Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Apples, Men on Bikes and Naughty Seeds...

Irish Seed Savers is made up of a few special ingredients, chief of which is commitment to perpetuate the seeds of Irish plant life. Since 1991 the organisation has been flourishing side by side with its Native Apple Collection, Grain Collection and its Seed Bank, which contains more than 600 rare and endangered vegetable varieties. Seed Savers, you might say, is Ireland’s answer to Captain Planet.   

Chrys Gardner is project manager at the organisation’s Scariff-based headquarters. She spoke to the Clare Veg Group at its last meeting about the work and ethos of the not-for-profit organisation. Passion seems to be the nectar on which Seed Savers thrives, if photographs of blooming flower gardens, smiling faces and hard-at-work communities are to go by. The grounds are a veritable plant sanctuary, a co-operative community bound together by a genuine interest in sustaining the earth.

There are over 140 varieties of apple in Ireland, she told our amazed group. The survival of these varieties, she said, is due in large part to the Trojan work of an Irish Doctor who cycled around Ireland in the forties picking branches from apple trees. Dr Keith Lamb embarked on a lone mission to sustain the variety of Ireland’s native apple trees and to gather information for his research, which he kept for posterity.

His research was presented to Seed Savers, as well as Dr Michael Hennerty’s, former head of the Department of Horticulture at University College Dublin. Thanks to the work of pioneering individuals such as these, Seed Savers is now home to a very unique orchard: one where 33 self-rooting varieties flourish without the need for grafting for propagation. Seed Savers's Native Irish Apple collection is also home to over 140 native Irish varieties.

It’s not all apple pie and custard however, she warned, explaining the darker side of seed cultivation. The EU has enforced directives banning the sale of seeds, and placing others on a sort of ‘naughty seed’ list, banning even their planting. The motivation behind this draconian measure, she explained - not to anyone’s surprise - is to allow multinational food corporations control of the food supply. She explained that many multinationals are now encouraging the growth of hybrid seeds at the risk of wiping out the originals.

Seed Savers is one force that is determined to not allow this to happen in Ireland. They run many wonderful courses to support a vegetarian lifestyle, such as growing organic vegetables and medicinal herbs, and vegetarian cooking classes. They are a charitable organisation of huge integrity and we feel excited about our future relationship with them as well as others like them.

For more information about Seed Savers, visit

1 comment:

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