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Richters is proud to introduce SeedZoo™, a project to preserve traditional and indigenous food plants from around the world. Teaming up with botanical explorers and ethnobotanists, we are searching for rare and endangered food plants that home gardeners can grow and enjoy, and help to preserve.
Of the 7,000 or so species of food plants known to man, only 140 are cultivated commercially, and of those, most of the world’s supply of food depends on just 12. Even as the world increasingly speaks about food security, incredible varieties that are known only to a single tribe or in small and remote localities are being lost forever.
We sent plant explorers across the world in search of rare beans, squashes, melons, greens, and grains. They have been to the jungles of Borneo, to small farms in Japan and Italy, and to the bustling food markets of Africa. In the coming months they will visit India, Vietnam and beyond. Many of the rare and exotic plants that they bring back don’t even have names and can only be called landraces - plants with unique features found in only one region or sometimes in just one village.
Often our explorers can bring back only a handful of seeds, sometimes fewer than 100. Because these seeds are so rare and from such remote regions of the world, they are sold on a “first come, first served” basis. Once they sell out they may never be available again. So if you see a variety that you like, do not hesitate to order it or you may be disappointed. The SeedZoo™ variety list is only available online and will change often so check our SeedZoo website regularly, or follow us on Twitter.
Join us in this grand project to preserve a part of the world’s food diversity. Try some of the planet’s treasures, and enjoy the culinary adventure. And please save some seeds and share them with your friends.
This video presentation by Conrad Richter explains why the SeedZoo project was started and why gardeners should grow these rare and endangered food plants in their gardens.
Introducing Plant Explorer Joseph Simcox
In this video plant explorer Joseph Simcox talks about food biodiversity and how, through the SeedZoo project, gardeners can grow some of the world’s threatened food plants in their gardens. By growing these plants, and sharing seeds with friends and family, Simcox believes gardeners can have a real impact on saving our food plant diversity.
Here are the currently available SeedZoo™ varieties!
Hot chile pepper with a fruity, almost mango-like flavour. Although the heat is definitely there, the taste is not edgy or bitter like some other hot peppers. After the initial hot and spicy kick, the flavour lingers well after the heat subsides. The indented yellow fruits, 11cm long, vaguely suggest the faces of monkeys. This variety came to us from Sweden where chile enthusiasts apparently like their heat to come in fun shapes and flavours! Order it now!
This pumpkin is elongated, ribbed, and pointed. Its colour varies from orange to dark green with beautiful light green stipples. Guyana pumpkin is popularly consumed and has deep orange flesh and a rich flavour. It is eaten in stews, soups, curries, fritters, and often with shrimp or salt fish. Pumpkin leaf is used to treat hemorrhages in north western Guyana, the pureed flesh has been used as a poultice to treat headaches and tumours, and the seed oil is used to make red skin spots disappear. These squash seeds were found in the bustling Bourda Market in Georgetown in the spring of 2012. This moschata type ‘Guyana Pumpkin’ was the only type of squash on offer there and the only type seen while travelling in north eastern Guyana. Order it now!
Pomeroon Bird Pepper
This bird pepper was found growing in a passion fruit orchard near the Pomeroon River, in Guyana, South America. Guyanese bird pepper bushes can grow up to 3m tall and are copious producers of small, elongated, hot, red peppers that are highly sought after for use in sauces, curries, conserves, and dips. The bird pepper has been used in traditional medicine throughout the Guianas to strengthen the heart, as a laxative, to treat hook-worm nematode infections, as an ingredient in curare arrow and blowpipe poisons, and as a topical treatment for boils. This bird pepper (probably Capsicum frutescens) is not to be confused with bird peppers from Mexico or the southern U.S. (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum) which can also grow as shrubs but tend to have round fruit. Both are called ‘bird peppers’ because birds - attracted to the tasty fruit -- deposit seeds along their flyways, acting as the primary dispersal agents. Order it now!
Surami Fava Bean
A modest fava beam collected in the town of Surami, in the Georgian Republic. It is light tan in colour, and is most likely used as a soup and stew bean. At the time when our plant explorers visited Surami, in November, they did not find as many fava beans as they expected. Fava beans seem to be a cool spring weather crop in this area. Order it now!
Mae Hong Son Orange Striped Melon
While traveling in a remote area of Mae Hong Son, in Thailand, our plant explorers found this nice lady with a roadside stand selling large orange striped melons. The creamy green flesh was not terribly sweet, but the melons were very healthy. Because the area is very hot and humid, lesser varieties of melons probably succumb to a myriad of fungal and bacterial diseases. This melon likely has extraordinary disease resistance and could be an important source of disease resitance genes for melon breeders. Order it now!
Zhuang Zhou Light Green Oblong Melon
A strange melon from Zhuong Zhuo, China. The fruit is rather pointed, somewhat oblong with an irregular surface. The skin is light green and the flesh is orange. These melons are hardly known outside of China. Unfortunately, we do not have a picture of the melon to show you. Order it now!
Zhuang Zhou Long Light Green Melon
A very unusual fresh eating sweet melon that is probably related distantly to a unique group of melons called "Conomon". Although most of the conomon melons are yellow and so sweet that they almost have a saccharine after-taste, these melons differ in that they are only mildly sweet. Other varieties from Zhuang Zhou are known for their edible skin -- skin so thin that you can eat the melons like apples. Unfortunately we do not have a picture of the melon to show you. Order it now!
Ijevan Mottled Bean
This is yet another large mottled bean that illustrates the great biodiversity of beans in Armenia. These beans are raised on small family farms and brought to town on market days. Most of the sellers are little old women, which could be sign that the tradition growing and selling heirloom beans is dying, even in Armenia. It is more important than ever to grow and share these varieties or they may be lost forever. Order it now!
Gori Giant Bean
This beautiful large bean was collected in Gori, a city in the Georgian Republic. The city has been on the crossroads of major transit routes since medieval times, and has been occupied repeatedly by the Mongols, Ottomans, Persians, and Russians. The most recent occupation was by the Russians during the 2008 South Ossetian War. Perhaps for a city with such a history it is not surprising that one can find many local varieties of Georgian favourites such as squashes and beans. The bean diversity in Georgia is an amazing because did beans did originate there. Order it now!
Cetriolo Mezzo Lungo Verde Polignano
A stout dark green cucumber from that is probably well adapted to hot weather. It is originally from the area around the town of Polignano, in the Puglia region of southern Italy. Order it now!
Cicoria a Foglia Frastagliate
A specialty variety with thick succulent stems from southern Italy. These stems are the part used in salads. Order it now!
Cicoria Catalogna Puntarelle di Galatina
A unique thin leaved chicory that is raised for salads in the Puglia region of southern Italy. Used in mixed salads to give a bit of body and character because of its slightly bitter flavor. Quick growing and productive. Order it now!
Cicoria Puntarella a Foglia Stretta
This is a thin leaved chicory raised for salads in the Puglia region of southern Italy. It is used in mixed salads to give a bit of body and character owing to its slightly bitter flavour. Quick growing and very productive. Order it now!
Cicoria Rossa Italiana
The diversity of endive, or common chicory, in Italy is amazing. One finds forms ranging from stout and deep red, to mottled pink and white, to straggly long green, and straggly green with red stems, like the one offered here. Chicories are wonderful for salads. They add a touch of bitterness that is exquisite. Order it now!
Carosello Tondo di Fasano
Most Italians in northern Italy are not familiar with the Carosello melons of the south. Also known as "cucumber melons", they appear to be related to the Metki melons of the Middle East. Carosello melons are used like cucumbers in salads and raw vegetable dishes. This variety from Fasano is round and bulkier than other varieties but has the same "perfumed" tasty green flesh. Order it now!
Mottled Spurreda Melon
This unique "cucumber melon" is from the area around the historic city of Lecce, in southern Italy. The fruits are mottled dark and light green and are a preferred salad vegetable during the summer months. The fruits are harvested while young and sliced like cucumbers and added to salads and other favourite summer dishes. Order it now!
White Bari Tortarello Melon
This is similar to the "Serpent Melons" of Lebanon and the Middle East. This "Metki" melon is actually one of the "cucumber melons" that are so popular in southern Italy. Slightly larger than other varieties it is a prolific plant that produces very good quality cucumber-like fruits. Order it now!
Carosello Tondo Liscio di Manduria
Carosello melons are a time-honoured crop of southern Italy. They come in many forms, and sometimes the names get confusing. Most of them come from Italy although a few are found in the Middle East as well. They are raised like melons but harvested and used like cucumbers, and they are excellent in salads. This variety is one of the standard varieties with round fruits and smooth, mostly hairless skin. Order it now!
Areni Jumbo Striped Banana Squash
A quite large fat "banana" type squash with prominent white stripes. This squash was raised in the Armenian village of Areni, about 100 kilometers south of Yerevan, the capital. The locals report that winter squash are just cut up and cooked down to a rich saucy stew which is then pureed and eaten with honey and butter. This is a beautiful squash and could provide very interesting variations in its genetics for breeders. Order it now!