Library hosts harvest session for youngsters

MARQUETTE — An adult might not get a kick out of squishing a cherry tomato, but a 3-year-old might.

That activity was part of a Tuesday program at the Peter White Public Library, “Seed Saving for Kids.”

Actually, it wasn’t just “for the kids” as it also was “by the kids.”

Leading the program was Abbey Palmer, education coordinator at Michigan State University’s North Farm in Chatham.

The weather was good enough for part of the activities to take place outside at the PWPL Children’s Garden, which was installed about two years ago.

The Master Gardeners in charge of the project partnered with the Queen City Seed Library, located inside the library, so they could grow transplants and donate some of those seeds back to the seed library, she said.

The Queen City Seed Library is a free resource, located in an old card catalog, that’s filled with seeds organized alphabetically. Patrons can “check out” seeds by completing a form in a black binder, then taking them home to grow — with a recommendation of planting 10 percent extra to save for seed.

The seeds from those plants then are harvested and returned at spring and fall seed swaps.

Other partners in the project were the groups Transition Marquette County and MQT Growth, Partridge Creek Farm in Ishpeming, PWPL and the MSU North Farm.

Palmer wondered if the kids who watched the plants grow through the windows during the summer were curious about seed saving.

Especially if they came from “library seeds.”

Those plants, she said, include calendula, basil, kale, cherry tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

The cherry tomatoes in particular were intriguing since one of the varieties, Black Cherry, was a dull red instead of the brighter red to which many people are accustomed.

“They’re really ripe,” Palmer said of the crop, which survived an onslaught from wild animals that could have feasted on them.

Jessica Laxo brought her daughter, Nora, age 3, to the seed-saving session where the girl squeezed tomatoes to extract the seeds.

“I’d say she’s an A-plus on squishing,” Palmer said.

Nora, it should be noted, is a veteran squisher.

“I like squishing oranges,” she said.

Specifically, her mother noted she likes to squish orange peels since they can be used to start a fire.

This activity came with some supervision, of course.

Palmer provided some guidance Tuesday, saying: “You know tomatoes are really ready for seed saving when they will fall off the plant like this. You know your seeds are mature.”

Palmer said in the case of the tomatoes, she will take the picked seeds, fermenting them and then drying them.

Laxo noted she is getting into saving seeds herself, with Palmer offering to show her resources from the seed library.

“The trick with tomatoes, their flower shape makes them mostly self-pollinating,” Palmer said, although she noted using physical barriers like mesh bags are helpful.

However, Laxo is getting help at home.

“Nora’s really good at picking tomatoes,” her mother said. “She likes to pick me tomatoes all day long. I have a lot to eat.”

Laxo said her daughter also is a big fan of flowers.

“Well, then let’s do as many calendulas as you want,” Palmer said.

A Queen City Seed Library Celebration is scheduled to begin with a potluck dinner at 6 p.m. Oct. 17 at Messiah Lutheran Church, 305 W. Magnetic St., Marquette, following by “seed stories” and awards at 6:30 p.m. and pumping carving at 7 p.m. People are asked to bring $5 for a pumpkin. RSVPs may be sent to

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is