Heirloom Seeds Are Making a Come Back in the Food World
Around the last century, the world has lost 75% of its edible plant varieties but why should we care? You only have to look back at the Irish Potato Famine to see some of the risks that come with being dependent on so few crop varieties. Disease is one thing but more and more we will look to these ancient crops to ensure food security in the future as we see major changes to our climate.
What are heirloom and heritage seeds?
These are terms used to describe old crop varieties. Exactly how long they need to exist before being considered an heirloom varies among the plant experts but can be anywhere from pre World War 2 to those that have existed long before modern agriculture. These are seeds that have been passed down and protected through the generations and have remained as they have always been without being genetically modified.
The tepary bean back from the brink of extinction
Take Ramona Farms who are bringing back the tepary bean. This crop was once a staple among indigenous Americans and had nearly become extinct due to a lack of water. The founder Ramona and her husband Terry began farming in the 1970’s on the same plot of land as her parents on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona. They had discovered that Ramona’s father had left a few seeds of white and brown tepary beans in glass jars in a trunk in the old house that she had grown up in. Some of the community elders asked if they could grow the tepary bean (Bafv) once again., and so the adventure began. They started with these few seeds and learned how to produce the beans on a small scale before scaling up into a larger enterprise. They have now brought the bean back to their local community and surrounding areas, reviving a slice of their food history which was once thought to be lost.