stellar seeds

Despite my valiant efforts last spring, I remain sadly lacking in the gardening department. Now more than ever, I am in awe of those able to work in harmony with nature’s rich complexities and actually grow something; especially if it is edible. When asked how they do so, these people often tell me how easy it is. I suppose that once one has experiential understanding of its laws, it then has a certain rhythm to it…? Still, I remain convinced that those of you who hold and apply such knowledge are somehow able to access a direct line to the divine.

On day 2 of our conference 'The Power of Food Systems: Forging Strong Relationships', I was fortunate enough to partake in the ‘Field to Fork’ event. Part of the day included a visit to a seed workshop at ‘Left Fields Farm’. Led by Patrick Steiner, founder and operator of Stellar Seeds (all organic), it was an incredible opportunity to learn, hands on, how to sort, clean and preserve seeds.

Patrick's t-shirt. (by artist G. Hill from Alert Bay)

Patrick is both charismatic and enthusiastic when sharing his knowledge, making him a natural as a teacher. As he led us through different stations to collect each seed species, I somehow felt he was teaching us something that deep down, we already knew. We are from seed and we eat from seed and we consume seeds in much of what we eat. We are interconnected to the process on so many levels. I honestly feel that what I was taught that day is one of the most important and potentially useful skills a human being can learn. It touches on health, science, the environment, heritage, community, economy and empowerment. It is our past, our present and, most significantly, our future.

Left Fields Farm is home to both Stellar Seeds and Crannog Ales, which is Canada's only certified organic farmhouse microbrewery.

Patrick takes our tour group out into the field to collect drying bunches of 'Amish snap peas'.

Stomping on the bunches to loosen the peas from their shells.

Sifting the stomped bunches of peas through a screen is the next step in sorting the seeds from the chaff.

Fanning the chaff away from the pea seeds. A second bucket sits directly below the first, catching the seeds as they fall straight down and away from the blowing chaff.

Mostly cleaned pea seeds. At this stage, the last of the chaff can be removed by hand.

Drying bunches of beans. Separating the bean seeds from the chaff is done by using the same method as for the peas.

Shelled beans.

Fermenting tomatoes (gardener's delight and golden cherry) being crushed for sorting. Next, the tomatoes are divided into 3 separate buckets and topped up with water. The pulp rises to the top, is poured off, and then the process is repeated another 2-3 times, until the water is clear. Then the mixture is poured through a sieve, leaving the seeds ready to spread thinly on a plate to dry.

Tomato seeds drying in the sun.

Farm apprentice, Nicha, scooping out the cucumber seeds.

Cleaned cucumber seeds, drying in the sun. These seeds are separared and cleaned by using the same method as for the tomatoes.

Lucky pigs get (seedless) cucumber snacks.

Sorted corriander seeds. The process for cleaning these seeds is quite similar to the method used for peas and beans, except that instead of stomping on the seeds with your feet, they are rubbed between your hands.

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