Sunday, December 11, 2011

Varieties of Vegetable Seeds I Believe Should Be Saved

SLOLA Volunteers Check-in Seeds
A year ago I drew up a list of seeds I thought would be the ones to save – I asked around for others to suggest varieties that I might have missed, but there haven't been a lot of responses.

I was explaining to someone the other day that SLOLA has something like 200 varieties of vegetables in our bank and how I would rather have fewer varieties with larger quantities of each. He suggested that I was postulating the same lack of diversity I decry in the world of seed today.

After thinking about it for a couple of days, I think I have an answer to that accusation: It is better to save a fewer varieties of seed and save them well than to have hundreds of different varieties and save them poorly. I would like SLOLA to save all the seeds that will grow here successfully, but that could easily be more seeds than SLOLA can handle at present.

It is more important that we start where we are (we can't really start somewhere else, can we?) and begin to learn how to save seeds of several major varieties and have them on hand. At present, there aren't that many members who are experienced at growing out to seed. Those who can reliably grow plants out to seed need to apply themselves to growing out the difficult seeds and grow enough out to insure a supply on hand for the rest of our members.

Last year, compiling my list of seeds to save, I was heading east on I-70 through Illinois on into Indiana ending up at Ft. Wayne to celebrate Christmas. I was in the back of a car with my little Netbook and using a Blackberry to be online. This year, I'm at home and surrounded by seed catalogs, including the two most often cited as 'veggie porn' catalogs (Seed Savers' Exchange and Baker Creek Heirlooms) and was able to use their listings to create the following list of seeds to save.

I'd like to hear from everyone who reads this and has suggestions for varieties of veggies to save. The Seed Savers Of Los Angeles need a list of seeds to save – a 'target' for us to shoot for. Email us via the blog or bring your list to any SLOLA meeting – I’ll be willing to add your suggestions to my list. Let's see if we can double this in the coming year!

Here are my choices:  

      Green Globe

      Aquadulce (Fava)
      Broad Windsor (Fava)
      Cannelini Bush Bean (Dry/Bush)
      Christmas (Lima/Climbing)
      Dr. Pineschi's Grandfather Bean (Vigna unguiculata)
      Envy (Soybean)
      Golden Wax Bean (Wax/Bush)
      Henderson (Lima/Bush)
      Hutterite Soup
      Pencil Pod (Wax/Bush)
      Royal Burgundy Bean (Purple/Early)
      Scarlet Runner (Phaseolus coccineus)

      Bull's Blood
      Crosby's Egyptian
      Burpee's Golden Beet
      Chioggia Beet
      Detroit Dark Red
      Yellow Cylindrical

Brussels Sprouts
      Long Island Improved

      Copenhagen Market Cabbage
      Early Jersey Wakefield
      Glory of Enkhuizen 
      Mammoth Red Rock
      Perfection Drumhead Savoy
      Premium Late Flat Dutch
      Scarlet Nantes
      Chantenay Red Core
      Danvers Half Long
      White Belgian

      Early Snowball

      Five Color Silverbeet Chard (AKA Rainbow Chard)
      Fordhook Giant

Celery and Celeriac
      Giant Prague (Celeriac)
      Utah Tall (Celery)

      Country Gentleman Corn
      Golden Bantam Corn
      Stowells Evergreen

      (You know, I don't really LIKE eggplant - but I'm open to listing suggestions from those of you who do!)

Grains Etc... (The library is not saving any of these seeds, but it is important to keep these in mind for the near future - I've already started to grow out the Federation Wheat trying to get a supply of seed on hand, there'll be another blog post about this one soon.)
      Quinoa, Shelly 25 Black
      Sesame, Light Seeded
      Wheat, Federation 126

      Blue Curled Scotch

      Blue Solaise
      King Richard 
      Black Seeded Simpson
      Brune d'Hiver 
      Drunken Woman Frizzy Head Lettuce
      Tango Lettuce
      Merlot Lettuce
      Merveille des Quatre Saison Lettuce
      Parris Island Cos Lettuce
      Red Romaine
      Rouge d'Hiver
      Rouge Grenobloise
      Tom Thumb
      Webbs Wonderful
      Yugoslavian Red

      Green Nutmeg
      Hale's Best
      Metki White Serpent (cucumber)

      Clemson Spineless
      Star of David

      Red of Florence

      Harris Model

      Little Marvel
      Tall Telephone
      Oregon Sugar Pod
      Sugar Snap

      Corno di Toro 
      Italian Pepperoncini
      Jalapeno Early
      Jimmy Nardello Italian
      Red Marconi

Squash – Summer
      Lebanese White Bush Marrow
      Zucchini – Lungo Bianco

Squash - Winter
      Black Futsu
      Marina di Chioggia
      Queensland Blue Squash
      Sweet Meat

      Amish Paste
      Big Rainbow 
      Black Cherry
      Black From Tula
      Black Icicle
      Cherokee Purple      Copia
      Cream Sausage
      Orange Banana
      Orange Icicle
      Roman Candle
      San Marzano
      San Remo
      Striped Roman
      Wapsipinicon Peach

      Purple Top White Globe

That totals 113, this year.  Maybe we'll top 200 next year!  Let us know which ones are missing and help us to find those really good varieties to save!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Seed Library of Los Angeles Turns One Year Old!

Many of the original Board of Directors braved the cold.
It was probably one of the coldest days of December 2010.  About 35 people met at 1:00 on the patio of The Learning Garden at Venice High School.  By the time we'd all said hello and established the purpose of the meeting, we had dwindled down to about 20 people (and by the time all was said and done, we were even fewer).  

Those that stayed that December 4th agreed to create a thing called the Seed Library of Los Angeles and began to form the organization to save and store seeds for loaning out to members.  The members agreed to grow them out to preserve the genetic integrity of the seeds and subscribed to the Safe Seed Pledge.  Then a portion of the harvested seeds would be returned to the seed bank for future gardeners to check out.  We settled on a lifetime membership fee of $10, making it affordable to everyone. Most of us there that paid our $10 and SLOLA was on its way! 

As I write this now, the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA) has about 250 members with about 280 varieties of seeds available to loan.  We have a web page ( and email addresses for our officers.  We have won the South Bay Business Environmental Coalition's SEED Award for Preservation of Natural Resources.  We have sent speakers all over the Greater Los Angeles area to speak on saving seeds - not just how, but why.  We have at least four good qualified speakers available and we've sent them to Covina and Orange County to speak about the world of seed saving.  At our November meeting, we voted in a basic bylaws  - in this upcoming, December meeting, we will elect our first officers under those bylaws. 
We have had a heady first year.  But this is just the beginning.  With the lofty goals we have put our sights on, we have much to do.  The first thing to do will be to find officers to serve for the coming year.  We need more organization, more bylaws and more of that work that makes an organization viable.  Our next meeting will be December 17th.  Please take a few minutes out of your holiday schedule to come on down and lend your hand to our plow.  

It's not only important work - it's exciting work.  It's work knowing you are making a tangible difference and fighting the spectre of all seeds being GMO or all commercially available seed being owned by just a few multi-national corporations.  

Come, be a part of the legacy of 'those who fought back!'

Inaugural Chair

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monsanto: The Devil Isn't Dead Yet

From Centro de Periodismo Investigativo comes a disturbing story about Monsanto's apparent abrogation of the laws of Puerto Rico in order to produce seeds for their North American market, "'I am not opposed in principle to experiments done with transgenics,' said an agronomist close to the seed business. 'What bothers me is that they are subsidized to produce a product that is not for here, that does not contribute to the local agricultural economy and does not support better wages for farmers who are experiencing a difficult situation, such as coffee farmers.'" 

It is a puzzlement, at least to me, that Monsanto breaks the law because they seem to have paid off enough politicians on the mainland that the law conforms to Monsanto's needs.  Why break it - just buy yourself some more politicians and have them change it in favor of their needs? 

The More we learn about Monsanto, their business practices, their complete preoccupation with making profits at the expense of human health, the environment and any sense of decency, it amazes me that they are allowed to continue to operate with such impunity.  The fallacy that genetically modified seeds produce anything more than misery and environmental degradation are now documented and that they don't feed anyone any better than non-modified seeds is a matter of USDA record.  Time has come to roll back their pollution of the environment - the sooner the better.  We may never be able to recover some of the genetic losses caused by the indiscriminate pollution of their Frankengenes.  

Our work in saving seeds is not done and will not be done.  Monsanto has proven we cannot put our trust in corporations and government to do the right thing as far as our food supply is concerned.  We must continue to be vigilant and responsible for our food supply and that means our seeds. 


Monday, November 28, 2011

I'm Already Thinking 'Tomatoes'...

Aren't you?  The day is not far off when seed starters will be starting seeds of tomatoes (my first seeding out is in January!) and, because I order my tomato seeds online, yes, it is the beginning of tomato season for sure.

I don't count on getting tomatoes like these at The Learning Garden...
Seed Savers Exchange posted a link on Facebook which lead me to another link where I found Tomato Fest online, listing the Top Ten Tomatoes for 2011, based on their sales last year.  Before you go there, let me warn you, if you are gardening along the coast (Sunset Zones 22 and 24) you can drool over the beefsteak tomatoes all you want, but be advised, they can be dicey in our ocean influenced climate.  Even though I have proven this wrong once, I have proven it right more than once and I still hold to the thought that large tomatoes do not set fruit well in our climate because they need 85° over a 24 hour period to set fruit.  That is hard to count on when the ocean flow in the evening often chills us down into the 60's.  Having said that, you can now go and lust over these varieties.  Hey, buy the seeds and give them to a friend in Pasadena for Christmas.  How thoughtful!   Then show up in harvest season...  Heh heh...

Also note, along with this post at Tomato Fest, there is also a sale on tomato seeds.  How convenient!  Yes, give tomato seeds for Christmas to everyone (well, at least the locals) and enjoy the excess from several friends and neighbors - take note of what was grown and attend SLOLA meetings (next one December 17th!) and let us show you how to save the seeds for yourself and the library!

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and all are looking forward to a warm and loving December holiday season.  For all who want to enjoy a stress free moment in December, The Learning Garden hosts a Winter Solstice celebration, starting 6:30 PM on the 22nd until the fire goes out.  Bring something warm to drink (we'll have tea and coffee for those who bring their own cup) and maybe a sweet treat, we'll have a fireplace and a ceremony to enjoy.  No gifts, no cards, nothing special to wear (but something warm is a must!), and no stress.  Just come out and observe this important end/beginning on the calendar with peace and reflection.  

What a concept!


Friday, November 25, 2011

Another Blow to Monsanto: Roundup Pesticide Linked to Serious Soil Damage

It's hard not to gloat (so pardon me while I gloat).  This bit of news comes from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), one of the most dedicated apologists for Monsanto and proponents of the myth of 'get big or get out' and all the mega-argri-business model of farming that has wrecked the environment, destroyed the economy of middle America, de-populated the small towns and allowed genetic modification to be marketed as a safe and sane way to create more food for Americans to throw away.  
As an organic grower from the early '70's when the organic movement didn't have the science to back it up, I assure one and all that this is but the very beginning of the avalanche of damning reports Monsanto will have to face in the coming years.  It doesn't take a brilliant mind to understand that the methodology employed by Monsanto and their claims ran counter to the ways and means of nature - and if humans have learned anything since they started running around on two legs and began waving the other two in the air, the one sure thing you can't do is fight Mother Nature.  Any thing running counter to Mother Nature will be an expensive and destructive proposition.  And guess what?  Genetic engineering is an expensive and destructive proposition. 
The destruction of the soil and the critters in the soil alone make the use of Roundup a practice that should never have been tolerated.  To join that with  'genetic engineering' that was essential to make a 'working' scheme, was merely a marketing project undertaken by Monsanto to sell more and more Roundup.  There was no thought as to what this would do to the people who used these products, no thought of the damage inflicted on the environment, no consideration of what might happen to the people who consumed these products, no thought about economic consequences for anyone else but Monsanto - the evidence is in the lack of study undertaken on these ramifications BEFORE the marketing of their poisons.  
SLOLA came into being when we began to realize that we could not trust our government to tell us the truth about genetic engineering.  After Vice-president Dan Quayle signed off on the agreement that our government would not regulate GMO crops itself, but would rely on Monsanto and the other companies involved in GMO research would tell us if their products were not as advertised.  

The wolf was put in charge of the hen house.  

SLOLA exists to ensure that the population of Los Angeles can have a source of untainted seeds, seeds that are grown organically and without genetic modifications.  No matter what the ethics of Monsanto or the number of government officials they climb in bed with, as long as SLOLA can, SLOLA will guarantee a modicum of insurance that we can eat GMO free food.
Monsanto's profits are piled high on the misery of mankind and our country embraced these thieves and liars like no other; now here is that same government admitting that Monsanto's products are destroying the soil.  Soil cannot be made in a factory.  Soil takes time to be made - a long time.  Destroying the topsoil ought to be a crime that equates with treason or murder.  It causes more destruction and grief in a country than any act of espionage can ever.  Our society is compromised in many ways by the lies of Monsanto and their allies, including the support of our own USDA for Monsanto and the concept of agri-business.  Both of these have been nothing less than a cancer on our country and our way of life. I wont even try to NOT gloat. 
You simply cannot trust a company (or a government supporting that company) who made (and STILL makes) DDT and Agent Orange, to be responsible or ethical.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Heirloom Life Gardener

On Friday, Oct. 7, NPR's Morning Edition ran a nice interview that you should read about or listen to by the founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds about his new book, The Heirloom Life Gardener. He's the force behind the National Heirloom Expo, which Linda Preuss (SLOLA's Database Chair) will be talking to us about at our Oct. 15th meeting. Please come -- you'll also learn how to save Rhubarb and other Polygonaceae seeds (buckwheat, sorrel, more).

"As a child growing up on his family's farm in the 1980s, Jere Gettle didn't spend his evenings watching TV; instead, he read seed catalogs. To him, the endless varieties of seeds with exotic sounding names were full of possibility. He loved the idea of planting them in the ground, tending the crops that grew from them and preparing the harvested vegetables for a family meal.

Gettle and his wife. Emilee, have built a thriving business off that early fascination. The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company carries a large selection of seeds from the 19th century and the Gettle's new book, The Heirloom Life Gardener, offers advice on how to save and grow heirloom vegetables." (read the complete article and listen at the link)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Food Movement: Its Power and Possibilities

"The number of hungry people has soared to nearly 1 billion, despite strong global harvests. And for even more people, sustenance has become a health hazard—with the US diet implicated in four out of our top ten deadly diseases. Power over soil, seeds and food sales is ever more tightly held, and farmland in the global South is being snatched away from indigenous people by speculators set to profit on climbing food prices," from an essay by Frances Moore LappĂ©, titled, "The Food Movement: Its Power and Possibilities" featured in The Nation.  Read his essay, then follow with the responses from Raj Patel, Vandana Shiva, Eric Schlosser, and Michael Pollan.  They are all make fascinating reading!  It's a breath of cleansing air to read the thoughts of these seminal thinkers in such days of almost uniformly bad agricultural news.