Seed Saving and 2012

by Rochelle Greayer

in Eating + Drinking, Plants

macro photography of seeds

image by Sea Moon

Are you going to the movies this weekend?  I really want to see the Fabulous Mr. Fox with my family, but there is another movie just out that has my attention (if only for a few minutes)  – 2012.   I suspect that seeing this movie is not actually going to make my calendar unless some family force over takes me.  I am not given to seeking out high action movies and the 2012 phenomenon in whatever form you might believe in it, is not something I give any credence to beyond simply the far fetched premise of a big budget blockbuster flick.  I tend to be skeptical.  But….it does make me think about something…seed saving.  Should their be catastrophic (not likely) or more likely, considerable climatic changes, or (already happened) commercial culling, that causes the slow demise and obscurement of horticultural species, it is comforting to know that there are seed saving resources around the world like the International Seed Saving Institute and others.

macro shot of poppy seed pods by Dragan*

image by Dragan*

Seed saving is fascinating to me.  As a farmers market manager, I have had the opportunity to know some local seed savers that through their efforts have been able to create a new life in a new country (USA).  Hmong Farms which is local to me (and one of my market vendors) is part of a greater cooperative of immigrant farmers who use some local land to grow food.  Many of the foods that people grow there are varieties of vegetables that they brought with them from their original lands (Somalia, Brazil, Laos, Vietnam to name a few).  The cooperative gives immigrants an opportunity to continue to grow their own food, as they did in their native homes, as well as potentially ramp up production to enable them to move beyond feeding their own families and begin to sell their produce at local venues as a means of income.  I love the Hmong products as I am always delighted with varieties that I could never find in my large corporate grocery.  For example,  I have discovered that a variety of asian green pumpkin that they grow makes pie that naturally tastes like a super rich pumpkin pie cheese cake.  Their stand always smells so especially fresh and delicious with their huge Asian scallions, Thai basil, mint and dill.  (I am longing for next summer’s harvest already…)

sunflower seed image from by Oh Lenna

image by Oh Lenna

Anyway back to my original thought…seed saving.  In past years I have half heartedly tried to save seeds from plants that I enjoyed in my vegetable garden —  to little success.  I ended up with a moldy mess and seeds that didn’t grow. (In my defense, I didn’t actually try very hard).  I may have been trying to save hybrids – who knows.   I am not one to pay much attention to these details.  Nor do I pay a lot of attention to expiration dates, I prefer to throw something in the ground rather than in the trash – it’s an optimistic approach.

There are some pretty extensive seed saving efforts going on around the world including the Svalbard International Seed Vault which is built inside a mountain in a man-made tunnel on the frozen Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. It is designed to survive catastrophes such as nuclear war  and is operated by the Global Crop Diversity Trust.  The Millennium Seed Bank Project located at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex also provides space for the storage of thousands of seed samples in an underground vault.  And if you really want to take he subject seriously, consider Nikolai Vavilov a Russian geneticist and botanist who collected seeds from all over the world, and set up one of the first seedbanks, in Leningrad (now St Petersburg).  During WWII’s seige of Leningrad, several botanists starved to death rather than eating the collected seeds. It is now known as the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry.

Are you a 2012 enthusiast (is that possible? can one think it’s all coming to an end in 2012 AND be enthusiastic?)  Interestingly, you have some packaged options for seed emergencies.   Hometown seeds offers canned garden seeds for emergency seed production and similarly (but more expensive and you must weed through a website laced with lots of scare tactics) you can also buy a nice looking collection of non-hybrid high production seeds from the survival seed bank.

It’s the perfect gift for the 2012 enthusiast.