Sunday, July 6, 2014

Book review: Saving Vegetable Seeds by Fern Marshall Bradley

Like many gardeners, I have been growing vegetables for years but never have experimented seriously with saving seeds. The only plant from which I have regularly saved seeds is molokhia, a green leafy vegetable related to okra. The seed-containing pods hang so prominently on the molokhia plant, practically begging to be picked. For any other plant, saving seeds just seemed to be more trouble than it is worth.

 Saving Vegetable Seeds by Fern Marshall Bradley takes the mystery out of seed saving. The author starts with a brief overview of why you would want to consider saving seeds, along with the basics of plant reproduction so that you can understand why the process is somewhat different for various types of plants. The overview is followed by a section on general techniques for seed-saving. The text is accompanied by very clear and helpful illustrations that show exactly how to do such things as hand pollination of squash flowers and winnowing to separate collected seeds from chaff.

The final main section consists of detailed advice on specific vegetable crops. The author does not cover every single obscure vegetable but focuses instead on the most popular vegetable crops that account for the majority of what is grown in most home gardens in temperate climes. Bradley includes both “easy” and “challenging” plants, so a gardener can choose to start with the easier plants for seed saving and move on in subsequent years to those that are more difficult.

The book is short enough that you can quickly read it cover to cover. I read most of it during a single short plane ride. Despite the short length, the book contains plenty of content and detail that will call you to pick up the book frequently for reference as you start on your first seed saving project. Reading the book will motivate you to do exactly that; the book makes seed saving seem to be a very reasonable project rather than an esoteric art. I recommend Saving Vegetable Seed for anyone who has been interested in saving seeds but has thought that it would be too bothersome. It is available in both paperback and electronic formats from retailers including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

I received an advanced reading copy from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Baptism of tayac Kittamaquund, July 5, 1640

Today is the 374th anniversary of the baptism of tayac (“chief”) Kittamaquund of the Piscataway tribe of southern Maryland. He met Jesuit missionary Fr. Andrew White in 1639 and had some discussions with him. The tayac became ill with a disease that the tribal healers could not cure, and Fr. White treated him successfully with English medicine powders and blood-letting.

Stained glass window at St. Ignatius Church in Port Tobacco, Maryland. Photo by Aly Abell.

Not long after the cure, Kittamaquund agreed to receive instruction in the Christian faith and he was baptized on July 5, 1640. His family including his wife and daughter were baptized along with him, and other Piscataway soon decided to become Christians as well.

The Baptism of Kittamaquund, charcoal drawing by Edwin Tunis, from the Tunis Collection in the Maryland State Archives. The Maryland State Archives presented this image to the public domain for fair use.

Having recently read Edwin: High King of Britain, there are some similarities in these two conversion stories though they are separated by more than 1000 years. In both cases, a key precipitating event was a cure by a missionary cleric.

Although my heritage is almost entirely English, it appears that I may be a direct descendant of Kittamaquund. A recent analysis discussed at DNAeXplained concluded that Katherine Brent, wife of Richard Marsham, was indeed the daughter of Giles Brent and Mary Kittamaquund. Mary was the daughter of tayac Kittamaquund, and according to the best genealogical information I have at the moment, she would be my 8G grandmother. Apparently I am not the first descendant to mark the anniversary of Kittamaquund’s baptism; see also the posting by Richard Browne.