Seeds of hope

I love seeds…..from the smooth spheres of mustard, the flat dry discs of peppers and eggplants to the pointed spear heads of cucumber and melons and the scented stars of Chinese aniseed; I love them all. I love them when they are in the jars, giving you ideas about what to cook and how when one eats them they break between your teeth to give you little bursts of flavour and spice; I love to run my fingers over each little bump and swell, each little furrow and hard lustrous coating when I open a jar or a packet of seeds and pour a few out into my palm.

Star anise

(Star aniseed pods and seeds)

It is daily proof of a kind of magic to see those hard shelled particles of geometric perfection go into the soil to undergo a little softening in the very welcome rain we have had lately. Suddenly, the warm weather and that water creates a little message that tells that seed to grow. And grow they do at this time of the year, from acorns sprouting oaks around the Bradman Oval and the Cathedral to the sunflower seeds Tipu misses while feeding, that get thrown into the backyard. We always have sunflowers to fill a vase or two thanks to Tipu’s carelessness.
Native Australian plants have very unusual seeds. From spiky banksia cones, the Big Bad Banksia men of children’s stories to eucalyptus seeds of many shapes. Many are woody and similar to pine cones. A large number are covered in coloured flesh, even blue in a few cases, to attract birds.

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(Banksia cones in leaf litter)

We may have all hated the recent bush fires that burnt through over 12000 hectares in the Adelaide Hills, but such is the long history of natural cycles of fire and rain in this ancient continent that several kinds of native plants need that burst of heat and the chemicals found in smoke to break their hard seed coats and soak through to trigger growth. Only then do the complex sets of chemical responses begin that we see on the outside as a green seedling breaking through the soil. Those plants are naturally always the first to come back after fire has swept through.

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