Saturday, 30 March 2013

Celebrating the Legacy of South America

The plant breeding legacy of the native South Americans have left us with some of the most important worldwide crop plants.  Potatoes, Maize and tomatoes must be the three main ones.  The climbing beans, peppers, pumpkin group, oca, quinoa and nasturtium  are all of South American origin.   They were a result of active breeding programs designed by the native Americans and are very important crops for us now.  

I want to celebrate the legacy that these sophisticated gardeners and farmers have given us, demonstrating the wide variety of garden vegetables grown today that have originated in South America. Plant breeding developed over millennium in South America. The legacy has continued in Europe without full recognition  of native South American contribution.  Although some of the plants collected by Europeans were from the wild, the majority were cultivars honed by careful breeding.  

The South American legacy is not restricted to plant breeding but also to development of sustainable soil fertility.  They developed soils now called Terra preta and used charcoal as an effective soil conditioner;  something discovered independently by the James Barnes appointed  head gardener of Bicton in 1839.  The Victorian gardeners took the South American cultivars and developed them to crop in the colder regions of the Earth. They were justly applauded for their skill but did not seem to consider the multitude of previous native American gardeners that contributed to their achievements   

I think that we will still have a lot to learn from native methods of cultivation.  

I once heard on a radio program that, in the presenter's view,  nothing that tastes good comes from the Andies.  Well I disagree.  I would suggest that nothing of use comes from gardening radio programmes.  

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