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The Forgotten Seed, What I Learned From Mother Nature

When life hands you dirt, plant seeds

Like every other home, mine has a little catch all drawer. You know that place of random items — full of paper clips, chopsticks, spare change and those thick purple bands that hold together bunches of asparagus. One day when I was searching for who knows what, I found a random packet of tomato seeds years  past their expiration.

Finally trying to get my drawers organized, I realized I should just throw those seeds away but somehow I just didn’t have the heart. So I did the grown up thing and just ignored it. But every so often in our covid-lockdown, I kept seeing that little seed packet with the cheerful red tomato on the front languishing in that still messy drawer.  

Even though all my professional training and decades of experience as a landscape designer suggested otherwise, I wondered if there was any chance that they might grow.  

This moment came when I was feeling most anxious about being at home for weeks on end.  And home with a high school senior who couldn’t go to prom or graduation, let alone knowing if he was going to have a freshman year at college and a sophomore who missed her friends, basketball team mates and was tired of being so hemmed in.

So I figured it was the perfect time to do something with those seeds well past their sell by date.  I managed to pull my daughter from Instagram and got her to help me fill a cardboard egg container with leftover potting soil moldering in a bag outside.  The mold almost did her in but together we filled those little egg compartments with the leftover soil, planted the seeds and hoped for the best. I was of course transported back to her pre-school days when these kinds of projects were her weekly “homework”.   

Filled with blind optimism we both crossed our grubby fingers and waited. Their care became our daily ritual.  We took turns watering them, setting our egg carton in the warm morning sun and bringing it in from the chill at night.

 After two weeks, nothing happened. There was no sign of life, only a pitiful layer of mold.  Just as the whole experiment was about to go in the trash, my daughter looked closer and said she thought that they were growing. The green fuzz we saw wasn’t mold at all but tiny seed heads popping through the soil.  

By the beginning of May,  we were over the moon to have 12 beautiful seedlings that are now growing in their own pots outside. Their very existence seems somewhat miraculous. And although these little beauties are only a few inches tall and we haven’t yet eaten a bite, we are strangely gratified. It is as if we can almost taste them, beautifully sliced, delicious homegrown tomatoes that we will drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with basil or eat them like an apple.

When we can meet again, we will share them with our friends. We are looking forward to the day in the not too distant future where we will pick a ripe fruit from the vine that we grew together.  What is more delicious than a home grown tomato I ask? Apparently one that you grow yourself. 

Growing our own tomatoes required no skill on our part. All that was needed was optimism, a dash of sunlight and a bit of care. Mother nature did the hard work.  

The joy I feel seeing these seedlings thrive is so reassuring. It is a reminder that now we’re all stuck in this hard moment or long forgotten in a drawer, with minimal effort, even expired tomato seeds will grow… but you have to plant them first. 
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