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.

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Seed-Buying Tips from a Professional Seedsman

By The Natural Gardening Company

The Seed Industry’s Annual Cycle

Like the crops you grow at home, most commercially available seeds are planted in the spring, grow during the summer, and are harvested and cleaned in the fall. After cleaning and processing, the seeds are tested for germination and purity to insure they meet certain quality standards. At this point they enter the distribution network, being sold to the seed companies whose names you know so well – the companies from which you buy your seeds.

This schedule is not hard and fast, and there can be delays in the processing and cleaning that lapse into the new year which delay the entry of particular seed varieties into the marketplace. Almost everyone who has ordered seeds in the winter has encountered back-ordered items at one time or another. This isn’t because your seed purveyor is careless or negligent. It usually means that the company that produces those seeds – where they originate – simply hasn’t released them yet. Be patient when this occurs. By and large everyone in the seed business is hard working and sincere but inevitably there can be delays and lapses in production.

The Federal Seed Law

The other critical factor that affects the quality of the seeds you buy is the Federal Seed Law. This law regulates commerce in the sale of seeds, and is of particular importance because it requires that vegetable seeds meet certain germination standards. A key provision of these germination standards is the requirement that seeds must be tested every 15 months to insure that the seeds continue to meet minimum germination requirements. If they do not, they cannot legally be sold.

Here is a summary of the minimum germination requirements for our most common vegetable varieties:

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Ripe for the picking

(This is great! Knowing where your seed comes from is essential!!! mrjonmoore)


Choncharoen farm showcases vegetables and flowers at its biannual fair

After four years of complete renovation and replanting, Thailand’s largest seed distributor Choncharoen Farm has once again thrown its gates wide to welcome the public to the 2015 edition of the Chia Tai Fair.

With temperatures at a cool winter low, it’s a great time to visit Kanchanaburi and learn about the latest in agricultural innovations while admiring a colourful backdrop of more than 200 species of flowers and plants. The concept for this year’s event, which wraps on Sunday, is “eating rice mainly, eating vegetables as medicine”.

Among the highlights are Atlantic giant pumpkins weighing a massive 80 kilograms, pollinated and hybrid seeds of heirloom plants, fruits and herbs developed by Chia Tai and demonstrations of how to make the very most of personal outdoor space, no matter how small it might be.

Spread over 100-rai and surrounded by mountains, Chonchareon Farm is one of several integrated research stations run by the Chia Tai Group, a seed subsidiary company of food giant Charoen Pokphand Group.

The fair has been held biannually since 1999 in an attempt to educate farmers, gardeners and the public about what is happening in the agro-industry.

“Part of the reason for refurbishing the landscape was to allow better access to visitors in wheelchairs. We want to share our new innovations and technological updates as well as the techniques used in seed nurseries with local agriculturists and also with anyone who may be interested,” says chief operations officer Manus Chiaravanond.