosper in the land."

Here...during a time of political/civil unrest...a people separate from a wicked people and flee to another land seeking safety...they till and plant and have success.

Basically the same story!!! The repetition should rivet our attention...and make us ask questions like..."Why did the authors of the Book of Mormon include these stories with such similar details?" "Could they have seen events in our future that they hoped to help us prepare for by repeating very similar hopes that we would follow their example?"

Often I hear people explain applications of scriptures...only figuratively. For example in this instance they might say "This teaches me that our families need to stick together when we are going on the journey of life...and we need to supply ourselves with the provisions of gospel truth...and separate ourselves from bad things by turning off bad TV shows...and we need to work together to plant the seeds of our faith so that they will grow and we will have the fruit of happiness". While this is may be true...I think that literal applications of the Book of Mormon are often not made.

A literal view of these scriptures would give you the message that there may actually be a day when the Lord warns you to leave your home to escape from a wicked place...separating yourselves from the wicked. You may have to gather whatever provisions you have to to survive. You may have travel a great distance...and live for a time on whatever you have stored. Then you could find yourself like all of these 4 examples...with a piece of land...and a packet of seeds...earning your food by the sweat of your brow...that is of course...if you had the foresight to store them!!! Are you ready to go!!!???

Seed Storing

A couple of years ago I found a box out in the garage that had 10 or so packets of seed. Common varieties of carrots, squash, cucumber, tomatoes, and corn. The dates varied on each packet...but I don't think a single packet was less than a decade old. To my knowledge...they spent their entire life in a hot garage with no real protection from the elements. Just as an experiment I planted those seeds...and to my surprise...up came the carrots and corn!!

While that may seem is dwarfed by the work of Soren Odum...who was able to sprout seeds that were 1.700 years old!! The average gardener should not expect the same least not without the aid of some incredible science!!

The prophet Ezra Taft Benson told us...

"Store seeds and have sufficient tools on hand to do the job."

So how do we do that effectively?

It is widely understood that with the passing of time the germination rate of seed goes progressively down. Not all seed will store for the same length of time either. The germination rate can be monumentally improved if the seed is stored properly. "Properly" basically means to limit the amount of sunlight, moisture, and heat the seeds are exposed to. A constant temperature is also ideal as well.

There are different ideas about how best to accomplish this. I agree with Carole B. Turner who wrote"Seed Sowing and Saving" and Suzanne Ashworth who wrote "Seed to Seed". Put your seeds in ziploc bags...envelopes....or a variety of other containers and then to put it into a jar with a sealable a canning jar or a baby food jar. Then take that jar and put it in a cool dark place. Personally my cool dark place is my outside refrigerator. I would not recommend putting seed in the freezer as you may destroy the seed if the moisture content in the seed is too high.

Canned Seed for Long Term Storage?

There are companies selling cans of garden seed meant for "long term" storage. I think it is usually purchased with the thought that..." is my doomsday garden kit!"

While I don't think it is a necessarily a bad it get's people to have some seed on hand...and it is a can you could grab and flee with quickly...I have a few concerns about this approach.

1. Do the people that buy these cans also have short term seed that they are using now? Are they practicing the skills they will need to grow food? Like growing plants from seed as opposed to just going and buying seedlings?

2. Will the people who buy these cans let decades pass without rotating the seed...perhaps storing it out in their garage...(like so many people do with their food storage)...and when their hour of need comes...will they still germinate?

3. Are the prepacked vegetable seeds the varieties that grow well in the buyers region?

4. Are those the varieties that the buyers family likes to eat?"

Personally...I think don't think canned long term storage of seed is really necessary. I bet I can get my seeds to germinate just as effectively....that are kept in my cool dark the ones that are sealed in a can....even after the same amount of time. Rotating them doesn't require for me to break into my precious expensive can of seed either!!

Buying Seed

I'd encourage you to get online and type "heirloom seed" or "open pollinated seed" into a search engine. Find some suppliers and request their seed catalogs to come to your home. Many have them for free. In those catalogs you will find a wealth of information regarding the varieties they sell.

Here are some seed suppliers that I really like...

Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply - The retail location is located in Grass Valley. It is the local "mecca" of organic gardening. They carry most everything. They have a large selection of open pollinated, organic fertilizers....etc...etc...and a helpful staff. They also do orders online and I'm sure over the phone.

Seeds of change has a great selection of organic open pollinated seed and a beautiful catalog. Their staff are super helpful...and will answer any question you've got. They have donated seed to my preschool in the past...and I have been really happy with the results.

Baker Creek has an unreal amount of heirloom varieties that I've seen nowhere else. Especially with regards to their tomato and melon collection. They also have many varieties that they have brought back from other countries. Their catalog makes everything look and sound so good!

Turtle Tree Seed is...I entirely local outfit. Various local farms and gardens supply the seed. Some friends at the Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks supply with them with seed that is excellent. These are seeds that are adapted to 0ur region. I have eaten many a vegetable grown from this seed...yum.

Saving Seed

Learning to save seed from year to year can really be an art. Some varieties of vegetable require certain physical distances from other varieties that could compromise their "seed purity"...and other skills. Others are really tomatoes and many herbs.

There are many videos on youtube on saving seed. Here is one on saving tomato seed.

I would also recommend the books that I mentioned earlier "Seed to Seed" and "Seed Sowing and Saving". These books can walk you through step by step what to do with each variety. You might also check out the great work that is being done by organizations like the seed savers exchange.

Seed in Crisis

Heirloom varieties of all kinds of vegetables and flowers are disappearing. Many of these seeds have been passed down from generation to generation...but what happens when grandma can't find anyone interested in continuing the legacy?! The seeds get lost...and ultimately they die when she does. I have read that half of the seeds that existed earlier in our nations history are now extinct! That is not necessarily because they weren't good!

In addition...although there seems to be increased interest in heirloom seed...hybrid varieties have largely pushed them off of the shelves. Seed companies can make more money when they can count on you spending your money on their seed every year...instead of saving your own seed. Really...that is what has driven...what I consider to be the abomination of "terminator" technology. Seed that has been purposefully made to not produce a viable seed from the mother plant. Remember this..."He who controls the seed...controls the food." How do you think God feels about man taking his creation that by his command was made to produce in kind...and altering it so that it would not produce "meat" for man?!

Then there is the issue that comes with genetically modified plants. There is some really creepy and scary stuff going on out there.

Watch this documentary entitled "The Future of Food". It will surely get you interested in saving seed!!!!

My admonition to you is to get familiar with how to grow food in your region...grow heirloom varieties from seed....and learn how to save the seed for next years garden! You will truly find an increased sense of self reliance...a kinship with the Creator...and enjoy wonderful produce in the process!


  1. Your article is, as usual, wonderful and fascinating. You are a gift to the world with your enthuisiasm dear friend. May I print the hightlights I need for our ward?

  2. You are kind.

    Yes...feel free to reprint whatever you would like!