Seeding the future

One day I’ll learn to grow vegetables, and when I do, I’d like to try sowing some traditional varieties. Believe it or not, this could be subversive: growing any one of 800 traditional British varieties is currently illegal – thanks to particular capitalist dynamics. Over the last 100 years, says a Guardian online article, Britain has lost 90% of its vegetable varieties, which is a heck of a lot of genetic diversity – and a hammer blow to the resilience that comes with genetic diversity. What’s nice about some of these varieties is that they have quite personal stories to tell, like the shiny black bean, which arrived on British shores from the USA, known as the Cherokee Trail of Tears:

In the winter of 1838-39, [c.15,000] Cherokee people in the US were forced to march from their lands in Georgia, over the Smoky Mountains in appalling conditions, to be confined in a reservation […]; 4,000 died on the way.

Those once-proud people carried the beans with them. According to wikipedia, the forced removal ‘is generally considered to be one of the most regrettable episodes in US history‘, such that

the U.S. Congress designated the Trail Of Tears National Historic Trail in 1987. It stretches for 2,200 miles (3,540 km) across nine states.

As with the enslaved, however, Native Americans of all tribes still have not received an official apology for their treatment

You can find out more about, and even adopt(!), heritage vegetables here at the UK’s Heritage Seed Library. (The USA has its equivalent, the Seed Savers Exchange.)

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