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Seeds – September 2006

Spring has come and the first warm days draw many of us into the garden.

Piko has extended the range of seeds stocked. In previous years our main supplier was ecoseeds from Wellington. Last year we started to get the Kings Seeds in, primarily for our sprouting seed range. This sowing and planting season, we will stock their certified organic range of seeds as well. We also have ordered Heritage Seeds from Koanga Gardens, in the Far North. They are able to supply us with an interesting range of Heirloom varieties.
Heritage Seeds and ecoseeds are all grown in Aotearoa, while Kings Seeds source their seeds from Italy and California.

What are Heirloom varieties?
In the 1970s the European Community brought in regulations to encourage the breeding of new vegetable cultivars, and the standardisation of older ones. This resulted in a list of approved cultivars being drawn up and it became illegal to sell any cultivar that was not included in this list. It is very expensive to have a single cultivar tested in order to then register it on the list. This meant that many old cultivars were put in big danger of being lost forever, as the funds to test each variety were not available. It was due to this legislation that the Heritage Seed Library (HSL) was founded. This seed library ensures that old or "heirloom varieties" are kept safe for posterity by distributing these seeds. Although they grow some of the seeds themselves, they also employ contract growers and seed guardians to make up the bulk of the seeds that are supplied.
The best heirloom cultivars can be traced back fifty years or longer. Many of these varieties have been lost already, making those that remain all the more precious. A number of these cultivars have been collected and saved dating back many years.
This practice protected the genetic make-up that made each variety successful within a given environment. These base characteristics have become invaluable and the genetic strains of these vegetables are the backbone of modern disease- and drought-resistant hybrids.

What are Hybrids?
A hybrid is the result of a cross between one variety with pollen from another specific variety. The breeder chooses parent varieties that will produce first generation offspring (F1 hybrids) with known characteristics.
Hybrids have more uniform characteristics, making crops more predictable in their qualities. They may also have "hybrid vigour" and might grow faster or be more disease resistant than either of the parents. They may also give better crops than open-pollinated varieties. But the big disadvantage is that they will not breed true: meaning that seed collected will not produce plants that are the same as the parent! Seed from hybrid varieties must be purchased year after yearfrom the seed companies, unless you want to gamble and grow an array of offspring.

What are Open-Pollinated Varieties?
Open-pollinated varieties have been grown and selected for things such as taste, yield or disease-resistance for many years. They often grow well in organic kitchen gardens as many were originally selected under organic conditions. These plants can mutate and adapt to the local ecosystem, as the seed is often collected and re-used by the organic gardener. They are a little less uniform then Hybrids, but the home gardener can safely collect seed and grow plants from them that will be essentially the same as the original plants.

If a seed packet is labelled "heirloom", "openpollinated" or has no specific markings, then it is most likely a standard or traditional variety.
Reference: Information taken from "Organic Gardening", by Christine and Michelle Lavelle.

Many more new products on the shelves!

Yes, we keep getting more and more new and interesting additions to the huge array of products we already stock!
Keep an eye out for:

  • Riverina Almond products: candied almonds, garlic and chilli flavoured almonds, beautiful almond oil... all of which come from the Sprayfree NZ almonds that we stock.
  • B.E.E. natural cleaning products, made here in New Zealand.
  • Palestinian Olive Oil from Trade Aid, a chance to support people who are having a very tough time at the moment!
  • Oats, Etc: a range of porridges, with some very interesting flavour combinations such as Hazelnut & Plum, and Sticky Fig & Walnut. Yum!
  • Ear Candles made by co-op member Sara, the wax is from her partner's organic beehives.
  • We have a new muesli too, Untoasted Organic Seed & Nut with dinkel flakes! Something a bit different.
  • Anouk Herbals, made by ex co-op member Debbie, are a beautiful light range of natural skin care products. We're impressed!
  • We've also currently got a whole lot of new chocolate bars and other tasty treats from Germany, we love the 85% cocoa chocolate, the small sizes are a great chance to test it for yourself!
  • Many of you will have noticed that our egg situation has changed recently. We now stock free-range nonorganic eggs from two different suppliers, these are under the bread shelves where the eggs have always been. If you want organic free-range eggs, please ask us at the counter! We have them already packed up for you.

Not much to report on the staff front... we seem to be pretty settled at the moment!
Sabine and Tineke have both returned from their European summer holidays (no, we're not envious at all...), and a big thank you to Robyne who we hired to cover them for those months.
Until next time, Enjoy the spring sun!

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