Dreaming of the Moon and Stars

One of the most enjoyable things I find in gardening is looking at all the interesting seeds that are available for the home gardener. Some are new varieties designed for smaller gardens, like the Table King Acorn Pumpkin I’ve grown this year, while others are ‘heirlooms’ or seeds saved from the recent to the distant past. A few weeks ago Gardening Australia ran a story on heirloom vegetables which featured two melons Ha-Ogen and Moon and Stars.

I’ve been lucky enough to get some Ha-Ogen seeds from a fellow veggie blogger, in return for some of the seeds we’ve saved from our crops. This is how so many of the heirloom seed stories seem to go. The beautifully marked Moon and Stars melon is a case in point. This variety was thought to have become extinct, but some seeds had been saved and were passed on to growers who have continued to propagate it so it could become more widely available. You can read some more of the story on the Slow Food USA website.

It seems like fun and very romantic all this seed saving business but even I was surprised about how deadly serious the continued propagation of a wide diversity of crops and varieties within species is to our ongoing survival. As is the way of the internet I followed a link to an article called “Of Pandas and Peas” written by Cary Fowler of the Global Crop Diversity Trust . You may not know the name of this group but you’ve probably heard about their global seed vault in Svalbard Norway. Cary points out that:

“To many people, ???biodiversity??? is almost synonymous with the word ???nature???, and ???nature??? brings to mind steamy forests and the big creatures that dwell there.” …. [but] “Whether we consciously realize it or not, the biodiversity with which we are most familiar, and the biodiversity with which we have most intimate historical, cultural and biological connections, is that associated with food plants.”

Some more poking about on their website revealed a list of the *priority* crops they are working on conserving. These plants are listed in Annex 1 of the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and include: breadfruit, asparagus, oat, beet, brassicas (the cabbage family including broccoli and cauliflower), pigeon pea, chickpea, citrus, coconut, aroids (including taro and cocoyam), carrot, yams, finger millet, strawberry, sunflower, barley, sweet potato, grass pea, lentil, apple, cassava, banana/plantain, rice, pearl millet, beans, pea, rye, potato, eggplant, sorghum, triticale, wheat, faba bean, cowpea, maize and more than 80 forage species from 30 different genera.

Looking at that list Chez Fork is growing plants in 12 of those groups! So seed saving and growing a wide variety of plants is not just good for you, you will be contributing directly to ensuring the biodiversity of the planet.

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