Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sprouts For Christmas

It's called the "Balbriggan Brussels Sprout" and according to some people, it's in need of preservation. But if you asked the people who know most about them - those farmers who have grown the BBS all their lives, they would tell you: "It's just a Brussels Sprout."

Balbriggan is a part of north Dublin where market gardening farmers have grown sprouts for generations, farms passed on from father to son. Lately, thanks to the squeezing supermarket buyer, that's being dying out. It's no longer profitable to grow sprouts. But even though the farmers have retired and their sons have decided, via college, to become something else,;there still is something in their aftermath called the "Balbriggan Brussels Sprout."

It's a plant, which over many generations, has adapted to the climate and conditions of Dublin. Over its generations, those plants which have become best used to the soil in the area and the weather in their particular area and have become stronger. Those plants which couldn't get used to the conditions have died, those which survived became a strain. In the university, it's now a strain of sprouts called "Balbriggan Brussels Sprouts" different enough from every other type of brussels sprouts to become a category.

There are no pictures of Balbriggan Brussels Sprouts, so here is  a couple who grow their own, looking proud
The point to this entry is to ask anyone who has a relative who likes growing stuff, to enlist them in a heritage seed club. I'll tell you why in a minute.

It's coming up to Christmas and people will be asking you what you'd fancy for a present. If your loved one grows food, then please consider buying them into a heritage seed club. As a present. First off they'll get seeds for plants they're never heard of. They'll love it. They'll love you for it.

Most of the fresh food produce we consume today stems from seeds produced by about six world corporations you've never heard of. They sell the seeds that make the bulk of what we eat.

The EU made rules twenty years ago which made it necessary to spend large amounts of money "registering" seeds. If you were a business that wanted to sell seeds, you had to get that seed type registered. And it cost you thousands to do so.

What that meant is that the old farmer who just harvested his seeds off his plants and regrew them the next year, never got his seeds "registered" because to him they were just the same seeds he got off his plants every year, that he grew and his father grew. He didn't sell his seeds.  He grew them. They were never registered. Today they are "illegal" to buy.

So today we arrive in a situation in the western world where farmers like him have died out. There's only the corporations to bring on seed and to sell them on, with their licences. So they only grow those strains which last longer in transport, last longer on the shelves and look good. Now it's actually illegal to sell the Balbriggan Brussels Sprout seed. Look around your way, ask an old farmer, I bet it's also illegal to sell what crops were local to you.

A lot of what the seed corporations like to sell is the F1 hybrid. That's a clone plant and its seeds cannot produce plants which can produce viable plants.  It grows bigger fruit/veg and more attractive looking foods. Conveniently it also means the growers have to buy from the corporation again and again each year, instead of just harvesting their own seeds and growing them on the next year.

The "illegal" seeds are the now ones which can reproduce by themselves. If you buy heritage seeds, not only will your efforts help protect the world from grabbing bastard corporations, but the seeds will also thank you with the most beautiful tasting and highly nutritional fruit and vegetables.

The world is awash with the food plant's equivalent of bulldogs and daschunds and chihuahuas when the mongrel is the most survivable. That's how mother nature works. She makes mongrels not pugs.

All of what I've said is there on the internet to see. If you don't believe me, look it up. Find out for yourself. But if you do know a grower, or if you are one yourself, join a heritage seed club. Grow proper plants.

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