Library. You join the Library and choose some outlawed vegetables you want
to grow and they `lend' you a few seeds. Over the past couple of years we've
been experimenting and saving the seeds of vegetables that have done well on our
site. One of these is the French Climbing Bean `Cherokee Trail of Tears'.
In 1838, the Cherokee Indians of North America were forced off their lands
by European settlers. The move became an infamous death march; thousands
died travelling over the mountains through the winter in appalling conditions. Some
of the tribe carried with them a climbing bean with small shiny black seeds, and
this became known as the Trail of Tears beans.
Just 3 corporations control a quarter of the world's entire seed market:
Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta. The corporations that have been steadily buying up all
your favourite garden seed companies are the very same bio-tech giants that are trying
to get us all to eat their genetically modified greens. According to one seed
corporation owner "seeds are software. And we have the seeds." As Bob Sherman
from Henry Doubleday spells out "The risk of concentrating so much commerical
power into the hands of one corporate empire is that we have become subject to
the dreams and aspirations of a very few people. Do they care about bio-diversity?
Not as much, I suspect, as they do about profit."
And there's not as much profit in selling seeds to gardeners as there is
to farmers, and farmers want plants that are ready to harvest all at once and crops
that travel the long distances to the supermarket (like tomatoes with hard skins
rather than varieties that go squishy.) Supermarkets want uniformity _ but gardeners
don't want gluts and it doesn't matter to them if a tomato has a thin skin.
It's not just vegetable varieties that are disappearing, but our fruit trees as
well. Over the last 30 years 60% of our apple orchards have been destroyed and in
1996 we imported 434,000 tonnes of apples, nearly half from outside Europe!
In 1999 the British Independent Fruit Growers' Association sent
questionnaires to growers who supply supermarkets. Nearly a third of them reported they
had been forced to grub up productive orchards because the superstore chains had
suddenly decided to change the varieties they sold. Not that you're likely to find
much choice. Even though there are 2,300 apple varieties and 550 pear varieties in
the National Fruit Collection, just two apple and three pear varieties now
dominate UK orchards. Infact you're more likely to find apples in the supermarket that
have been flown in from New Zealand or South Africa than locally produced.
So we did a bit of research and came up with a few apple varieties that
you would have once found in East Sussex _ Anyone fancy a Forge, Lady Sudeley
or Knobby Russet?