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Whoever coined the phrase “Good things come in small packages” must have been a gardener. For it’s from those smallest of packages we call “seeds” that life in the garden begins. It’s a miracle, really, when you think about it: Five-foot-tall tomato vines laden with juicy red fruit spring from flat, round dots; clambering beans sprout from shiny, rock hard, black-speckled seeds; an apple tree grows from a teardrop brown capsule. We’ve all felt the magic when those little specks we sow and tend reward us with beauty and bounty.
Sooner or later—moving from season to season and year to year—we start to save our own seed, completing the circle of sowing, tending, harvesting, and sowing once again. Saving seed was often a necessity for our ancestors, who relied on their own resources to feed their families. And so vegetable varieties were passed along from neighbor to neighbor, from friend to friend, and from generation to generation in small packages of saved seed. Today, heirloom tomatoes, beans, and squash are all the rage. We’re able to enjoy them because people years ago took the time to harvest, dry, and preserve their own seed.