The Seed Midden
Autumn, 2001 #58


Which Seeds to Save

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Spring 2001
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Which Seeds to Save?
-by Tessa Gowans

When we think about adding new seeds to our collections, we must have certain priorities (or we will be buried in new seeds due to our insatiable curiosity about all of them!) Here is a description of what we look for in deciding which varieties to put in our catalog.

Open-pollinated, Not genetically altered: This is our first priority, and there are no exceptions to this rule. We are less adamant about our other priorities, but hope to satisfy most of them.

Heirloom: One important criteria for seed selection is whether the seed is an heirloom (generally defined as at least 50 years old). We know that a story is delicious too, so if it comes with a history, we perk up and take notice. "Tribal" and "pioneer" type seeds are generally thought of as heirloom seeds. They have stood the test of time and deserve to be carried into the future.

Pacific Northwest Adapted: A short season variety, able to handle cooler weather with resistance to powdery mildew or late blight is ideal. We will be avid to grow it the next season on our farm.

Limited Availability: The fewer sources for a variety the more interested in it we become. If a variety is being dropped by seed companies, we consider it endangered, and often try to pick it up. These seeds may not be selling well because they are out of fashion or have strange names. We welcome these oddities with open arms (this may be obvious trying to read the names in our catalog). For example, some of our favorite varieties are Pisarecka Zlutoluske bean, Uzbekski cucumber, Yedi Kule Cinsi lettuce and Kcoito quinoa.

Taste and Nutrition: If a vegetable tastes great, we want to grow it so we can eat it! Of course, everyone's tastes are a bit different, so it's somewhat subjective, but if in a taste test we all say "Wow! Let me try some more of that one!" It gets points and we will all want to grow it again. Vegetables with high nutrition value attract us too, (but we still want them to taste great).

Unusual Varieties: We are also looking for seeds that are unusual or forgotten. This criteria pointed us toward our Andean tubers which have won us all over. Most of our staff had never even heard of these before and now we're hooked. Many of us grow them in our own gardens so we can enjoy watching them grow and also get to east them! Under "forgotten seeds" are the ones that used to be grown years ago that have become "unfashionable", like rutabagas or mangels. These are tasty and nutritious foods which deserve to be grown more so we are on the lookout for them before they disappear.

These are the basic criteria we are looking at when we add new seeds to our collection. So many seeds are becoming endangered or lost, We are doing research to find, grow out and offer the ones in the greatest danger. Help us to preserve these treasures--grow them out and save the seed.

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