Fidalgo Seed Share
by Julia Frisbie
Last Saturday on January 28th, which was National Seed Swap Day, a dream germinated here in town: we opened a seed library! It’s at the Anacortes Public Library near a nice display of gardening books. Anytime the library is open, you can go and “check out” free, locally-adapted seed: take it home, grow it for a season, save its seeds, and bring them back! Of course, there’s no penalty for not returning seeds. The most important thing is to grow them. Growing local seeds increases our resilience. As you drool over your seed catalogs this winter, I’d encourage you to shop here first!
There are more than 40 varieties of locally-grown seed available at the library. To entice you, here are three favorites grown in my own garden.
“Coeur di Bue Albenga” tomato: I planted thirty of these out during the cold, wet spring of 2022 and watched them limp through June without high hopes. But in September, despite my mediocre management, they exploded with fruit! Sweet and juicy enough to eat out of hand or slice for sandwiches. Dense enough to make into sauce (good thing, because there were more tomatoes than we could manage to eat fresh). We saved the seed, and now urge you to give it a try.
“Withner’s White” pole bean: a relentless producer of tender, romano-type green beans all summer long, even in partial shade. (Make sure to trellis, especially in shade, because they like to climb!) This variety is recommended by Oregon seed breeder Carol Deppe. They have a sweet, rich flavor that I prefer to any other green bean I’ve grown. All summer long I bring in colanders overflowing with them, rinse and chop them into bite-sized pieces, and throw them into a greased cast iron skillet, stirring frequently until they turn bright green and blistered. Heaven.
“New Mama” sweet corn: this is one of the first open-pollinated sh2 (supersweet) varieties available to home gardeners, and it is delicious! If you’re habituated to the sugary hybrids from the grocery store and have been disappointed with homegrown, open-pollinated corn before, give this one a try. Lackadaisical gardeners take note: this is an extremely forgiving variety. We got a good harvest even though our watering was inconsistent, our beans pulled half the corn plants over, and our fertilization regime was pretty much limited to “everyone pee on the corn whenever you think of it.” In fact, the corn stalks grew higher than the eaves of our house! Here they are in front of our six-foot fence.
Don’t worry about how wrinkly the seeds look; that’s just what happens when sweet corn dries down. Plant it when the soil’s warm enough for bare feet, arranged in dense blocks (not rows) of at least 25-30 plants… more, if you have space! We saved approximately 13,000 seeds. Don’t be shy.
Next time I get a full night’s sleep (HA HA HA) I’ll write about garden planning. It’s all I can think about. Tomatoes, beans, and sweet corn will be here before we know it!