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The Need for Seeds

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The Need for Seeds

Just this past October, the seed from a pink, wild banana (Musa itinerans), originating from China, was dutifully cleaned, labeled and set into semi-permanent cold storage in the United Kingdom as part of the Millennium Seed Project. For many of us gardening enthusiasts, the idea of a banana seed being suspended in time feels like a lost opportunity for the present (even though growing a wild banana would be a huge undertaking in most of the continental United States). For many of us banana enthusiasts, we are pleasantly surprised and puzzled to find out bananas actually have seeds.

The significance of this particular seed is that it marks a considerable achievement for both the Millennium Seed Project, an international conservation project whose sole purpose is to provide an “insurance policy” against the extinction of plants in the wild, and the larger global effort to preserve biodiversity. With the interring of this unassuming wild banana seed, the Millennium Seed Project, launched in 2000, has succeeded in saving 10 percent of the world’s plant seeds (this came three months ahead of schedule) in their climate-change-and-apocalypse-proof seed vault. For most of us, the impact of this project will have little effect on us directly, but, like all insurance policies, there will come a time when our future generations will inevitably have to cash out.

The scope and ambition of this project serve to illustrate the power and fragility of seeds. Sure digging your hands in the earth, planting a few sprouts and nurturing them to harvest is intensely gratifying, but seeds…well, seeds are the fountainhead, and these little nuclei have been slipping through our fingers for far too long.

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

70 comments

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10:59PM PDT on Mar 26, 2014

Thanks for Sharing!

6:55AM PST on Jan 12, 2011

Thanks for telling the world

9:04PM PDT on May 14, 2010

I love collecting seeds especially from poppies. It's so much fun. When the pod is brown it can be picked. As you pull it off the plant and makes a popping sound.

6:51PM PDT on Apr 28, 2010

i have been trying with minimal success to grow foxglove and coneflower from seed. my coneflowers have never sprouted, my foxglove sprouts but then dies due to the fragility of its seedlings. i am trying to grow parsely from seed this year and it has starting sprouting. i believe i will be successful with that.

9:27AM PDT on Apr 12, 2010

thanks

2:47PM PDT on Apr 6, 2010

I am looking forward to buying a house and having a garden..right now I am in a apt. and I just don't get enough sun to make things produce.

11:22AM PDT on Apr 4, 2010

I say anything is possible if we're willing to put the time into it.

9:40PM PDT on Apr 2, 2010

Nuts and seeds are the most important and potent of all foods. Nuts are also seeds from which trees grow if they remain in the ground until they germinate. Seeds have always been considered as the symbol of resurrection.
acekard

3:37PM PDT on Apr 2, 2010

I love planting seeds in the spring, some great results some poor, but totally worth it. Already have my beans, paes, edible pods, zucchinis, tomoates, cukes, herbs, and a ton of lettuce already started in my front window.

1:32AM PDT on Apr 2, 2010

Thank you for the post. It was really interesting to read.

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