Seed Seva

Posted to Subscribers on 27 February 2017


Let's see if my muse will join me for a few minutes while we reminisce and try to move forward.

As those of you who have been reading my missives for years know, there were several stages in my involvement with the plant world. As a child, I did the usual things, of course. I would buy pansies on the way home to give to my mother or I would sneak some watermelon seeds into the ground in hopes of creating a juicy jungle that would make the summer more enjoyable. In Sweden, I searched for wild strawberries, but my first solo garden was in Hawaii where I fought three long ongoing battles: one with lava rocks, another with cattle that knocked down the rock walls to eat whatever I planted, and the third with weeds that could grow 18 inches overnight. I decided to torch them. At the time, it was a novel idea. I rented a very large gas tank with a monstrously long and heavy hose and torched the entire backyard of a half acre lot. In the morning, there were succulents everywhere. I thought the heat mutated the feathery weeds into ground hugging plants with thick, thermal resistant leaves. It was an initiation and there was no Internet with quick answers to help me to process what I was seeing.

Well, lest we get stuck on an island, I moved to Santa Fe in the dead of winter in late 1979 and told my landlady that when I was a bit more settled, I would help her to cut down the dead trees. She said, "You dumb Hawaiian, wait until spring to figure out the trees are not dead." Oh, I completely forgot that trees lose their leaves because this really does not happen in Hawaii. Duh. It gives a whole new meaning to evergreen and, as fate would have it, I moved to the Evergreen State some 21 years later.

It was again winter but my eyes were dazzled by the colors, so different from the desert. I went on herb walks and was just astonished, but on the seven-week journey to find a new home, I had become an environmentalist. Of course, I had been organic for years, but that is different from being anti-GMO and pro-permaculture and so on and so forth. My house was very ordinary, silly green lawn in the front, very neat and manicured but somewhat idiotic. For example, there was a willow tree planted very close to the foundation of the house, rhododendrons that could not see the sun, and a dogwood on the edge of the driveway obscuring the door to the garage, well, as I said, idiotic.

Meanwhile, my book was translated into German and I began consulting at clinics in the Europe. It was in Germany that a beekeeper presented me with some precious honey and began explaining colony collapse disorder, which, of course, has a completely different name in German since the language is very much more specific than English. I have forgotten what the words are but more or less a problem without a known cause. As I tried to imagine where this was heading, I became increasingly anti-agroindustrial farming. Besides, I had become good friends with Gabriel and Kitzia Howearth and was learning to spot GMO incursions into otherwise pristine regions of the world.

There was a lot going on in my head and I wanted to preserve endangered species medicinal herbs, do seva for the pollinators, and transform urban gardens into edible masterpieces. As the project began, my neighbors would walk their dogs and gawk at my yard. Finally, a few asked what I was doing and why. I hoped to start a neighborhood agricultural revolution but it has not happened. I thought of putting a huge sign up to explain what I was doing, but I took the easy route and launched That was a lot of fun and many of you contributed pictures of your greenhouses and gardens. You are welcome to send more pictures!

One thing led to another. I researched plants that bees and butterflies like, collected books on endangered species plants and sustainable agriculture, everything from sprouting to what you can grow on a windowsill to what you can do with a few acres. I don't remember exactly when or why I started Maybe I was just trying to split the shop from the revolution. Anyway, people have been ordering a lot of seeds lately so it is definitely nearing the time to start planting.

A few people sent requests for things they wanted. I am adding those plus a whole lot of new Ayurvedic seeds because we want to start an Ayurvedic botanical garden in Ecuador, perhaps several so as to have both tropical and Himalayan herbs. That is one of the wonderful things about Ecuador: the diversity allows you to grow just about anything.

The new seeds will be introduced on seedseva, but a few words now may be interesting and also help to connect some dots.

At the moment, I am carrying about 135 different kinds of seeds. This is actually a task I would like to turn over to a budding young herbalist who would like a tiny home business. It is a bit too much for me at this time given everything else on my plate. Warning: it is a labor of love since there is no conceivable way to get rich quick here! Still, the soul dances when the seeds are sent and that means more vitality for me and those whose energies are affected by my excitement.

So, the dots. Tulsi is the best selling of the seeds, but there has been some chaos surrounding it since the names keep changing. Holy basil is held in very high esteem in Ayurveda as well as by most Indian families. It is, among other things, regarded as protective against dementia, something that first came on my radar in the very early 70s when my view of it was entirely philosophical and not very medically sophisticated. Later, I realized the magnitude of the social and societal burden, not just the personal loss. For a brief time, I consulted for a retirement home in which not a single resident was lucid. However, we could change this in about three weeks just through diet.

Then, much more recently, the Internet was buzzing with reports on tulsi and fluoride. Put some leaves into the water and drink the water some hours later. Now, my supplier has a Tulsi Seed Pack with slightly different names: Rama, Vana, and Temperate which is a frost-hardy variety. In addition, there is one that is now called Amrita Tulsi, but I suspect it is what was called Krishna before since the leaves are reddish purple.

There are some new Ayurvedic herbs: asafoetida, bala, bacopa, curry leaf, guggul, and red lotus. Prior to this, I thought bilva was the most exotic of the Ayurvedic seeds on seedseva. It was a very slow mover, almost no one seemed interested, however, recently a few people ordered it. Now, with asafoetida and guggul, we are right up there in terms of what to grow that you won't find in just every yard.

It is one thing, of course, to plant some basil for more or less immediate use in a single season and another to wait for the bael fruit to be ready to harvest. It is also different to grow lotus than bacopa.

So, to recap a bit, I was passionate about endangered species plants, especially bloodroot and goldenseal since they were covered so thoroughly in my book, but colony collapse disorder meant that for bees to survive, they needed urban refuges as well as huge organic farms. Dare we add that it is time to stop trucking bees all over the place and to let them live as bees lived for thousands of years until humans put the bottom line ahead of common sense.

Then came Fukushima and the absolutely enormous risks to all life on the Planet. We needed to find the plants that are capable of protecting all species from danger as well as the plants that help to remediate the soil and water. I studied to see what we could learn from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and then Chernobyl. Ginkgo topped the list but there were actually dozens of herbs with proven radioprotective properties. I also got heavily into alchemy at that time, but that is another subject except for the fact that herbs are used to purify toxic metals.

For those who are not following the story, the situation in Fukushima is very serious. I should probably devote an entire post just to an update. For now, I would say it is time to phase out all reliance on nuclear power lest there be yet another disaster. This needs to be a global priority since no one country or industry has the right to jeopardize the survival of life on this Earth. Meanwhile, we can each do our part to reduce risks to ourselves and those we love!









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