The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (2/23/2013)
Her cherry pies were delicious; however, she baked them with pits. This meant that they could only felicitously be eaten in her backyard, allowing the diner to spit the pits as projectiles onto the back lawn. Small boys were particularly fond of her cherry pies. She said that she didn’t want to take the trouble to pit the fresh cherries from her backyard cherry tree. Besides, she added, “The pits add to the flavor of the pie.” Her lawn was a nursery for cherry tree seedlings.
I’ve forgotten her name by now. It was about sixty years ago when I ate her cherry pies. She was a bit daft. When I asked her about the highlights of her trip to
she replied that it was “having tea with the Pope’s wife.” She went on to say, “She was such a
delightful woman.” A widow when I knew
her, she had her late husband’s dress coat of tails cut to fit her which she
regularly wore in town when shopping.
She was a dowager in the small town on the
where I was a pastor. Small towns seem
to tolerate odd personalities far better than large cities. There is more room psychologically as well as
spatially. The only places odder are
university faculties, and they’re tightly compacted. As a consequence, my second parish was filled
with unique people, but that isn’t the point.
My recollections of her delicious cherry pies with pits set me to
thinking about seed saving.
Years ago, when I first heard of seed saving, the first word that came to my mind was “quaint” and then “luddite,” a kind of primitive return to simpler times. So many of the seed savers I knew were horticultural fundamentalists, anti-modernist in their tendencies, fervently chanting, “Gimme that old time religion. It’s good enough for me.” I thought, “Why save seeds when it’s so convenient to buy them?” Besides, thumbing through seed catalogues is lots of fun.
Now, Fundamentalists are basically reactionary, reacting to the emptiness of a fast track society, wanting to save the heirloom beliefs of the past. The trouble is that they save the chaff of the past mistakenly thinking that they’ve kept the wheat.
An industrial, commercial, and electronically digitalized society reduces and eliminates differences and idiosyncrasies. A reductionist society doesn’t tolerate either the odd and the daft or the seeds of a wide variety of plants. It cultivates only those types of seeds that easily produce the most abundant crops and are, thus, the most profitable commercially.
In the Great Irish Potato Famine in the middle of the 19th century over a million people died relying on one type of potato. When the potato blight, originating in the
Valley in central Mexico, infected the potatoes in
almost all the potato crops failed.
Since potatoes were the mainstay of the Irish diet, especially amongst
the poor, there was mass starvation and, hence, the Irish migration to Ireland . America suffered about a 25% loss
of population. Ireland
Commercial and industrial agriculture is setting us up for the same catastrophe, reducing the varieties of food we eat to those that are the most commercially profitable, laying our food supply open to a new blight. If there are many varieties, then if one variety collapses because of blight, there are other varieties free of disease. In corporate sociopathy, greed prevails over safety and well-being.
Many times throughout my life, I have come to believe that which I originally disparaged, certainly politically and theologically, and now horticulturally. As I learned in college, I don’t have to be a Fundamentalist to be a Christian. Unless a person is a politician, it’s all right to change one’s mind. As a matter of fact, it’s often regarded as a sign of intelligence.
Seed saving is a simple, down-home way of preserving our food supply. If the big boys won’t do it, then the backyard gardeners will have to do it. Three sources on seed saving are: http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/vegetable/seed.html, http://www.library.pima.gov/seed-library/, and Jeff Schalau, the Yavapai County Extension Director. To find him: type “Jeff Schalau Saving Seeds” on your search engine.
Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2013