Category — Features
Why are our heritage seeds so important? Why should we make the effort to ensure that these are the seeds we grow?
When I first held heritage seeds in my hands I had no idea about the science of nutrient-dense food, or how to actually build soil, and I was very naive about the politics of food; let alone food security and all of the other rabbit holes one can go down. Food was just food, and seeds came from the supermarket.
These days I have a much greater understanding about seeds: the politics as well as how they impact the BRIX — or nutrient density — of the food they grow into. I also have a much greater understanding about whether plants are sequestering carbon via photosynthesis and regenerating the soil and ecology they grow in, or are instead being pumped with nitrates and various herbicides, insecticides and fungicides; degenerating the soil in the process.
I’ll stick with heritage seeds and their relationship with nutrient-dense food, building soil and ecological health.
Seed and humans co-evolved: we need them, they need us. Most of our current food plants originally co-evolved in places on earth where the soils enable these plants to reach their full potential; aerobic, moist but free-draining, high levels of humus, high levels of balanced minerals and high levels of microbial life. Our corn, beans, pumpkins, and many flowers and peppers came from centres of diversity in central and southern America; brassicas and chards from Northern Europe.
One of the key and common things about our heritage seeds is that they co-evolved with a specific group of people, in a specific place, in specific soils and water, with microbes and fungi and birds and animals and insects. There were feedback loops between the seeds and the soil; the food grown from the seeds and our human bodies; and the bodies of every bird, animal and insect that ate these plants. Just as there were conversations about changes in the ecosystems, seasons, weather, new insects and other pressures. A conversation noted by plants and passed on through their seeds to the next generation of plants; onto the human, animal and insect body, and back to the earth.
We all dance a dance in which humans are just a part of the circle, an element just like any other on the dance floor. One moves, we all move, one dies, we are all affected. Together we make it!
Because this dance of life had been going on forever, the feedback loops were very strong. Our human DNA is able to recognise very quickly the food grown from the seeds of our own ancestors. This food nourishes us more fully than anybody else’s heritage food, or food that has been processed into a state our ‘junk’ DNA does not recognise.
Because communication is strong between the roots of plants grown from heritage seeds and soil life (so long as they are growing in aerobic, highly mineralised and microbially active soil), our food plants are able to collect, trade or bargain for every mineral they require to grow high BRIX – nutrient density. This creates clear strong communication to our human ‘junk’ DNA. The tags that ‘junk’ DNA places on the DNA determine how it is expressed in all of life. Strong communication to the ‘junk’ DNA means strong clear tags, means strong clear health, and future generations.
These days the communication between our food and our ‘junk’ DNA is not as clear or strong: because we irradiate our food; we remove the fat; we homogenise; we add food grown from Genetically Engineered seed; we eat highly toxic industrial oils; we use highly processed additives and chemicals not even recognised by our ‘junk’ DNA as food. This means the tags placed on our DNA that determine our health and the health of our next few generations will also not be as strong, or clear.
Modern seeds: F1 hybrids, CMS seed, GE seeds, Gene-Edited seed and so on, have been bred in isolation and in laboratories. They have been bred to be dependent on chemical inputs, without feedback loops created via fungi and microbes. They have been created in lifeless dead situations, and do best in those situations. Many of these seeds are specifically unable to pick up key nutrients from the soil required for optimal plant and human health (eg manganese), and many of them have been grown in environments contaminated by glyphosate, which means we have glyphosate in those seeds and so in the food grown from them – it goes on and on (check out the work of Dr Don Huber to confirm this).
The health of our food plants and animals is affected by the environment they are grown in, and our health is affected by the health of our food plants and animals. It is not possible to grow high BRIX nutrient-dense food with no feedback loops, and no connection with the fungi and microbes in the soil. I believe there is also a strong relationship between our seeds and the plants they grow into, and between them and the insects, animals and humans that eat them. Between all of life and the earth. The more and stronger the connections are, the stronger and more resilient we all are.
Our heritage seeds are the only seeds that co-evolved with us in a living, connected, resilient and REGENERATIVE system. They contain the potential to build life, and health… so long as we grow them in a living environment.
Would you like to step into your journey of actually saving seed for yourself? The easy plants are those that you can plant and let go to seed without having to think about what neighbours are growing, or minimum numbers, isolation distances, pollinators etc.
How important is it to you that you are saving seed that will grow the same as the parent? If you want seed that grows true, then you need to begin with open-pollinated, self-fertile seed. Choose a bean variety you like, or a lettuce, or a flower, tomato, or pea – all mostly self-fertile and pretty easy to do.
With beans, peas, lettuce and most flowers, just leave your best plant to go to seed, dry in place in the garden, then collect the seed before it blows away or before it rots or drops back to the ground in Autumn. With tomatoes, you pick when ripe and squeeze the juice onto a paper towel and dry on the window sill. Potatoes simply pick the biggest potatoes from the healthiest plants that produced the most potatoes.
If it is important to you that as well as saving seed you are also stepping into the regenerative journey of building soil and producing high-quality food and seed, then you need to start with a heritage seed, as local as possible to where you live — certainly from this land — that has been previously grown in a biological system.
Simple as that!
If you would like to continue the journey into deeper knowledge:
Buy the best seeds you can find. Heritage open-pollinated seeds grown in a living system to be High Brix / nutrient-dense. Koanga Institute specialises in NZ heritage seeds adapted to our conditions and our own genetics, and cellular memory and grows them in living systems to be nutrient-dense to support you on this journey.
Check out our online workshops at the ReGen Production website like the Growing Great Seedlings online workshop. And learn to grow your own nutrient-dense food from these seedlings at Growing Nutrient Dense Food on-line workshop,
Use the Koanga Seed Saving Wall Chart, Save Your Own Seed and Grow Your Own Nutrient Dense Food booklets, available from the Koanga Institute, as well as some garden centres and organic shops, to understand how to save seeds that will become part of your family in a way that maintains the generic strength of the seeds (so they don’t run out over time)
By Kay Baxter. Illustration: Scott Satherley