SEEDS FOR SALE
BY Dorothy Gast
Remember when students went door to door selling something actually needed and useful, like boxes of seeds. Usually the box of assorted seeds contained vegetables and flowers and sold for $1.00. Truck farmers might buy as many as five boxes and sometimes buyers would swap flowers for vegetables with neighbors. You could get enough seeds in a pack to plant a 30 foot row. Tomatoes and peppers would be started indoors in old pans or trays, moved out into bright sunlight for a couple of hours daily when about 2 inches high to harden, then transplanted in late April when squash were planted.
Corn was usually planted during Spring Break. We called AEA Convention break, in the second week of March. We always knew that the corn must be planted before we had leisure to enjoy time out of school.. The corn plants in the larger fields might be knee high when the rest of the vegetables were planted and ready for a side dressing of “soda”, sodium nitrate. I always hated the times when I wiped the sweat from my face and my eyes strung by the chemical after hand strowing the granules down each row.
We always planted several varieties. There was early sweet corn with short ears and small sweet golden grains ready to be boiled. I loved one kind called Pioneer raised for farm animals that. The taste was more buttery than sweet and was just right when cut from the cob, then scraped to get every drop of goodness. When the fresh cut corn was poured into a skillet bubbling with bacon grease, it would thicken into the delicacy we called fried corn. The huge field corn planted for horses and cattle had 15 inch ears and grains as long as my fingernails, but was not as tasty cooked.
Field peas were planted in fields like the corn. These were not the sissy English garden peas that were staked at the back of the garden for an early garden vegetable. All the kids agreed those were gross. Field peas were sturdy plants that could complete summer meals for June to October, then be served canned or dried during the winter. When the plants died down in August, farmers let their cows graze, then the roots put out new growth for fresh fall peas. There were crowder peas so crowded in the pods that they were more cubelike than oval. Lady peas were more round and made an almost clear pot likker. A big favorite was the pink eye purple hull pea, hearty and easy to pick and shell. If we had known how nutritious they were we might not have gobbled them up so fast.
When we kids sat down to fried corn, steamed squash, fried okra, sliced tomatoes, crowder peas, string beans, cole slaw, tiny red potatoes. cornbread and cold milk , we longed for exotic foods like hamburgers and CocoCola. The meal that had taken hours to gather, prepare, and cook seemed far too ordinary to be interesting, yet did not leave scraps for leftovers. The Sunday meal usually added meat to our bounty.
Every box of seed we sold had watermelons and cantaloupe seeds for a family patch. The tiny Sugar Baby melons could be cooled in the creek beside a field where cotton was picked and were just right for a short break when cotton sacks were weighed and emptied into the wagon.
Boxes of seed were February’s promise of good food in the summer and colorful flowers to brighten the borders and perhaps sell on the curb market. Now that’s a product we would love to buy from students.