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Posts Tagged ‘preserve’

The Seed Zoo

cloverlawn

Photos: Richters.com
The company behind the SeedZoo for rare species offers a range of services, including replacing lawns with edible plants.

I recently learned that in addition to Norway’s Seed Vault, where 400,000-plus seeds are (we hope) safe from global warming and other disasters, there is also a seed bank that individuals around the world can contribute to.

It’s the SeedZoo at a company called Richters. And depending on the level of your concern about invasive species, you can buy unusual seeds there or contribute your own.

From the website: “Richters is proud to introduce SeedZoo™, a project to preserve traditional and indigenous food plants from around the world. Teaming up with botanical explorers and ethnobotanists, we are searching for rare and endangered food plants that home gardeners can grow and enjoy, and help to preserve.

“Of the 7,000 or so species of food plants known to man, only 140 are cultivated commercially, and of those, most of the world’s supply of food depends on just 12.

Even as the world increasingly speaks about food security, incredible varieties that are known only to a single tribe or in small and remote localities are being lost forever.

“We sent plant explorers across the world in search of rare beans, squashes, melons, greens, and grains. They have been to the jungles of Borneo, to small farms in Japan and Italy, and to the bustling food markets of Africa. In the coming months they will visit India, Vietnam and beyond. Many of the rare and exotic plants that they bring back don’t even have names and can only be called landraces — plants with unique features found in only one region or sometimes in just one village.

“Often our explorers can bring back only a handful of seeds, sometimes fewer than 100. Because these seeds are so rare and from such remote regions of the world, they are sold on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. Once they sell out they may never be available again. …

“Join us in this grand project to preserve a part of the world’s food diversity. Try some of the planet’s treasures, and enjoy the culinary adventure. And please save some seeds and share them with your friends.”

Let me give you an example from the Richters website. How do you like the idea of the Kyrgyzstan Banane Melon?

Richters calls it a “gorgeous casaba type melon from southern Kyrgyzstan near the city of Osh. It is one of many local variations of melons found throughout central Asia. The yellow fruits have a creamy white flesh that is very sweet and delicious. It should be as easy to cultivate as other melons. Assume about 100-110 days to maturity. Will likely do best in warmer slightly drier areas. Fruit sweetness is enhanced when there is not too much water available. Fruits are picked when mature and deep yellow, and the stem begins to dry up. They are usually eaten fresh but the flesh is also dried as and used in the winter.”

I’m worried what Jean will say about this idea, but I’m pretty sure Jill will be up for it.

More here.

The Kyrgyzstan Banane Melon, with an admirer.

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As I noted the other day, the approach to saving the Harlem home of Langston Hughes is online fund-raising.

Meanwhile in France, the home of James Baldwin may be saved by a squatter and a quirky French law.

Shannon Cain writes at LitHub.com, “To clean the floor of James Baldwin’s guest room would take 32 disposable cleaning wipes. I figured this out on my hands and knees, estimating the square footage of the terra cotta tile surface. There were 40 wipes in the package. If I used one wipe per roughly two square feet, I’d have enough. I was camping here without running water or electricity, but damned if I was going to live inside a dusty mess.

“Four days earlier, struggling under the weight of a camping backpack laden with supplies, a duffel of linens, bag of books and a deluxe inflatable bed, I’d pushed aside the unlocked wire barrier of the ten-acre property and entered the 17th-century stone house, illegally.

“It wasn’t hard to do; the door had been busted off its frame long before I arrived and the place was wide open. I was sweating, exhausted and elated; I’d spent the previous six hours traveling by trains and buses from Paris, stressing hard about this moment, worried I’d be detected. …

“I needed to establish my squatters’ rights, which according to French law would be mine after 48 hours. The cancelled postage on the postcard I was about to send to myself would serve as one of these proofs. … To send a letter, one addresses it to the Ancienne Maison Baldwin, chemin du Pilon, St. Paul de Vence 06570. It seems the post office, at least, remembers James Baldwin. …

“The squatter’s law in France is meant to dissuade land speculation and absentee ownership. It is perhaps one of the purest manifestations of socialism. For seven years, the real estate developer that owns the Baldwin house has let this historic structure and its magnificent gardens go to seed. In the meantime, they’ve been busy with other projects, including the construction of an enormous American-style shopping center in Nice, all superstores and parking lots, reputedly built within a flood plain.

“In my research over the last months I have heard nothing but disdain and outright hatred for this corporation among the local people. ‘He’s a bandit, that one,’ muttered a local business owner.”

Read the whole crazy adventure and how Cain outfoxes the “bandit,” here.

Photo: Shannon Cain
Former home of writer James Baldwin on the French Côte d’Azur.

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How great an idea is this? Somerville’s League of Urban Canners gleans neglected fruits from city lots and neighbors’ trees and turns them into jellies, jams, and preserves.

Writes Kathleen Weldon in the Boston Globe, “The group is the brainchild of Sam Katz-Christy of Somerville, who was struck by inspiration last fall after receiving 10 pounds of plums from a neighbor who happened to have an unusually productive backyard tree. Armed with little more than a cookbook and a bit of courage, he and his family preserved their windfall in glistening Mason jars. The committed locavore, who commutes by bike to his job in Cambridge’s Central Square, began to notice just how much unused fruit was hiding in plain sight among the squares and one-way streets he traveled. His daily rides became a treasure hunt.

“After recruiting a posse of workers from his network of food-loving friends, he began knocking on doors, offering an unusual deal to the owners of neglected one-tree orchards: the League would pick their crop, can the harvest, and give residents back 10 percent of the results. The volunteers keep the rest.

“The initiative has proven remarkably successful. More than 220 sites are currently listed in the League’s database, representing more than 3,500 pounds of collected fruit. …

“Though at first the League expected to reap mostly apples and grapes, soon it became clear that Somerville, Cambridge, and Jamaica Plain were rich with ripe possibilities from mulberries to pears, raspberries to quince. A single tree in Harvard Square yielded 245 pounds of apricots, which turned into countless jars of jam.” Read more.

Suzanne loved the mulberries growing in our neighborhood when she was about five. I wonder how we might get our hands on mulberry preserves.

Mulberry season is long past, but there’s still plenty of produce out there, as evidenced by the hardy farmstands at the farmers market today.

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