Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The year of the stinky onion?

This is the third year that all Chicagoans can achieve horticultural unity and sow seed together, courtesy of One Seed Chicago. This "urban greening project" distributes free seed packets of a single selection to all interested Chicagoland residents. Everyone then raises the same plant in their yard, school or community garden. The idea is to foster a green community spirit. This effort is similar to the Chicago Public Library's "One Book, One Chicago" campaign, where folks city-wide are encouraged to read and discuss a chosen book. Chicago is a large, sprawling city and it warms my heart to think of the same little seeds bursting forth in both a fancy Lincoln Park yard and a scrappy Southwest side community garden.

Last year, the selection was Blue Lake pole beans. Despite the dismal summer weather of 2009, these were a great success in our square foot garden bed. We had plenty of fresh beans, and even pickled some for winter use. It was interesting to stroll around various neighborhoods and see evidence of One Seed Chicago trailing up the side of some one's house -- a garden version of a secret handshake.

Voting has begun for the 2010 seed choice. For those of you in the Chicagoland area, you can cast your on-line ballot now, and the winner will be mailed to you. This year the choices are purple cone flower, bee balm and nodding onion. I voted for bee balm, mainly because I have too many Echinacea and Allium in my tiny plot as it is. I've been considering adding a Monarda or two, so this is my chance. I'm particularly hoping the Bee Balm wins since its herbal use includes treatment of gingivitis and dental caries. I recently found some seed for the toothache plant, Acmella oleracea (the name says it all -- chew the blossoms and your mouth numbs). Wouldn't it be great to plant a section of garden in honor of oral hygiene? I'll make sure to put it near the mint...then all the necessary ingredients for homemade mouthwash will be close at hand.

Enticing though it may be to concoct my own herbal Listerine, I suspect the nodding onion will win. Yes, my words are marked here, three months before the results are revealed. I'm betting on the romance of our city's name to carry the day. As the guidebook introduction goes, "Chicago" likely derives from a native word for "stinky onion". How can we resist planting such a tribute to our storied city? Considering the various alliums crowding every nook and cranny of my tiny yard, I can say with confidence I already live in the land of the stinky onion. But can a collector ever say no? I will certainly participate with enthusiasm no matter what the winning seed. How about dropping five or ten bucks and starting your own One Seed project in your neighborhood?

1 comment:

  1. I like it - I can see this working in our town with ease! Btw, I live nearby to Winooski, which is literally a native word for onion, and is the unfortunate butt of many jokes.