A Resilient Gardener Breeds Plants for These Times

CarolDeppe_550Freelance plant breeder Carol Deppe sifted handfuls of golden, ruby and coppery corn from the huge pile. “Remember the Scrooge McDuck comics, where he goes into the vault and runs his hands through all the metal coins, gloating about how wealthy he is?” she asked.

“I think of him as I dry this corn. If a mega earthquake wiped out the bridges and roads in our area, I know I’d still eat. And my neighbors would. I have enough seed so they could take out the sod [lawns] and plant corn. We’d take care of each other.”

“This is real wealth,” I responded. “Food security.”

We videoed two shows with Carol Deppe in her Corvallis home. Along with the luminous pile of her “Ruby Gold” corn variety (photo, top), big tarps on the floor held large squash still curing. Tiered crates held her own variety of large “Candystick Dessert Delicata” squash.

Over the decades Carol has cultivated edible plants for short seasons and minimal inputs − what she sees as necessary for growing food in the erratic and extreme weather conditions in our climate change era. Thinking about the next thousand years, she shares her knowledge in Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener’s and Farmer’s Guide to Plant Breeding and Seed Saving.

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Her plant varieties are basically a gift to the world. The seeds she sells (Fertile Valley Seeds) are “open-pollinated, public-domain crops for organic growing conditions, sustainable agriculture, and human survival.” Anyone can use the seeds, modify them, even sell them.

In our first conversation we talked about her 2010 book The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-reliance in Uncertain Times: Including the Five Crops You Need to Survive and Thrive−Potatoes, Corn, Beans, Squash and Eggs

Tao-Vegetable_400In the second, we talked primarily about her development of the “Eat-All Greens” gardening, a brilliant idea which should get adopted everywhere − an easy method for producing highly nutritional greens nearly year-round in nearly no space and with nearly no work from growing to eating. It’s all spelled out in The Tao of Vegetable Gardening: Cultivating Tomatoes, Greens, Peas, Beans, Squash, Joy and Serenity, to be published in early 2015 by Chelsea Green.

Oh, and the “Candystick Dessert Delicata” she baked for us lives up to its name. It was sweet and fully-flavored. Dessert as yummy as pumpkin pie without all the work. “Effortless Effort,” to quote one of the Taoist principles she writes about −for gardening, storing, preparing food, and for life.

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