Novel Uses for Common Garden Crops

Novel Uses for Common Garden Crops

Once in awhile we come across varieties that are so novel and extraordinary that even we are taken by surprise. Here are some of our favorite “outside of the box” varieties that we’ve encountered in the last few years.

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SSE 2016 Yearbook Released

SSE 2016 Yearbook Released

Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) has released their 2016 Yearbook, a listing of fruit, vegetable, grain, flower, and herb seeds that SSE members have harvested and would like to share with others.  The 2016 Yearbook has over 16,422 unique varieties of plants listed; many of them are available nowhere else in the United States.

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Over fifty varieties of tubers offered in the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook

Over fifty varieties of tubers offered in the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook

This fall, SSE harvested over 50 varieties of potatoes and will be offering them in the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook and the online Seed Exchange. SSE has been working for over 20 years to be able to distribute tubers that are virus-free.

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Adding donations to the SSE Collection: The Gary Staley Collection

Adding donations to the SSE Collection: The Gary Staley Collection

All seed collectors, no matter the size of their collection, should try to gather historical and varietal information about their seeds. SSE's top Collection priorities are heirlooms with a history of being saved and shared within a family or community. Ideal donations are well documented and have a story with a clear chain of ownership and providence.

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Community Profile: Flint, Michigan - Casting a Vote for Seeds

Community Profile: Flint, Michigan - Casting a Vote for Seeds

Over 200 community gardens are present in Flint. The adoption of the city’s first long-range master plan in over 50 years is invigorating community gardening and urban agriculture enthusiasts with the mapping of “Green Innovation” areas and “Green Neighborhoods.” The Flint Seed Democracy is hoping to keep crops for food and seed firmly rooted in the local climate and economy.

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Printing the Yearbook

2014 Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook

The Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) Yearbook has been sent to the printer! If you’re a long-time member, the arrival of the Yearbook may be the most anticipated garden-planning event of the year. If you’re new to SSE, however, the term ‘Yearbook’ can be a bit perplexing, and may conjure up memories of unfortunate portraits and embarrassing club associations.

2014 Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook

The annual Yearbook is one way of accessing the Seed Savers Exchange, a network of gardeners, farmers, plant breeders and chefs who contribute to the most diverse seed exchange on the planet. Heritage Farm (where our staff maintains a permanent seed collection, sells seeds commercially, hosts events and publishes the seed exchange) is one part of this network.

Each year, hundreds of SSE members put together a list of fruit, vegetable, grain, flower and herb seeds they have harvested and would like to share with others. These seeds are organized in a database that is available online (exchange.seedsavers.org) and printed out annually as our Yearbook.

Entering thousands of open-pollinated plants into a publicly accessible database each year requires hundreds of hours of staff time. From September to January, SSE staff is busy pouring through lists of tomatoes, beans, squash, peppers, potatoes, watermelons, rutabagas, apples, peaches, kiwis, sunflowers, hops, hollyhocks and zinnias (and at least 200 other plant types). When these lists are entered, we have about a week to proof 500 pages of nearly 20,000 offerings.

Since 1975, the Seed Savers Exchange has been connecting our members to one another through the annual Yearbook. All SSE members can participate in the seed exchange by requesting seeds (there are 13,000+ different varieties to choose from), offering seeds, or both.

It is never too late to offer seeds; although the 2014 Yearbook is already being printed and shipped, the Online Seed Exchange is always open to new members and new seeds.

The Seed Savers Exchange is one of the most resilient tools for preserving rare garden varieties. As a member, you have the opportunity to contribute to the seed exchange by growing your favorite fruits and vegetables, saving seeds, and sharing those seeds with others.

To browse the exchange online, learn how to save your own seeds, request rare varieties, or to offer seeds yourself, visit exchange.seedsavers.org. Membership is required to log in, but educational resources are open to everyone. If you’d like to be a part of the exchange and receive the-500 page Yearbook, join SSE today.

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Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization located in Decorah, Iowa, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

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One Rooster Step at a Time

Sicilian Buttercup Chicken

Sicilian Buttercup Chicken The first sentence in my book, Gathering, reads “I grew up knowing that you harvest horseradish only in the months with an “r” in them and that every day gets a “rooster step” longer after the shortest day of the year.”

I understood the horseradish part, but for the longest time I was never quite sure of my Grandma Einck’s observation.  The stride of a rooster—especially our bantams—isn’t much to speak of; it’s more like a baby step. But, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand her wisdom.  The shortest day of the year is December 21 (when the sun set this year at about 4:30 pm), but by the end of January it might stay light until 5:15 p.m.  And of course, by the first day of summer, the days seem longer by a thousand rooster steps. One rooster step isn’t much, but a couple hundred rooster steps is the difference between a cold long winter’s night and a glorious summer evening. You can get a lot done with a few more rooster steps.

Grandma Einck’s insight has come to mind many times in my adult life.  When folks ask, “How did Seed Savers Exchange get started?” and “How did we get to where we are today?” I tell them that it certainly didn’t happen all at once, but it did happen with the certainty of a rooster’s step.

1980 Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook

I am especially reminded of this when I see the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook being compiled around this time of year. Our first six-page seed listing in 1979 was so small we printed our 29 members’ seed listings along with their letters in their entirety. The next year our group had grown to 142 and we printed the seventeen-page booklet on a hand-cranked mimeograph machine set up in an unheated back bedroom of our farmhouse.  Today our members list more than 12,000 varieties in a 500 page book and we send it to more than 13,000 members.  We also organize the listings for easy online access at exchange.seedsavers.org. Amazing to think of the growth in all areas of Seed Savers Exchange that has transpired with 40 years of roosters steps.

Solutions to problems like genetic diversity don’t have to all be complicated or large; they can be as bold or as small as you like. Just one simple act can make a difference.  Plant a seed, save a seed, support your local farmers market, CSA or community gardens, and simply ask your grocer or restaurant about where your food comes from. These small acts, added together, will make a difference. Small is underestimated, small is a beginning; small can make an important contribution to your planet and family, even something as small as a rooster’s step.

Diane Ott Whealy is Co-Founder and Vice President of Seed Savers Exchange, the nation's leading non-profit seed saving organization. She wrote Gathering: Memoir of a Seed Saver to chronicle the organization's humble beginnings and growth into a respected leader in the grassroots movement to preserve our agricultural heritage.

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Join Seed Savers Exchange and gain access to the world's largest seed exchange.

Our non-profit mission is to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

 

 

Online Seed Exchange

Online Seed Exchange

Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) is proud to provide a new tool to help seed savers and gardeners keep the diversity of our garden heritage in the hands of many: an online seed exchange.

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