Pittsburgh Dining » On The Side

The Carnegie Library in Oakland now offers a seed library

Users can take seeds for vegetables, flowers and other plants, as well as donate seeds

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Last week, I checked a Japanese hot pepper out of the library.

Actually, what I took were three santaka seeds, from the Seed Library at the Carnegie Library's Main Branch, in Oakland. They are among the nearly 150 seed varieties available — everything from flowers and herbs to Yugoslavian finger fruit squash and heirloom tomatoes.

The Seed Library, which resides in a handsome wooden card catalog, is designed as a self-sustainable community resource, explains librarian Jude Vachon, one of the project's three facilitators. Ideally, users will replenish the seeds they take after the plant has grown.

Newcomers to growing are encouraged. Users can: check out seeds (a library card is not required); collect information on seed-starting and seed-collecting; join a Facebook page with other seeders; and attend upcoming informational sessions with Grow Pittsburgh.

Folks can also donate seeds to the library, including leftovers from commercially grown seeds. (The library cannot accept hybrid or genetically modified seeds.) Envelopes are provided for both seed check-out and donation.

The benefits are obvious: Users can grow a variety fresh food; learn about and help maintain critical heirloom seeds; and be part of a supportive growing community — all for free. It's a resource, Vachon says, that can make a difference when "someone becomes excited and competent about growing."

Seeds truly are about promise. As such, I couldn't resist picking up a creeping cypress — the hand-written note accompanying the donated seeds enthused, "This plant is great to watch."

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