seed saving

NZ’s rare heritage vegetables under threat.


Hold the seeds of Hokianga red corn in your hand and they gleam like burnished gems. They are considered to be treasure of the most precious kind by the Koanga Institute, a non-profit charitable trust that has been saving rare and unusual heritage vegetable and flower seeds, bulbs and fruit trees for almost 30 years.

It has been a lifelong quest of Kay Baxter, a permaculture garden guru, to save the best-tasting, nutrient-filled heritage plants for future generations to enjoy.

“Since 1900, the world has lost more than 90 per cent of the global genetic biodiversity in our food plants,” says Baxter. “These plants have disappeared largely as a result of the industrialisation of our food production.

“In particular, the Koanga Institute is saving the seeds that are New Zealand heritage seeds, those that were brought to Aotearoa by our ancestors and grown in gardens here.”

Kay and dedicated groups of volunteers have spent decades hunting for original seeds, bulbs and trees.

The search has taken them to remote farmland where lone fruit trees produced the last of their kind, and to meet relatives of old-time gardeners who want to protect the legacy and integrity of the seeds that their ancestors have guarded for hundreds of years.

It is a big job growing seed lines and trees that are sold to gardeners around New Zealand, and it’s becoming more expensive, too.

The Koanga Institute is based on a remote block of land near Wairoa, about a two-hour drive south-west of Gisborne, where these unique vegetables and trees can safely be grown without the worry of cross-contamination by modern varieties.

Read more here:


The Story of Seed, Part 1: An Introduction to Seed Saving

By Chris Smith

Janisse Ray, seed activist and author of The Seed Underground, writes:Runner Beans

“When seed varieties vanish from the marketplace, they evaporate not only from collective memory but also from the evolutionary story of the earth. Seeds are more like Bengal tigers than vinyl records, which can simply be remanufactured. Once gone, seeds cannot be resurrected.”

In my own experience I felt this most strongly with a small collection of ‘Big Mama’ Pole Beans I picked up at a seed swap in Alabama a few of years ago. The handwritten note that came with the beans said:

“Big Mama – at least 100 yr. heirloom green bean from Sand Mtn. area. Prolific, long purple pods.”

Receiving these beautiful little purple beans wasn’t what got me hooked on seeds; it was my inability to find information about them anywhere online. I realized that I owned something that I couldn’t buy, and I panicked!

Read more:

2 August 2014


Aquaponic systems continue to grow in popularity. A US example here. Click here

Feeding the good fungi in the soil. Click here

Strategies for seed saving. Click here

And another piece on seed saving. Click here

Organic gardening: benefits far outweigh the costs. Click here

Composting tips! Click here


Planting a field of dreams: GMO free! Click here

A new form of rice pledging in Thailand. Click here

The end of GMOs? Chuck Norris comes out in favour of organics. Click here

Healthy soil is more than just dirt! Click here