Heirloom Seeds to Cultivate the Future

30 Jan 2015

A song by an Italian singer, Sergio Endrigo, goes:  “To make a tree it takes a seed, to make a seed it takes a fruit.” That is how a generation of Italian children learnt that there is a link between a seed planted in the ground and a table made of wood. Even more fundamental is the bond that exists between a vegetable, piece of fruit or dish of rice on our table, and the seed from which it comes.


It’s true, responsible consumers must consider many things before eating: the impact that the food on their plate has had on the environment, animal welfare, the person who cultivated or raised it. Understanding the connection between the seeds that produce a tomato, a bunch of lettuce, or the legumes that make a soup is a further step, one that is just as important as all the others.


That is why Slow Food has dedicated its new guide to seeds, the foundation of all our food. In this way, when we are shopping or cooking, we think about who has produced, selected or acquired the seeds used to produce not only our vegetables, but also our bread and our pasta, and even our meat, since animals are raised eating plants. And that is why we have decided to address this issue with a section on the Slow Europe website to propose a legislative outline and public policy that protects diversity and guarantees the health and traceability of heirloom seeds.


The guide “Seeds According to Slow Food” is written for gardening enthusiasts, namely those interested in home gardening, who often don’t know where the plants that they grow come from and how they were chosen and produced. Or who don’t know where to buy seeds or preserve them year after year without buying them.


Currently, 53% of the global market is dominated by the top three seed companies and the top ten control 76% of the market. It is therefore highly probable that the seeds we use are commercial varieties produced by these manufacturers, which are marked with an F1 or F2 on the packet. And yet, while finding different, local and heirloom seeds might be difficult, it is not impossible: You can get them from a farmer, a nursery, an agrarian institute or research center, or by researching online and searching specialized websites.


Among many advantages, local and heirloom seeds allow you to produce seeds yourself for the following year if you wish, beginning with the fruit produced by the plants. Even if they aren’t perfect, and most likely only a little over half will grow or germinate, it is worth trying in a small garden, focusing on high quality in terms of taste and variety of what you grow, as opposed to the guarantee of uniformity and high yields of commercial seeds.


Download free our new guide to seeds.  

Watch the video (in Italian with English subtitles)


Photo © Marco Del Comune & Oliver Migliore

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