Thursday, January 20, 2011

One Seed Chicago

2011 marks the fourth year One Seed Chicago is uniting Chicago-area gardeners in an annual project planting a common seed as part of a season-long celebration of urban gardening and local food. A project of NeighborSpace, Chicago’s land trust for community gardens, One Seed Chicago grows each year, as home, school, and community gardening continues to rise in popularity.

The project begins with the announcement of three seed candidates followed by democratic selection of the kind of seeds we'll be growing. Voting has already begun, and continues through April 1, 2011. The winning seed will be announced at the annual Green and Growing Fair, April 30th at the Garfield Park Conservatory. If you live in the Chicagoland area and would like to vote, please visit Following the announcement of the winner, participants will receive a free packet of the winning seed mailed to their home (or school) for planting in their own gardens.

Last year's candidates were three favorite native forbs: nodding onion, bee balm, and purple coneflower, with bee balm bee-ing the winner. This year's choices are eggplant, (yum!) Swiss chard, (beautiful!) and radish (my choice!) I chose radishes since they were the first vegetable planted and harvested in the first vegetable garden my family ever planted when I was a skinny little ten-year-old kid. I guess you could call them my gateway plant, since I've been gardening all my life, starting with those radishes.

Radishes are easy for beginning veggie gardeners, including children, to grow. They don't need a lot of space, and are perfect vegetables for containers and other small urban growing spaces. Involving children in gardening, especially vegetable gardening, can be a healthful, fun, hands-on educational experience. Gardening gets kids outdoors and provides healthy exercise, fresh air and sunshine, and is a wonderful family activity. Research has shown that kids who grow vegetables, whether at home or at school, "eat them regularly and with gusto."

Radishes can be ready to harvest as little as four weeks after planting. The satisfaction of enjoying these crunchy, delicious nuggets so early in the gardening season is quick reward for both new and experienced vegetable gardeners, young or old. Succession planting while the weather is still cool can provide weeks of wholesome snacking and colorful salad additions. As they're harvested, their space in the garden can be replanted with warm-season vegetables.

Radishes are rich in vitamin C and other anti-oxidants, minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, and fiber. The entire plant - root and leaves - is edible. (I think the leaves are best cooked, but young, tender leaves can also be used as salad greens.)

One Seed Chicago aims to introduce more Chicagoans to the joys and benefits of gardening, and has distributed over one million seeds to Chicago-area residents since 2008. If you live in the Chicago metro area, we'd love to have you join us! (While those outside the Chicago area aren't eligible for the free seeds, we'd love to have YOU join us by planting the winning veggie in your garden too!)


  1. Hi GG,

    I began gardening at the age of eight by planting carrots around the catch basin in my Chicago home. I have never been as successful with carrots since.

    I am a big fan of gardening with children. I many cases, it makes them lifetime gardeners.


  2. It certainly worked for me Ellen! I've been gardening since that first family veggie garden when I was a kid. And my mom, who grew up in a farming, gardening family, now in her 70's, still gardens too.

  3. These are all good points about radishes, but I still say vote for chard!! :)

  4. I'm planning to add chard to our garden this year whether it wins or not Rose. I've never grown it, and haven't eaten it for years. But it sure is pretty, and leafy greens are incredibly nutritious.

    I'm enjoying the friendly rivalry between veggie 'camps!'

  5. I love radish foliage and they are super easy to winter sow (though the April voting deadline makes that a moot point). But I'm still #teameggplant (I was granted honorary Chicagoan status to vote). I'm all over radish over chard, though. Oh, it looks like I will be coming to CFGS, on March 5. K!!!!

  6. You guys are cracking me up! You know I love you to death, Linda, but I think I'd have to vote eggplant. I've grown Swiss chard - it's fab. I've grown radishes, and while easy and pretty, I can't stand them. But eggplant - so unusual and gorgeous. If I had to say which one would be easiest for people to grow, I'd have to vote radish.'s probably a good thing I don't get to vote. I'm so conflicted!

  7. Monica, I do LOVE eggplant. Last year my choice of nodding onion was purely selfish, since I wanted some for our garden and already have native bee balm and coneflowers.

    This year I picked radishes because I think they're easy and foolproof, and great for beginning gardeners (unlike eggplant. . . ;)

    Glad we're giving you chuckles Kylee - it's definitely part of the fun!

    I think eggplant is, if not the most, certainly one of the most beautiful veggies. I think it's delicious too, although much more demanding than radishes. (Maybe if you'd grown radishes as a kid, you'd love them now. . . ;)

  8. I was leaning towards chard after reading Rose's post, but you and Diane may have persuaded me to lean towards radishes. Good thing I can't vote--I'd be as confused as I am when I go the polling place sometimes:) I think the winning point might be how easy radishes are to grow and how quickly they mature, making them a good choice for beginning gardeners. I'm not that fond of eating radishes, but to this day I always interplant them with carrots, just as my mother always did.

  9. Monica - p.s. hope to see you at the show!

    Glad to know Diane and I may have persuaded you over to #teamradish, Rose!

    Interplanting them with carrots is a great idea! I've never grown carrots before, since they're so inexpensive and easy to find organic (plus I never had confidence they'd do well in my garden soil.) But since our raised bed is all compost, it might just be light and loose enough to be good for carrots. Hmmm. . . might have to try that for fun!

  10. Linda, if I can grow carrots successfully here in our mucky, heavy, horrid clay (amended, but still...), so can you!

  11. Hi Linda...It's the radish for me. My neighbor used to bring a bouquet of Easter Egg radishes to my back door. These were grown in my Dad's garden for years...radish sandwiches...yum.Interesting post..

  12. Thanks for the vote of confidence Kylee - I just may give them a try. I do love their pretty foliage, and carrots are a favorite veggie of mine.

    Yay Balisha - go radish! Those sound like wonderful, and delicious veggie memories!

    Whatever vegetable wins the competion, there will definitely be radishes here this spring. Yum - I love them.

  13. Linda, fingerling carrots do fantastically well in window box-like containers, too!

  14. Anonymous8:50 PM

    I knew you had good taste! I love the taste of radishes, and it's a big plus that they're so easy to grow from seed in even the smallest of gardens.

  15. Good tip Monica! I'm definitely planning to give carrots a try this year.

    Thanks MBT! I thought they were delicious the first time I tasted one from that first garden when I was a kid, and I still love them.


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