Now Reading Heritage in a Seed

Heritage in a Seed

Issue 01    5 Min Read

Ken Greene was working as a librarian in Gardiner, New York when he realized that seeds had a lot more in common with the books he was cataloging than anyone was considering. 

One of the many valuable services that libraries provide to the community is making out-of-print books available for public use. They protect and preserve knowledge in the form of the written word, and without them, this knowledge could either be accidentally destroyed, lost, or hidden away in private collections gathering dust from years of unuse. Greene realized that too many heirloom seed varieties were, and still are, at risk of abandonment as agricultural systems have consolidated their seed usage to only select for only those modified to withstand conditions under which plants must survive in industrialized farming. Good for food production at volume and low cost, bad for just about everything else – especially plant biodiversity. 

So in 2004, Greene started the country’s first seed library and in 2008 it evolved into an online business.

“Growing a seed meant growing its story and keeping it alive,” Greene commented in a 2014 interview. “I saw that libraries keep stories alive by sharing them. So, adding seeds to the library catalog seemed logical, necessary, and important.”

Issue 01    5 Min Read

  • Words by: Dasha Kuni

  • Images by: Hudson Valley Seed Company

Hudson Valley Seed Co. is a small company with a big mission. They describe their efforts as “a value-driven seed company that celebrates responsible seed production and stewardship.” In practice, they preserve, catalog, and sell artisanal seeds. These seeds are organic, heirloom and ideal for gardening. They are also all open-pollinated, meaning pollination occurs by insect, bird, wind, human hands or other natural mechanisms and leads to more genetically diverse – and resilient – plants. Their commitment  to organic farming, local sourcing and sustainable crop diversity is preserving seed varieties for future generations. Varieties that could, and would likely, become lost to time and modern farming practices.

I happened to stumble on their catalog through their Art Packs initiative, an annual project that prompts artists from around the country to visually tell the story of a particular seed. Each seed is then lovingly rendered as a piece of art, blurring the lines between farming and storytelling.

I thought I knew basil, a familiar herb harmonious to mediterranean cuisine, before I encountered a particular heirloom variety on offer by HVSC. Sacred Basil – or Tulsi (Holy Basil in Sanskrit), has been cultivated in India as a sacred plant in the Hindu tradition for more than 3,000 years. Its flavor profile is minty, closer to Thai basil than Italian, with a subtle fennel zest. It’s an adaptogen for us (great as a tea!) and appetizing to insects – particularly bees and monarch butterflies – who consume its pollen and nectar. It’s basil, yes, but not basil as I knew it. It’s unique. It offers aroma, flavor and nutrition that can’t be found elsewhere. It’s worth preserving. And it’s up to you and me to do so.

To find The Hudson Valley Seed Company:


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