Every winter, home gardeners congregate at the Chicago Botanic Garden to plan their spring planting and share seeds at the Seed Swap. The annual Swap has become so popular that it has been expanded to a full weekend of events, Super Seed Weekend, including a featured speaker, gardening classes and, of course, the big swap. Events will be held on Saturday, January 21, and Sunday, January 22.
The signature event of the weekend is the Seed Swap on Sunday. This year, to accommodate the ever-growing crowds, the swap has been moved to Nichols Hall, one of the largest indoor event spaces at the Garden. From 3 to 5 p.m., gardeners are invited to bring saved seeds and leftover seed packets to share and swap with others. Garden staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer questions and discuss all things related to seeds. A Connoisseur’s Corner will be available for more experienced seed savers.
The weekend’s featured speaker is William Woys Weaver, an internationally known food historian and author. Weaver, who is director of the Keystone Center for the Study of Regional Foods and Food Tourism in Pennsylvania, discovered a seed collection his grandfather started during the Great Depression. Weaver was able to bring many of the seeds back into cultivation at Roughwood, his home in Pennsylvania. The collection now numbers around 4,000 varieties, including Royal Minquas corn, Arbogast sugar pea, Quaker Pie pumpkin, Heritage D’Or bean, Old Dutch White cucumber, Blue Guinea pepper and more.
Weaver is the author of 17 books and has served as a contributing editor to Gourmet magazine. He is currently a contributing editor for Mother Earth News and The Heirloom Gardener. Weaver has been featured in many food documentaries and has appeared on national programs like “Good Morning America” and NPR’s “Fresh Air.” He will discuss the Roughwood Seed Collection on Sunday, January 22, at 1:30 p.m. in Alsdorf Auditorium. The lecture is free, but pre-registration is requested. The Garden Café will be offering recipes from Weaver’s newest cookbook, “Dutch Treats: Heirloom Recipes from Farmhouse Kitchens.”
An adult cooking class is offered from 2 to 3:30 p.m., in the new ITW Kitchen classroom at the Regenstein Learning Campus. “Seeds: Crunch and Flavor Punch” teaches participants how to cook with seeds. Pre-registration and a fee are required.
Saturday’s focus will be on classes and workshops. Some of the fee-based classes being offered include Organic Vegetable Gardening Basics, Beginning Seed Starting, and Making Your Own Seed Balls. Families can sign up for the Loco for Cocoa! workshop (registration required) to investigate and taste test different kinds of chocolate. Visitors will also have the opportunity to tour the Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank or attend a film screening of “Seed Battles,” a documentary about the future of the Global Seed Vault in Norway. Registration is required for the tour and the documentary screening.
The Garden Shop will have a booth on Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m., during the Seed Swap, with seeds, books, seed starting supplies and related merchandise. All Super Seed Weekend merchandise is offered at 15 percent off for Garden members throughout the weekend. Free family drop-in activities like a seed maze and seed mosaic and sprouting necklace activities will also take place on Sunday during the swap.
The Seed Swap is one of the most popular events held at the Garden each year. The event brings together gardeners of all skill and experience levels to learn more about starting seeds, saving seeds and planning their gardens. Participants are not required to bring seeds in order to participate. Everyone is invited to attend Super Seed Weekend, learn more about seeds and take seeds home to get a jump start on their gardens.
For more information, visit the Garden’s Super Seed Weekend website.