I recently had to write an essay on Food Sovereignty and it was during this research I became totally fascinated with the Seed Sovereignty aspect of La Via Campesina’s movement – the right to breed and exchange diverse open source seeds which can be saved and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled. I had no real understanding of the devastating impact on our biodiversity due to a number of factors, not least, the agri-behemoths who control seeds around the world for farmers and home gardeners alike. 94% of our seed varieties have been lost (forever!) since the turn of the 20th century – that’s frightening!
But, there are people all around the world doing their bit to save our seeds and ensure we don’t lose our precious heirloom varieties and to keep our food heritage alive – Janisse Ray is one of them. A writer, naturalist and activist, Janisse is a seed saver, seed exchanger and seed banker and has been growing food for nearly 30 years!
The Seed Underground is a charming read – it’s a collection of stories about her past and people she has met along her way, characters who are striving to save open-pollinated varieties that will be lost if people don’t grow, save and swap their seeds. These are not activists in the militant sense, just ordinary people who are connected to their environment and the food that they produce and eat. If you’re interested in gardening and food then this book will be a light and happy read that’ll still make you think.
I’ve been massively inspired and as a result I’ve been experimenting with heritage varieties this year and will be trying to make my own contribution to the movement by saving and exchanging my seeds. I’ve bought another book – Back Garden Seed Saving from The Real Seed Catalogue (where I also bought some heirloom corn and carrots ) which I’m hoping will help teach me how to do this. I can’t wait to give the tomatoes a go as well as a few other things.
And this one…
After last year’s disappointments we’re hoping for a bumper crop of fruit and vegetables from our garden this year and have created a new raised bed and added some new and more unusual varieties to our growing list. Since starting my MSc in Gastronomy I’ve learnt a lot about soil science and food production and we’re putting some of these learnings into practice – this year we’re all about biodiversity and organic methods.
So it was rather timely when I was asked if I would like to receive a box of organic vegetables and salads from Rocket Gardens – a Cornish-based company that allow you to pick and choose from a number of varieties and then deliver them to your door. Time has been a big issue for me with my studies so thought this would be a great way to get the gyo-ing going quickly.
The ‘Family Favourites Veg Patch‘ duly arrived and I have to say, it was better than Christmas opening it up and unraveling all the layers. The plantlings had all been tucked up in a bed of straw for their travels. Not all the plants had labels on them but they were grouped together so it was easier for identification. So I spent a very pleasant hour laying them all out to see what was what.
Our box contained two different lettuces (Buttercrunch and Red Salad Bowl), yellow courgettes, rainbow chard, carrots, wild rocket, Beetroot (Detroit), Cucumber (Marketmore), Green Sprouting Calabrese, Cavalo nero (Nero di Toscana), peas (Kelvedon Wonder), Giant Winter Leeks, two types of tomato (Tigerella and Golden Sunrise), runner beans (Enorma), dwarf french beans (Tender Green) and seed potatoes (Electra).
Sadly we had some issues with a soil delivery so I wasn’t able to put them straight into the garden so popped them all into pots until we were ready. But they don’t seem to be any the worse for spending, what turned out to be quite a while, in waiting. They all seem to be growing away quite nicely now – I had wondered how they might cope with our altitude and colder climate compared to the South West.
We already had four lots of potatoes and four lots of tomatoes on the go so I gave those to neighbours but you can select a mixture of the plants that you want if you don’t choose a selection box. At £34.99 for 125 plants I think this is an absolute bargain – the price is comparable for what we’ve paid in Homebase or such like, and those had no organic credentials. This is definitely a service I would use again, they also do gift vouchers which would make a brilliant present for some of my green fingered friends.
My only slight issue is that I now appear to have a courgette growing in amongst my cucumbers, they were very similar looking plants and not all of them are labelled, still it adds some extra interest to that pot.