Budget: Library: Free seeds

Budget: Library: Free seeds


The Pima County Library has a seed library!  You check out seeds and with any luck, a year later when you harvest, you return the seeds but it’s not mandatory.  I, a wannabe gardener, breathe a sigh of relief.  No pressure.  I’m not known for a green thumb.

With the wet monsoons hitting Tucson, it’s a good time to plant.  You can search in the catalog by keyword “seeds month”, replace “month” with the month you will be planting in like “seeds july.”  I put my choices on hold and picked them up at the Wilmot-Murphy branch. This is what I’m planting tomorrow (Sunday.)

Tohono O’odham Cowpeas – U’us Mu-N also known as the Black-eyed Pea. One of the earliest known domesticated crops, cowpeas were first cultivated in Africa in 2000 or so BCE.  Spanish friars brought the beans to New World missions in the 1500.  Drought hardy, cowpeas became a favorite among the desert Tohono O’odham (aka Papago) tribe.

The library highlighted the cowpeas this year so unlike the other beans, they are wrapped in instructions on how to plant as well as harvest seeds (Yay!).  The library also blogged about it on June 23, 2017 One Seed Pima County.

Beans, tepary. A native domesticated plant in the southwest region, it evolved from the … wait for it … Wild Tepary, lol.  Native Seeds even sells several different wild tepary seeds for $4.95 which I think is cool.

The tepary is estimated to be domesticated four to six thousand years ago. In Mexico, tepary remnants were found as early as 5,000 BP in the Tehuacán Valley. With that kind of history, no wonder it appears in Native American stories. One Tohono O’odham legend recounts the Milky Way is scattered white tepary beans.

Sunflower. Mammoth Helianthus annuus.  What can I say? I like Van Gogh. I did not know they are native to North America though.The  sunflower is a plant superhero! Colleen Vanderlinden wrote: “Sunflowers can remove toxins such as lead, arsenic and uranium from contaminated soil. They are a natural decontaminator of soils, and have been used to clean up soil at some of the world’s biggest environmental disasters including Chernobyl and Fukushima.” from the Spruce.

Cabbage (Red Express). I just wanted to pick a familiar vegetable that I knew what to do with.  Along with the next two seeds, the cabbage seed packet is labeled “advanced” so I’m a little worried.

Amaranth (Hopi red dye). The Hopi originated this beet-colored version of the Amaranth although the family Amaranth was initially cultivated in Central America.  This one is a powerhouse!  You can eat every part of it from seed, sprouts, flowers to adult leafs.  Some dyers have tried to get a red dye from it but their experiments have proved frustrating as there isn’t much literature on how to do it.  I would love to have a dye garden though. It would be fun to dye silk scarves. I’m not much of a knitter so no wool.  I saw a  cool post on solar dyeing.

Devil’s claw. I got this one because the name caught my eye.  Turns out it’s a weed that is often used medicinally.  MedlinePlus said there is scientific evidence for “Back pain. Taking devil’s claw by mouth seems to reduce low-back pain. Devil’s claw seems to work about as well as some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).” While there is some evidence also for effectiveness against osteoarthritis, for most of the other things it is also used for, there is little proof.

The Tohono O’odham and Pima tribes used the pods to make the black stripes in their basketweaving as well as eating the plants.  Looking at the picture on wiki, I’m not sure but those leaves look familiar.  I may already have this weed.

That’s the thing, I think.  My mom, growing up in Okinawa, could go into the mountain or fields and pick out what was good to eat or for medicine.  Wasabi is a mustard that grows wild.  Guess what?  She even saw it growing in the mountains here in Arizona.  She made my father pull over so she could pick a bunch.  She recognized another plant here too that also grew in Okinawa — brewed into a tea, it helps a person to sleep.

Unlike mom, I have no clue what wild plant is good to eat, good for medicine or poisonous. If it’s not clearly labeled in the grocery store, I have no clue what it is. I’d like my garden to be native edible plants, dye plants, medicinal plants and plants for monarch butterfly waystations.  Be cool to learn what they are.  A little late (age 57) but not too late!


One Seed Pima County
June 23, 2017
Pima County Seed Library Blog

Where There Are Mountains: An Environmental History of the Southern Appalachians
by Donald Edward Davis
pg 50, copyright 2000
The University of Georgia Press

Wikipedia, viewed 7/29/17


Sunflowers (Van Gogh series)
Wikipedia, viewed 7/29/2017


More on Solar Dyeing
by Helen, June 3, 2010
Growing Colour blog


Photograph at top by Dorothea Lange
“Sunnyvale, California. Stringing poles in Santa Clara County bean field. Farmers and other evacuees of Japanese descent will be given opportunities to follow their callings at War Relocation Authority centers where they will spend the duration.”
Taken on 

Tepary Bean:

“Archaeology and domestication in American Phaseolus (beans)”
by Lawrence Kaplan in Economic Botany 19: 358-368

“Archaelogical Phaseolus from Tehaucan”, pgs 201-211
by Lawrence Kaplay, Thomas F. Lynch, C. E. Smith Jr
in The Prehistory of the Tehauacan Valley,
vol. one: Environment and Subsistence
edited by Douglas S. Byers
University of Texas Press

Crop Wild Relatives
Wild tepary (and other) seeds for sale
Native Seeds, , viewed 7/29/2017

Celebration of Tepary Beans (Part 1)
Native Seeds, viewed 7/29/2017

Devil’s Claw:

Proboscidea parviflora
Wikipedia, viewed 7/30/2017
used the pics in wiki by Jerry Friedman and
Clarence A. Rechenthin in my post


Monarch Butteryfly Waystations
Monarch Watch

 Books from Amazon:
(I have signed up with Amazon to be an affiliate but haven’t been accepted yet.  If I am, I will get a % back on purchases through any links that I provide.  For books, it’ll be 4.5%.  The books I am listing at the moment, I plan to get later.  I need to build up my Arizona plants/cooking books — I don’t have any.)


Southwest Foraging: 117 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Barrel Cactus to Wild Oregano

Southwestern Desert Plants: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species (A Pocket Naturalist Guide)

Southwest Gardener’s Handbook: Your Complete Guide: Select, Plan, Plant, Maintain, Problem-Solve – Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Southern Nevada, Utah Paperback – May 1, 2016

Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening: Plant, Grow, and Harvest the Best Edibles – Arizona, Nevada & New Mexico (Fruit & Vegetable Gardening Guides)

Amazon disclosure: “We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”

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