Do you grow Great Grandma Ella’s prize purple tomatoes or Grand Uncle Ralph’s famous sweet corn? Heirloom varieties and the stories that accompany them are often passed down from previous generations.
In Egypt, many small growers prize their passed-down heirloom pumpkin seeds. Pumpkins are easy to grow and highly nutritious. Egyptian researchers are taking advantage of this tendency to save seeds to promote food security. Small Egyptian growers have been selecting seeds from their best pumpkins and passing them down for generations. These pumpkins are genetically suited to local soils and climate.
Recently, however, commercial agricultural corporations have been importing nonnative pumpkin seeds. These plants can worsen food insecurity. Since imported pumpkins were not developed for Egypt’s climate, they have a more unpredictable harvest. In addition, commercial fruits and vegetable are often less nutritious than heirloom varieties. This is because commercial crops are selected for size, shipping ability, and color; not nutrition and taste.
To help protect heirloom pumpkin varieties, an international team of researchers traveled through Egypt collecting and testing heirloom pumpkins to identify genetic linage and nutritional value (Mady et al 2022). Identified native pumpkins can be used to develop future nutritious varieties that are adapted to Egypt. This could help alleviate food insecurity.
Ensuring that farmers have the rights and the abilities to save their seeds protects genetic diversity while reducing poverty. Growers saving and trading seeds with other growers helps to develop biodiversity and ensures resilience of the seed stock.
Check out USA seed saving organizations
The Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) conserves natural heritage through educating people about the value of plants while increasing awareness of sustainable stewardship and the importance of plant diversity.
The Cherokee Nation Seed Bank collects rare, native plants from the Cherokee regions.
The Hawai’i Public Seed Initiative (HPSI) identifies and saves seed varieties best for for Hawai’i.
The Louisiana Native Plant Initiative (LNPI) collaborates with partners to collect seeds, preserve native varieties, increase flora abundance, and research plant materials for future revegetation projects.
The National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation (NLGRP) is one of the world’s largest plant and animal gene banks. NLGRP’s mission is to support U.S. agriculture in producing high-quality food, feed, and fiber by acquiring, evaluating, preserving, and distributing critical genetic resources.
Indigenous Seed Keeper Network (ISKN) is a non-profit organization supporting tribal food sovereignty projects.
Native Seeds/SEARCH (NS/S) conserves and promotes arid-adapted crop diversity in the southwest USA. Its seed bank includes many traditional crops such as corn, beans, and squash.
The New York City Native Plant Conservation's mission includes collecting seeds, restoration and management of native plant populations, and raising public awareness of native plants in NYC.
The Seed Library collects open-pollinated and heirloom seeds in Pima County, Arizona. Their mission is to accumulate local seed stocks acclimated to a desert climate to support an abundant and genetically diverse landscape.
The Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance (RMSA) is a nonprofit with a growing network of seed producers/stewards, distributors, and educators in the Rocky Mountain West region of the United States. Their mission is to preserve and promote regionally adapted crops, herbs, wildflowers, and native grass seeds. Sign up to become a Seed Steward and help preserve seed diversity!
The Seed Savers Exchange is a Iowa nonprofit that shares and sells a large collection of open-pollinated seed varieties. Their mission is to preserve diverse heirloom seeds to guarantee future food security.
- Emad Mady, Shafik D. Ibrahim, Reena Randhir, Ahmed F. Abd El-Hakim, Timothy O. Randhir. Genetic variation among pumpkin landraces based on seed qualities and molecular markers. Molecular Biology Reports, 2022; DOI: 10.1007/s11033-022-07233-3