4 Heirloom, Non-GMO Seed Sources for Foodies, Kitchen Gardeners, and Chefs

Edsel L/CC BY-SA 2.0

In the fight for the preservation of the genetic diversity of plants in the garden, foodies and cooks are important allies of gardeners.

There are far more eaters in this country than there are gardeners who can order seeds every year. By growing heirloom, heritage and underutilized crops and serving them at meals we can ensure that many more varieties are available for future generations. Here are four seed sources to order from if you’re a foodie, chef with a restaurant garden, or a kitchen gardener.

1. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

© Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Started in 1982, the Southern Exposure story evolved from a small family garden and kitchen co-opted for processing saved seeds.

Since then the garden has expanded to a nationwide coalition of seed growers. They carry more than 700 varieties of vegetables, flowers, herb, grain and cover crop seeds. Their seeds collection is focused on varieties that will perform best in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, but they can be grown by gardeners all across the country.

Print Catalog: Yes. Online ordering: Yes.

2. D. Landreth Seed Company

© Landreth Seed Company

The recent troubles of the D. Landreth Seed Company, America's oldest seed companies, were documented by my TreeHugger colleague, Colleen, in the post encouraging you to help save one of America's Heirloom, Non-GMO Seed Houses.

The company's financial situation is getting stronger and they're still a good source of seeds. In particular, their African American Seed Collection, which highlights the culinary history and contributions to American cuisine by the African Diaspora.

Print Catalog: Yes. $5.00. Online ordering: Yes.

3. Kitazawa Seed Company

© Kitazawa Seed Company

The Kitazawa Seed Company was founded in 1917 by Gijiu Kitazawa in a storefront located in downtown San Jose, California. The business was shut down from 1942 to 1945 due to WWII and the family's internment in Relocation Camps.

After the war the seed company was reopened, but by then many of the company's customers had relocated across the United States and the company started mailing seeds across America to their customers. Today Kitazawa is a source for many fine Asian varieties of vegetables and herbs. Their simple seed catalog is a pleasant contrast to the glossy and ornate seed catalogs you're accustomed to and even provides recipes so you can prepare dishes from your harvest.

Print Catalog: Yes. Online ordering: Yes.

4. The Baker Creek Seed Company

© Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Jere Gettle started the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company at the age of 17 out of his bedroom, in 1998. Baker Creek is the darling of vegetable gardeners because they carry one of the largest selections of heirloom varieties in the country. Along with many of America's heritage seeds they stock an impressive list of vegetable seed from Asia and Europe.

Jere is very active in political issues that related to food like in the Label GMOs campaign in California I recently posted about here at TreeHugger.

Print Catalog: Yes. Online ordering: Yes.

If you feel overwhelmed by the options available to you take a look at the Ark of Taste by Slow Foods USA. There you’ll find many fruits and vegetables that are endangered because they’re not grown, and eaten, in high numbers because they’re been replaced by recent hybrids that are higher producers or ship better to grocery stores.

Select a few endangered vegetables, herbs and fruits you can grow and cook at home and then buy them from the seed companies listed above. Don't have a green thumb? You can still help preserve genetic diversity in what we eat and can grow by supporting farmers markets and restaurants that prepare foods with endangered food items.

Do you have any recommendations for other seed companies for people who love food? Let us know in the comments.

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Tags: Agriculture | Farming | Gardening | Genetically Modified Food | GMO