Jack and the Beanstalk may be a fairy tale, but anyone who has witnessed a tiny bean transform itself into an enormous sprawling vine in a matter of weeks knows that the magic of seed is very real. We often take them for granted, and don’t appreciate the power stored in their tiny cells, but seeds literally hold the key to our food security. Most of our food supply depends on annual crops that must be replanted every year. Someone has to harvest, clean, and store those seeds until it’s time to sow them again.
In 2015, after a seed bank near Aleppo was damaged in the Syrian civil war, the first ever seed withdrawals were made from the Svalbard Seed Vault in Norway (aka The Doomsday Vault). Thirty-six boxes of wheat, barley, legumes, herbs, and other food crops that had been safely stored in the vault were sent to Morocco and Lebanon to be multiplied and used to restore Syrian supplies. Who knows how many unique varieties may have been lost, if not for the existence of the seed bank and those earlier deposits by Syrian seed custodians.
All of our cultivated plants depend on human care. If nobody grows a particular variety and saves its seeds, that variety becomes extinct forever. A century ago, millions of seed-saving gardeners and farmers kept all our plant varieties alive. Increasingly, we have become dependent on commercial seed companies to do our seed saving for us, with the result that they determine which varieties will be maintained and which ones will become extinct. Our global biodiversity has taken a big hit. Fortunately, many individuals and organizations are working to save what remains of that biodiversity and rebuild an interest in saving seeds.
In Canada, Seeds of Diversity is probably the best-known proponent of seed saving. Their website has a wealth of information and resources for anyone wanting to learn about seed saving or biodiversity. They maintain the Canadian Seed Library with over 2,900 regionally-adapted and rare seed varieties, facilitate an annual member-to-member seed exchange (of which two-thirds of the offerings are not available from any seed company), and also keep a garlic collection of over 100 varieties.
The Unitarian Service Committee of Canada, (remember Lotta Hitschmanova?), once known for their international humanitarian work, decided in 2007 to focus on helping small-scale farmers, and recently changed their name to SeedChange, with the understanding that “it starts with seeds.” Their Community Seed Network publication is filled with resources and information on seed saving, sharing, and networking.
In November, I was lucky enough to attend the BC Seed Gathering, a biennial event organized by the BC Seed Co-op (farmers providing BC grown certified organic and ecological seeds). Surrounded by plant breeding enthusiasts and seed-saving devotees who can talk for hours about bean or squash varieties, it was easy to get inspired, and I returned with lots of seed packets and great aspirations for the next growing season. I was especially intrigued by the Kwantlen Seed Library portable card catalogue boxes and I would love to obtain something similar for our Kamloops Community Seed Library. If anyone out there has a line on any old card catalogue boxes or cabinets, we’d love to hear from you! They are perfect for storing and displaying seed collections.
Seedy Saturdays and Sundays, started in 1990 at Van Dusen Gardens, have become a mainstay of many communities, and give gardeners a chance to trade seeds, buy unusual varieties, talk to other growers, and generally get energized and motivated about the upcoming growing season. The 2020 Kamloops Seedy Saturday takes place on March 14 at the OLPH Parish Centre, 635 Tranquille Rd. Expect to see a seed swap table, seed and plant vendors, free workshops, seed cleaning demos, and more. There will be a Kamloops Community Seed Library table where you can become a member and take home seeds to grow out and (hopefully) multiply. We currently have a good number of interesting bean varieties, a few tomatoes (including the prize winner from the 2019 tomato festival), amaranth, herbs, flowers, and some industrial hemp. We love to get returns, but there’s no obligation!
For more information about the Kamloops Food Policy Council, visit our website at kamloopsfood policycouncil.com.
Lindsay's Roasted Beet Dip (a delicious vegan appie!)
2 cups roasted beets
8 cloves roasted garlic
½ cup fresh parsley
½ cup raw walnuts
¼ tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon honey, agave or maple syrup
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons water
1. Trim and peel 2-3 medium sized beets and cut into bite-sized pieces. Peel garlic. Place beets and garlic in a small oven-proof casserole, drizzle with a little oil. Roast covered, at 400F for about 45 minutes until beets are tender. Let cool.
2. Blend everything together in a blender or food processor. Serve chilled with veggies, crackers, or as a sandwich spread.