Today I’m sharing another excerpt from Seed Savers-Treasure. This is the scene where Clare and Dante first see Gruff’s balcony. In the end, they eat flowers. Can you guess what flower it is?
He led them out of the kitchen and back through the main room, then disappeared behind some curtains to a sliding glass door that opened onto the balcony they’d seen from the street. His sitting room, thick with plants, was nothing compared to this. The balcony exploded in vegetation. Plants were everywhere—on the floor, on benches, on the wide railing. Pots were stacked and tiered. Gruff pointed to some large containers bearing three bushes. Each bush held the little round blueberries; a few of the berries were green. He plucked off a large dark blue one and popped it into his mouth.
“Blueberry,” he said simply.
Clare’s mouth dropped open in disbelief. Her eyes darted from the floor to the benches and railing. “You grow these blueberries right here? But—”
Before she could finish, however, she noticed the wall of the apartment building. Trellises of lush, verdant vines bearing large, green tomatoes covered the wall. Her hand flew to her mouth.
“Those are your tomatoes?” Dante asked, having seen them.
“But, but how can you have them out here in the open?” Clare asked in astonishment.
Gruff motioned the children to sit on the porcelain stools and wooden boxes. He sighed. “Nobody really cares about New Jersey. Least of all this town, or this part of town. Perhaps you noticed.” He waved his hand toward the dilapidated and vacant neighborhood.
“Just to be safe, I pick the tomatoes before they turn red and let them ripen inside. Not that it matters. Not much enforcement goes on around here. For anything. Hmph.” He stared straight ahead. “Society has given up on us.”
The children listened in quiet disbelief as Gruff told his story. “In the beginning, when the regulations for urban gardening first began, we were careful. But the truth is,” he paused, and his eyes grew hard, “by the time seed saving and gardening became illegal, most folk didn’t notice or care. They had grown used to processed and packaged food. In time, people forgot food came from living things.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “Most folk, ‘specially city folk, knew nothing about producing their own food. But some of us weren’t so easy to get rid of. We went underground, so to speak.” The light was coming back to his face. “We networked. We called each other Seed Savers.”
He smiled. “We’re strong in number, even now. Yes, Clare, I used to be careful about where I grew my food. And then one day it dawned on me: Nobody has plant knowledge anymore. People see a bush, a tree, a flower, but they don’t know the names. They don’t know what’s edible and what’s not.
“GRIM doesn’t drive through this neighborhood. Little by little, I began replacing my ornamentals with edibles. And nobody noticed.” He let out a long sigh and stuck out his lower lip.
The children’s eyes wandered from the storyteller to the plants, bushes, and even trees, on the balcony. “All of these make food?” Dante asked.
“Nah. Some are just flowers. But they are flowers you can eat,” he said, winking.
“Sure,” said Gruff. He reached over and picked a bright red flower and handed it to the boy. “Try this.”
Dante held the soft flower in his hand. He giggled and then bit into it. He chewed it up.
“Well?” Clare asked, “How is it?”
“Good,” said Dante. “Have one yourself.”
“Are the yellow ones okay to eat?” she asked Gruff.
“Certainly. Be my guest.” Lifting it to her nose, Clare first smelled the flower. Then she brought it to her lips and nibbled a tiny piece. It wasn’t bad. A little spicy, but not unpleasant. If she had known, she might have described it as a slightly nutty flavor.
Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on Twitter. Sign up for the newsletter!
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