Friday, January 6, 2012

Let's Grow Together, Chicagoland!

This New Year's Day, One Seed Chicago kicked off the voting in its annual campaign uniting Chicagoans in a season-long celebration of urban gardening and local eating. This year’s candidates are basil, chamomile, and cilantro.

One Seed Chicago suports novice and experienced gardeners learning to grow the winning seed in their gardens. Just like last year when vegetables were on the ballot, chefs and foodies are encouraged to submit recipes for these herbs for inclusion on the One Seed Chicago website.

Participants vote for their choice using the ballot at The plant with the most votes wins. Voting closes on April 1st, and the winning seed will be unveiled at the Green and Growing Urban Gardening Fair at Garfield Park Conservatory on April 30th. Free seeds will be distributed at the fair, and subsequently mailed to Chicagoland residents who participate in the website vote.

One Seed Chicago is a project of NeighborSpace, Chicago’s land trust for community gardens. It encourages community by bringing us together in a common gardening project and introducing more Chicagoans to the joys and benefits of gardening. Previous One Seed Chicago winners were sunflowers in 2008, Blue Lake pole beans in 2009, native beebalm/monarda in 2010, and Swiss chard last year. Since 2008 One Seed Chicago has distributed over a million seeds to Chicago-area residents.

NeighborSpace is a nonprofit urban land trust dedicated to preserving and sustaining community-managed open spaces in Chicago. Their growing network of gardens provides thousands of people the opportunity to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers, to restore habitats, and to create unique gathering places in their own neighborhoods. For more information, please visit .

My vote this year went to chamomile. I've never grown it before. I chose it for it's pretty, daisy-like little blooms, and because I've grown basil and cilantro for many years. Chamomile is an aromatic plant, and makes a good companion for vegetables in the brassica family. It's said to enhance their flavor, discourage cabbage worms, host hoverflies and wasps, and to accumulate minerals such as calcium, potassium and sulfur in the soil.


  1. I, too, am on Team Chamomile, but I'm not voting as I'm not in Chicagoland. Though I heard you guys like to vote twice, so feel free to cast a ballot on my behalf!! :)

  2. Go team Chamomile!

    Only twice Monica? Vote early, and often in Chicago! I suspect One Seed Chicago will have a tighter rein on the voting process than is typical in the political process in these parts! :O

  3. I've been leaning towards chamomile just because I think it will be this year's underdog. I'll make my decision this weekend and do my official endorsement post on Monday. I'm going to walk around the neighborhood and see if there's any chamomile seed heads still hanging around and collect some seeds too.

  4. You're probably right about its underdog status MBT. I always seem to go for the underdog! Good luck with the seed collecting!

  5. Yes, I also see it as the underdog (kinda like last year's eggplant), and, hell, that appeals to me. Heck, I voted for Nader (for reals!), and as a German, I'm honor-bound to back chamomile, so... it was easy for me!

  6. Monica, my track record seems to be picking the underdog. If anyone wants to know which plant won't win for sure, they just have check out my pick!

    If I had it to again knowing what I know now, I'd vote for him too, every time, even if he had no chance of winning. The 2-party system has to go.

  7. I love all three of these herbs so this is a tough decision!

  8. I love them all too Rose. My only 'issues' with cilantro are it bolts so fast, (although I do love the flowers,) and I never have any when the tomatoes are ripening.

    I've had trouble starting basil from seed, but figured that out last year, when I realized the seeds need warmth to sprout. It's too chilly to start them in the basement. Without a seed mat, the top of my computer is perfect for them. I had basil coming out my ears last summer - a problem I welcomed!

    The main reasons I voted chamomile were self-serving - never grew it before and would like to try it, and I have tons of basil and cilantro (coriander) seeds.

  9. This story even made our local radio news! I predict basil or cilantro will win, just because most people are familiar with them and often use them in cooking. But my vote would go to chamomile, too. Since I can't participate in this, I'm going to plant some chamomile anyway--I've got some seeds I never planted last year sitting on the shelf already. You've reminded me about its companion plant qualities. This is such a great program--do they ever do a follow-up study on how many people were successful with the seeds?

    Monica's comment made me laugh:)

  10. Wow Rose, that's cool! Mike Nowak covers it on his show on Sunday morning radio here too. He had MBT and Mike Helphand from NeigborSpace on last Sunday.

    My guess is basil will win. I don't know anyone who doesn't like it. With cilantro, it seems some people love it, and some can't stand it. I'm in the "love it" group.

    I'm not aware of any follow-up studies on success growing the seeds. Just know we have a lot of fun with this, and a lot of people participate.

    Monica always makes me laugh! I love her sense of humor - keeps me from taking myself too seriously!

  11. I guess I would have to go with Basil as it is such a favorite in my recipes. I have grown cilantro but it does bolt quickly.


  12. I'll be surprised if basil doesn't win Eileen.

    We're still enjoying our basil. Some is dried, and some is frozen into ice cubes. Both are so good, and so much better than dried from the store. The frozen still tastes like it just came from the garden. A little summer in January is delicious!

  13. I hope you enjoy the chamomile. It is certainly pretty and is supposed to make fair hair shine when used as a rinse - but I can't stand the smell. Chamomile tea, to me, is like drinking liquid compost, and I avoid touching the leaves . . . certainly pretty though.

  14. I enjoy the fragrance and the tea, Esther. I like the tea plain, even better mixed with other herbs, like mint, lemongrass, hibiscus. I like it with a little honey and a cinnamon stick too.


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