Seed swaps are great for sharing seeds that you have spare, finding new things to grow with low risk and getting small quantities of a large variety of seeds.
A couple of weeks ago a friend suggested I go to Incredible Edible Lambeth’s seed swap. It was in the Garden Museum by Lambeth Bridge. Having never been to a seed swap I had no idea what to expect. I picked my most exciting seeds (yes, I know – it’s not normal for people to consider any seeds exciting) – Caucasian Spinach, Malabar Spinach, Physalis, tromboncino and Chinese Chives. The idea was to take seeds saved from plants you’ve grown, knowing that they do well in our climes, to swap. Shop bought seeds were also acceptable.
Be aware that your seeds may not always give the same traits as your original plants. This is because the variety that pollinates your seeding plant may be quite different. There are more details in ‘Pollination fertilisation and variation.’
Of my seeds, the Caucasian spinach and Malabar spinach would not likely have had any other varieties grown nearby so they would probably be true to type. The Physalis (caped gooseberry) may have crossed, as I had seen a Chinese lantern (which has bitter small fruit) in a garden a couple of streets away. The tromboncino can be pollinated by butternut squash – so if there was any in nearby gardens then I guess there could have been cross pollination. Squashes especially produce flowers that favour cross pollination as discussed in ‘Squash surprise’. I have absolutely no idea about the pollination of Chinese chives.
The seed swap
I arrived quite late into the event, which was in a fairly small room with about thirty people. It sounded like many people had already been and gone before I arrived. There were a few tables set up and on each table were many packets, envelopes and jam jars of seeds. Some were already packaged into small envelopes and well labelled with plant, variety, growing times and date of collection but in some cases (like…er…me) there was just an old envelope with the name of the plant scrawled on it. I felt quite guilty, so spent about 10 minutes writing some more details on each envelope. There were also plenty of small brown envelopes that you could put a few seeds in and write the details on. The idea is that you can give away seeds that you collect from your own garden or surplus seeds as packets often contain far more than most people use. You only take a few seeds of each thing but there is no limit to how many things you take. It is a nice way to save money and be introduced to things you otherwise may not come across. It seems slightly unfair to the people who make a living selling seeds if you share packets of bought seeds, but at the same time it’s easy to avoid trying a new vegetable that may be hard to grow or may have an unknown taste. If you get ‘free’ seeds, then you have no risk. You may find yourself loving a new vegetable and then later buy more. So in a way, though you may be taking income away at the start, the more that people become interested in growing their own, the more money they will make later on.
I was surprised and relieved to find it wasn’t a direct swapping of seeds. I didn’t feel like I was being forced to network or feel judged on the seeds I had brought. Though events such as these can about community and meeting like minded people who enjoy growing, introverts have no need to fear. There was no need to interact with anyone should you be feeling that way inclined on the day. With no pressure, I felt conversation came about naturally and I chatted to a few people about the Caucasian Spinach.
My new seeds
I came away with a few interesting seeds.
- Red orache, which is a red-purply spinach like leaf.
- Calendula, as I’ve been meaning to try and grow more edible flowers.
- Bronze fennel, a fun coloured fennel.
- Chervil, which apparently tastes like a cross between tarragon and parsley.
- Chicory, which I’ve decided not to grow this after some research as it can be bitter (even when you put in lots of effort to blanche it) and I’ve grown enough bitter vegetables in the past.
- Achocha, which was a pleasing find. These are small cucumber like fruit that I saw on a blog by Skyeent. I was very excited.
I only a took a tiny percentage of what was available on the day as I was mostly on the look out for new things. I did also take a few chard, red kuri and a pre-packaged envelope of mixed French beans too for my little one’s school, as I only have any spare of my own seeds left at home. There were a plethora of legumes, salad leaves, tomatoes, sweetcorn, brassicas, aubergines, squashes, root veggies, herbs and flower seeds available though.
I would definitely recommend doing one of these should the opportunity arise and I might suggest something like this to the PTA at my little one’s school.