Exotic Seed Collection

The Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA, also known as Garden Organic) is setting up an Exotic Seeds Collection.

This is similar to the Heritage Seed Library, but aimed at collecting non-traditional edible plants which have rarely if ever been comercially sold in this country. They may have been brought in with different immigrant communities or been handed down the generations or from an allotment of a neighbour or friend.

We're aiming to try to save unusual or little known (often warm climate origin) crops - some examples include amaranth or calalloo, eddoes or taro, Hamburg parsley, chick peas, chillies, white maize, dudi, yard-long beans, black-eye beans and so on. We also want the stories of why those crops are important to people.

Reasons the project is important -

1. The climate appears to be changing dramatically - gardeners will probably need to find new genetic resources to breed more climate-tolerant veg/potential new crops soon.

2. The knowledge of how to grow these crops in the UK is limited and may die with their growers: many of the older allotment holders from a range of cultures, such as Eastern European, Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities are reaching an age when they can no longer be as active on their plots.

Do they want to leave viable seeds for their grandchildren? we can help protect and grow on their seeds, even if their children are not interested in gardening now, so their efforts in cultivating their own, special plants are not lost when they can't garden any longer due to old age or ill health.

3. Food security/reducing food miles - as the price of fuel goes ever higher, we need to grow more of our own food. The UK's eating habits have changed dramatically in the past 40 years, so shouldn't the veg we grow reflect this even more than it does now? If we're happy to eat ethnic, why not grow it?

What we would like people to do:

Tell as many people who grow veg about the project as they can - we hope to be as well known as the Heritage Seed Library in 12 months.( Eventually we hope to have grown on enough seeds to be able to share them with like-minded people, just like the heritage seed library does now)

Think if they grow something which might come into the range of plants covered by the project - or if they know somebody who does.

Ask themselves if they would like to become involved in the project.

If they would like to help, please consider growing an extra plant for seed production this coming growing season (if they haven't got room or time, maybe ask a friend to grow on a seedling for them)

And please tell us why the plant is special - did it grow in a grandparent's garden? Is it something which is connected with a festival or particular dish or eaten at a certain time of year? Or does it just taste really good?

If you want to take part in the Exotic Seeds Project, please contact

Sally Cunningham or Anton Rosenfeld
The Exotic Seeds Collection Project
Garden Organic
Ryton Gardens
CV 8 3LG

email: scunningham (at) gardenorganic.org.uk

or arosenfeld (at)gardenorganic.org.uk

I've written it this way to avoid spammers.

ND / habitat21.

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