Seeds of Diversity Community Seed Grow-Outs

Posted on Friday, 8 December 2023 under Stories

At our Research and Education Seed Farm sites, we participate in community grow-outs for Seeds of Diversity. The purpose of these grow-outs is to grow seed in bulk to be able to distribute it to seed libraries or to maintain a specific variety.

Seeds of Diversity is dedicated to preserve, perpetuate, study and encourage the cultivation of heirloom and endangered food crops. With their “Save One Rare Variety Challenge” it targets items in the collection that are at risk of being lost. With over 1600 varieties in the collection it may seem inconsequential to save just one, but that is what protecting biodiversity is all about.

This year at our North Saanich Research and Education Seed Farm site, we received the Jacob’s Cattle “Gasless” bean to grow out. It was a cross from a Jacob’s Cattle bean with a Black Turtle bean which is reportedly easier on the digestive system. Although there were only a few seeds available and the seeds from the collection were old, a handful still germinated and we were able to ship 500 seeds back so that they could be maintained in the Seeds of Diversity collection.

Jacob's Cattle "Gassless" bean

At our Abbotsford Research and Education Seed Farm site, we grew tomato, squash, and bean varieties. The tomato we grew was part of the Save and Share Dwarf Tomato project. We received Tumbling Tom Yellow, this variety was short, under 2ft tall. We grew ours in the ground, but we believe this variety would be great for container gardening or in hanging baskets. For a dwarf tomato plant, it produced huge clusters of cherry tomatoes. A notable characteristic of this tomato is that the skin is thicker than most tomato varieties. The tomatoes were chock-full of seeds and we were able to send thousands of seeds back.

Tumbling Tom Yellow tomatoes

We grew two varieties of squash, including Sucrine du Berry and Cochiti Pueblo. The Sucrine du Berry was a very successful harvest with huge seed yields, we grew about 100 ft of this squash, planting 4ft apart in holes on landscape fabric alternated with corn. This squash grew prolifically, similar to a butternut squash except that the skin often had stripes of green. The Cochito Pueblo variety had not been grown in 20 years, and had a high percentage of off-types, meaning the squash plant looked different compared to what it was supposed to. Therefore, we were unfortunately not able to save seeds from this variety. We are still separating out squash seeds as we slowly eat through the crop. Both squashes have stored fairly well.

Xico beans

We grew two rows of 20 feet of the Xico beans as part of the Beans for Canadian Climate Project. These beans had excellent germination, so we thinned them out a bit to give airflow for drying out later in the season. We harvest the dried beans on two different occasions, once in the beginning of September and again in mid-October. The pods harvested in early September were beautiful, though the pods harvested later on suffered a bit of blight. We had a great final bean harvest of about two cups of beans.

We believe that working on broader climate and policy-related actions that will help preserve biodiversity on a much larger scale is crucial. At the same time, it is important to contribute on the ground and in the soil by maintaining one variety at a time.