Seeds of Change: New York – A Botany of Colonization
Thanks to Rebecca McMakin for highlighting a wonderful art exhibit by Maria Thereza Alves. The installation of Installation water paintings, texts, linen paintings and potted plants was inspired by a simple historical fact. Over 400 species of plants, mostly European in origin, were growing on ballast grounds throughout New York and New Jersey, from where they have spread further since. Ships arriving with ballast over the last few centuries were responsible for introducing much non-native flora to the East Coast of the U.S. So much so that botanist Viktor Muhlenbach writes, “Combing ballast grounds […] for the appearance of new plants was a popular botanical pastime of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.” Earth, stones, sand, wood, bricks, and whatever else was economically expedient was used as ballast to stabilize merchant sailing ships in relationship to the weight of the cargo. Upon arrival in port, the ballast was unloaded, carrying with it seeds native to the area where the ballast had been picked up. Seeds of Change unearths historical ballast sites and ballast flora. It is an ongoing investigation of ballast flora in numerous port cities. Projects have been developed for Marseille, Reposaari, Dunkirk, Exeter, Liverpool, Bristol, and now New York. This fascinating art project is at once a look at the history of colonization and an attempt to decolonize.
Row 7 is a US-based seed company that says it is “dedicated to deliciousness”. Based on collaboration between chefs, farmers and plant breeders, they are grounded in the notion that deliciousness might just change the world. The Row 7 team believes flavor can succeed where commodification has failed and that it can change how we eat and, in turn, how we grow. They explain that too many plant breeders select for appearance, shelf-life, yield or uniformity – none of which qualities confer better taste on the result. Ten years ago—almost by accident—chef Dan Barber challenged vegetable breeder Michael Mazourek to build a better butternut squash. For Michael, it launched a new conversation around breeding for flavor. For Dan, it was the discovery of a new kind of recipe—one that begins with the seed. All their seeds were bred conventionally, so there are no GMOs. They also partner with regional organic farmers to support biodiversity above and below ground. The end goal? Unique vegetables grown for place, picked (and eaten) at the perfect moment. Currently, their veggies are only available through Whole Foods Market stores in the greater Boston area, but the company plans to expand. I’m sure gardeners are wondering if and when they might be able to purchase seeds!
Seedy Saturdays are coming! Wherever you live in Canada, keep an eye on the Seeds of Diversity website for information about your local Seedy Saturday event. Here in Ottawa, we will be able to enjoy two events. The traditional Seedy Saturday will take place at Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre on Saturday, March 4. A west end event is being added that will take place the following Saturday. More details to follow.