18 December, 2009

Seeds With No Future

Seeds from an open pollinated corn that have been purposefully crossed with others, provide a plethora of colors and sizes in last year's harvest of corn from my garden.  They also provide an amazing diversity of genetic material that could prove crucial in the years ahead.

What do we want in the seeds we sow?

A future.

We want a crop we will be able to eat, or to spin or heal us. In a seed, a human sees the future. The seed provides it's crop, and if the crop held promise, the human would save 10% or so of that crop to insure that the same results would be approximated next year. That was not a law of man, but of nature. Seeds were nature's way of insuring the survival of a species or a variety of a species. Mankind selected seeds that produced crops he needed or desired and made improvements to plants of importance to him. It was almost a holy, sacred pact.

Today, we have 'genetic modified organisms.' In genetic modification of organisms, instead of culling genes of existing plants and selecting for traits that are valuable, modern science injects traits into plants from completely different forms of life to arrive at what they want. This is not the same thing as finding the corn plant with the biggest ear and saving that seed to plant next year. It is not a logical step, no matter what the defenders might say.

Now, these organisms MAY end up being safe; I am not certain they will be, but there is that chance. However, making the planet and the people now alive on it the unwitting mice in the long-term study is not acceptable. Scientists and companies advancing these technologies need to be required to make a twenty year study – in laboratories and controlled spaces – before these plants – and their pollen – are allowed to be in the great outdoors where they can have affects on plants that are as yet unknown. After the twenty year study, then perhaps studies could be undertaken to see if the plants can exist in the wild. One can hear the squeals of protest that the economic losses would be horrific and this is the talk of stifling economic growth and science. Tell it to Bhopal where science and economic concerns showed that they were incapable of giving life a fair chance to survive.

Seeds have to have a future if mankind will have a future. The future cannot be patented and should not be threatened just for financial gain (although we are pretty far down the road on that account many times over...).

Monsanto has created seeds they have patented. Among other transgressions, they have planted their GMO corn with such flagrant violation of common sense that its pollen has been found in wild stands of teosinte, corn's presumed predecessor. They make seeds and they sell them – Seminis is their seed seller. And you can buy their seed. Unfortunately you can buy their seed without knowing it too. There is no law that says a genetically modified seed has to be identified.

However, we can identify the companies who sell these seeds to the public and we can not buy from them. This helps insure that the seeds you plant are seeds that do not support Monsanto and their research. I would encourage all gardeners to be proactive about the future of life on earth and not buy anything that helps support this crime against our children and the children of the planet. Our government is too weak to fight back – Congress has sold their souls for the buck to get re-elected; the courts don't understand the depths of the sinister depravity of companies that hold profit is more important than life and the regulatory agencies are staffed by the very people that need to be regulated. It really is up to the individual to do all he or she can to make the change.

Here is the plan of action, as I see it today:
  1. Do not buy any seeds that support Monsanto or Seminis – list below.
  2. Do buy all the open pollinated seeds you can grow, grow them and save seeds from them – plant them again and share your seeds with your neighbors. Tell them what you did and why you did it!
  3. Educate gardeners (and consumers) all around you to the evils in our own country. The so-called Evil Empire is not a foreign government or corporation! It is in America!
  4. Continue to try to elect people who are conscious of the greater problem facing the world today and aren't willing to sell out to corporations that clearly aren't here for humanity. It's OK to make an honest living, but this is not honest and it is not just a 'living.'

The List
From Seminis' own website, the following list of companies are dealers for seeds from Monsanto and therefore are not to be trusted (some of my favorite companies are here, I find that very sad):

Burpee, W Atlee
300 Park Ave.
Warminster, PA 18974
Ph: (215)674-4900
Fax: (215)674-0838

Dege Garden Center
831 N Century Ave.
St Paul, MN 55119
Ph: (651) 739-8314
Fax: (651) 739-8326

E & R Seed Co.
1356 E. 200 S.
Monroe, IN 46772

Earl May Seed
208 N. Elm St.
Shenandoah, IA 51603
Ph:(712) 246-1020
Fax:(712) 246-1760

Garden Trends
355 Paul Rd.
Rochester, NY 14624
Ph: (716) 295-3600
Fax: (716) 295-3609

Gardens Alive
5100 Schenley Place
Lawrenceberg, IN 47025
Ph: (812) 537-8650
Fax: (812) 537-5108

Germania Seed Co.
5978 N. Northwest Hwy
Chicago, IL 60631
Ph: (773) 631-6631
Fax: (773) 631-4449

Johnnys Selected Seeds
955 Benton Ave.
Winslow, ME 04901
Ph: (207) 861-3900
Fax: (207) 861-8381

J.W. Jung Seed Co.
335 S. High St.
Randolph, WI 53956
Ph:(920) 326-3121
Fax:(920) 326-5769

Lindenberg Seeds
803 Princess Ave.
Brandon, Manitoba
Canada R7A 0P5
Ph: (204) 727-0575
Fax: (204) 727-2832

Mountain Valley Seed
1800 South West Temple #600
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
Ph: (801) 486-0480
Fax: (801) 467-5730

Nichols Garden Nursery
1190 North Pacific Hwy
Albany, OR 97321
Ph: (541) 928-9280
Fax: (541) 967-8406

Park Seed
Hwy 254 N.
Greenwood, SC 29647
Ph:(864) 223-8555
Fax:(864) 941-4206

Rocky Mountain Seed Co.
6541 N. Washington
Denver, CO 80229
Ph: 303-623-6223
Fax: 303-623-6254

T & T Seeds, Ltd.
Box 1710
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Canada R3C 3P6
Ph: (204) 895-9964
Fax: (204-895-9967

Tomato Growers Supply
P.O. Box 720
Fort Myers, FL 33902
Ph:(941) 768-1119
Fax:(941) 768-3476

Willhite Seed Co.
PO Box 23
Poolville, TX 76487
Ph: (817) 599-8656
Fax: (817) 599-5843


01 December, 2009

The Year In Review: Part I, The Winter Garden

Fava beans are not only a tasty addition to a diet, they grow in the cooler months (about the same time you would grow peas), and the flowers are lovely.  Give 'em room -they are big plants! 

I grew up in NE Kansas and all through my childhood, spent winter months with the Burpee catalog. I would read all the descriptions of the vegetables and compare them over and over again. Grandpa, who saved his seed, had no use for 90% of all they sold, so I rarely got to see any of my multitude of lists even purchased let alone grown. Burpee went out of business for a while and had a bumpy few years, now is back, but really is only a shadow of its former self offering a rather paltry selection of seed that usually isn't much for the home gardener. However, many other catalogs (from seed companies or seed savers) have taken up the slack – I've written elsewhere on my favorite catalogs. But how was the year just past?

Of course, in LA, we've got the current winter garden just planted, but for LAST winter, here's some of our results:

Artichoke: I know I'm teasing the rest of the world, but I pay rent here so I figure I'm due my share of teasing. We had a great harvest last year of artichokes – mostly Green Globe Improved. They all produced big beautiful chokes with abandon. We had respectable harvest from Violetto which I love, but it wasn't nearly as productive.

Beets: Burpee's Golden and Chioggia - both are dynamite and steady producers year in and year out and both are usually from Pinetree although I have been known to get seed from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply too.

Broccoli: Nutribud is an OP of respectable performance; earliness is right up there with the hybrids and the size is comparable. As the name suggests, it is reported to have a higher percentage of glutamine. I add in a few plants of Premium Crop or (less often) Bellstar because I hate to rest on one crop, but I really expect most of my broccoli to be Nutribud.

Brussels sprouts: Bubbles was the hybrid we grew – someone had given me a couple of plants. They got whitefly bad and I couldn't see cleaning each little sprout thoroughly enough; although a friend did and sent me back a lovely dish of them (thanks Mary!). Between cabbage and broccoli, I think I get enough of this family to skip Brussels sprouts.

Cabbage: A good year for cabbage for us. We were donated a pointy headed hybrid, whose name has been lost to prosterity, produced huge 10 pound heads and was successful wherever we planted it, but was not any better than Danish Ball Head which is an OP heirloom. Both were huge solid heads and we ate and ate and finally learned how to ferment cabbage to be able to eat it the rest of the year (I still have some and this year's cabbage is in the ground !)

Carrots: I grow Mokum and Yaya, both hybrids. Yaya is the winner, but I can't always find the seed, I that came from some outfit in the Northwest I think. The seed was expensive (by my standards), but it was a sure winner in less than ideal soil. Mokum, from Pinetree, is always a dependable, decent carrot.

Cauliflower: Mark Twain is supposed to have said that 'cauliflower was cabbage that had gone to college' and I can't afford the tuition, so I stick to cabbage.

Celeriac: First year with this and I like it. I don't grow celery because it's a hard plant to grow and home grown celery has always tasted bitter to me. Celeriac, on the other hand, was easy to grow and produced well. You can't smear a hunk with cream cheese or peanut butter and have the same delightful appetizer, but it does a marvelous ballet in soups. Large Prague was our selection and I've not had experience with anything else.

Chard: (I'm dispensing with the 'Swiss' part, feel free to join me!) We had seed from Seed Savers Exchange of Five Color Silverbeet and seed of Pinetree's Orange Fantasia. Both were incredibly productive – although I've never known chard to be unproductive, so I'm not sure that's saying a lot. Someone gave us a few plants of Sea Foam and that one has spectacular production. Still, I like the red chard more and I think the orange is one helluva show stopper!

Fava beans: Windsor is my favorite and we get pounds of beans from each plant. In fact, I've given up on peas preferring to grow favas, garbanzos and lentils because I don't feel like I get enough to eat from peas.

Garlic: I love Spanish Roja and Music - hardnecks are supposed to not like warm climates, but I have great luck with them. Last year, the crows got to them. They don't eat the garlic, but they pull them out of the ground. After three or four go rounds with this (they pull, I replant), the cloves were hopelessly intermixed so which one was the better producer is anyone's guess. I'm starting with fresh seed garlic this year: Music, Spanish Roja, and Red Toch!

Kale: Redbor works for me. I had some plants of Dwarf Blue, but felt like that was a very stupid idea – same footprint for half the plant. What WAS I thinking?

Leeks: King Richard is my usual dependable producer but last year was a really so-so harvest. I think I ignored it too much.

Lettuce: I'm one of those who can't get through the lettuce section of a seed catalog without ordering four or five more packets! I could supply a large army with lettuce if I were given the land to do it. Marvel of the Four Seasons, Brown Winter, Red Winter, Deer Tongue, Buttercrunch, and on and on and on.

Onions: I buy plants from a local organic farm supply, but they sold out so I had NO onions. Disaster. But usually I grow their Italian Red Torpedo – a delicious onion that is absolutely stellar on the grill. Onions, unlike almost every other veggie we grow is 'day sensitive.' Most onions offered in the States will not bulb in LA because they are 'long day' plants and we need to grow 'short day' varieties. So most folks will not be able to compare to our experience.

Potatoes: We gathered leftovers from bachelor friends (they sprout in the pantry and we just plant them) - I don't know the varieties but we had a good harvest.

Shallots: Wow! I had never grown shallots before, but I have found they are easier to grow than onions and more productive! I planted seed from Pinetree and I was so impressed, I'm back for more! Olympus and Bonilla were both good performers.

Turnips: Purple Top White Globe is the only one I've ever had luck with and I have a LOT of luck with it.

All in all, this was one of the very best harvests we have ever had. We put up food, donated several tons to the Westside Food Bank and still ate like kings! It was all that compost, I tell you. The rain wasn't any great shakes (about 10” - less than our normal 12”) and there were several devastating hot spells in November, December and again in January. In fact, the winter garden last year got killed outright by a hard couple of weeks of Santa Ana winds that sent the thermometer soaring into triple digits several times and ruined numerous plantings. Oh, and I can't forget the mouse in the greenhouse that ate all the starts in January. Thank God for a long growing season!

What varieties have you had success with this last year?