An Interview With Jan Blüm of Seeds Blüm

Conversations with MOTHER spotlights an interview with Jan Blüm, founder of the small seed company Seeds Blüm that specializes in preserving, propagating and selling heirloom seeds.

| January/February 1988

A small seed company is saving a precious plant heritage. Seeds Blüm puts out a catalogue Jan Blüm makes sure is chock-full of humorous line drawings, fine recipes, reviews of helpful books, gardening advice and rare vegetable varieties. 

An Interview With Jan Blüm of Seeds Blüm

The southern Idaho mountains are brown in August. The wagon tracks of those who took the Oregon Trail west so many years ago are still visible as they tumble over an escarpment to the tree-lined waters of Moore's Creek near Boise. Clear blue skies contrast brightly with the barren hills as the dusty gravel road forks and forks again, bringing me to the entrance of a small, lush cove. Past the gate, a poppy-strewn path leads up a slight incline. On the left, a gushing little stream rushes down to the road. Climbing the hill on the right, colorful vegetables and fruit in pretty, complementary patterns peek through rich, green leaves of varying hues. Out of the gardens emerge two small, attractive buildings, where a wooden sign tells me I've indeed arrived at Seeds Blüm (pronounced "Bloom"), a sanctuary for heirloom seeds that otherwise might disappear from the planet.

Jan Blüm ushers me over herb-framed flagstones into a combination kitchen — dining room — office. The tantalizing scent of simmering beans replaces the flower-filled air outside. Blue glass jars of dried legumes and canned fruits and vegetables line the kitchen shelves. We take a quick tour of the gardens and buildings, where a staff of five other women is germinating seeds, filling orders and preparing to put out the 1988 edition of the six-year-old company's always delightful seed catalogue.

During this short tour, it becomes apparent to me that Jan Blüm has taken on a gargantuan task — that of preserving, judging, propagating and marketing millions of heirloom seeds, while efficiently managing a rapidly expanding business.

We return to the kitchen, and — as Karla, Blüm's business partner and talented one-woman construction crew, efficiently prepares a bean burrito lunch — I ask Jan how she had dared to even begin this undertaking. 

I grew up in a central California farming community. Though my parents were professionals, they both grew up on farms. They always had a big garden, and my mother kept a fabulous lawn — not a weed in it. I remember in the second grade being thrilled at planting things, but basically, as a kid, I wasn't truly interested in gardening. I wanted to do something with my life, not spend it weeding a lawn. After all, a yard may look pretty, but when I died, who was going to care? I pretty much turned my back on that. I married a minister and did a lot of work with people.

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