What is it about seedlings that raises a surge of delight the moment you realize those little seeds have successfully sprouted? It’s probably the same thing that causes us to go ooooh when we see kittens, and talk silly to babies.

I started broccoli seeds about 10 days ago, on a Saturday, and by Thursday most of them had sprouted. I’d almost forgotten about the broccoli until I wandered into the back room and the delight caught me by surprise. I feel this way about onion sprouts, peppers, tomatoes, and virtually every other seed and, of course, every kitten and every baby.

There’s something more about seeds that I haven’t ever heard anyone mention. One season years ago I weighed 100 tomato seeds and then used the average weight of the produce from 6 plants to calculate the ratio of produce weight per plant to the weight of one seed. I’d have to dig for the results and thought it would be easier to do the numbers again.

I just now used 125 tomato seeds. They weighed 0.4 grams. Each seed then weighs 003.2 grams. Let’s say the amount of produce from one seed, conservatively, would be 10 pounds of tomatoes. I know I’ve doubled that weight on some plants in some seasons, but we’ll stick with 10 pounds. That’s the equivalent of 4,640 grams. That means that the produce created by one seed weighs about one and one-half million times the weight of the seed.

This number is truly astounding. Tomato seeds are marvelous energy concentrators, taking the energy of the sun, mixing it with water and nutrients and giving us produce at a remarkable return. I haven’t figured out what the ratio would be for other plants but I think for many of them it would be less. If an onion seed produced a one-pound onion the ratio of produce weight to seed weight would be “only” 150,000 times. And since onion seeds are larger than tomato seeds, the ratio would be even less, but probably higher than 15,000 times. Still not a bad return!

Some day, those little seedlings, like kittens and babies, will grow up, make their mark on the world, however large or small, and eventually die. I think as we get older we are attracted to kittens and babies and seedlings because even though we ourselves are growing closer to our own end, we’re still drawn by the inspiration of new life.