Seed Saving: Sweet Grass, Partial Fail

Sweet grass braids drying in the open air.

Sweet grass braids drying in the open air.

This year I took a series on seed saving and learned a lot. 

Mostly that there is a lot to learn about saving seeds. There is wet and dry processing, scratch and burn processing, minimum population sizes and isolation ranges, knowing when and how to harvest seeds and that's just scratching the surface!! (pun intended).

When we were asked to pick our own seed crop to save and study throughout the season, I picked sweet grass. Why didn't I pick something more straight forward? Great question. I should have. But I didn't. Mostly because I was interested in saving a sacred plant that was tied to cultural traditions I didn't fully understand, growing it (I thought) would force me to pay closer attention.

I was half right.

Sweet grass grown in a jug my dad cut in half to prevent it from spreading all over.

Sweet grass grown in a jug my dad cut in half to prevent it from spreading all over.

Somewhere amidst my ambitious summer plans, I didn't notice that my sweet grass had sprouted it's tassels and was freely giving it's seeds to the neighboring ground.

Epic fail. 

The funny thing about both life and gardening is that sometimes you get lessons you didn't ask for. Like this lesson in utilizing what currently exists.

Which for me were three things. Dried beans I didn't get around to picking, sunflower seeds from a few giant heads and of course perfectly beautiful, long strands of sweet grass. What else can I do with this? Learn more basic seed saving from the beans and sunflowers, then make smudge sticks out of the sweet grass. Starting with the sweet grass.

I chose to grow my sweet grass in a big restaurant jug my dad found and cut in half for me, mainly because I had read sweet-grass can spread and I wasn't sure how much so I grew it in a container to be safe. Sweet grass is a perennial and should come back every year.

If you happen to have access to sweet grass (or any kind of pretty grass really) this is what the internet told me to do:

  1. Rubber-band the base of your grass to secure it into bunches.
  2. Separate into three pieces.
  3. Braid, just like you would with hair.
  4. Rubber-band the end.
  5. Cut at the base.
  6. Wait until they dry and enjoy the sweet smell in the process!

And that was pretty much it!

I am already enjoying their sweet smell in the house but will have to wait until they dry out to use for smudging. If that's a totally foreign term to you, here's what the internet has to say about it!

Using a sweet grass braid for smudging:

Tribal cultures and religions around the world often use specific herbs to promote positive intentions, send prayers and cast out unwanted energy. One common ceremony is called smudging or censing (incensing). During this ceremony one or more herbs are burned to produce smoke that is wafted over an object, person or a physical space.

In North America, three commonly used native herbs for smudging are White Sage, Incense Cedar, and Sweetgrass. Sweetgrass is often braided and dried to create long Sweetgrass braids. The smoke from this braid is used to facilitate prayers, encourage healing, and to bestow blessings and honor. Its pleasing aromas create a feeling of well-being, peace and comfort.

Even though I didn't end up harvesting seed, I did use my failure as a lesson, learning more about the the significance of sweet grass braids and the ritual of smudging. I'll take it.

And who knows, maybe next year I'll finally get that seed.