Seed Stories: Call me a seed nerd and I won’t mind because yes, I’m obsessed with where seed comes from and specifically how critical it is to support organic seed breeders and farmers with our seed-shopping dollars. I’m also drawn to the stories of particular seeds—and not just old varieties or heirlooms, but the stories of new varieties, too.
I recently spoke to Rachel Hultengren, an organic seed breeder who likes to trace stories of seed and the seed breeders behind it. When I was scouting topics for this winter’s Seed Series on the blog and podcast, I came across a trove of podcast interviews with organic seed breeders. It was hosted by Rachel, who in 2017 received her Master’s in plant breeding and genetics from Cornell, where she focused on bell peppers and winter squash and on establishing priorities for organic vegetable breeding in the Northeast. We talked together about why organic seed matters, and shared some of her favorite seed stories.
Stories like how seed breeders try to hurry up the process with biennials like carrots, that normally don’t set seed till their second year. About how a tasty, colorful range of dwarf tomatoes resulted from a giant online volunteer project mostly undertaken by amateur breeders. Or how seed breeders don’t just go for flavor or size or disease resistance–but also “domesticate” the plants for traits like easy harvest of the seed itself. (A story about when that backfires starts in the recording at about 13:37.)