Caleb Warnock to plant rare seed in Utah that has been extinct in the U.S. for a half-century.
March 2, 2012 ““ Alpine, Utah ““ Caleb Warnock, author and researcher for the National Plant Germplasm Program, has been given a rare vegetable seed from the U.S. Government in an effort to prevent further loss of thousands of years of seed heritage.
At noon on March 5, 2012, Caleb Warnock will be planting some of the rarest seed in the country at a special event in Alpine, Utah. Warnock is the only known person in the U.S. to have this seed, and the first person to have it in the U.S. in a half-century.
“The U.S. government has just flown in some of the world’s rarest seed for me ““ an antique variety of winter onion called Blanc de Paris Hatif that hasn’t existed in the U.S. in decades,” said Warnock. “I am part of the federal government’s volunteer germplasm program, and I specialize in fresh, backyard winter gardening, working to keep alive varieties of seed for winter vegetables that are nearly extinct or no longer exist in the U.S.”
The U.S. government flew the onion seed from a special seed vault, Centre for Genetic Resources in the Netherlands, for Warnock specially. The seed vault is part of an organized international effort to prevent further loss of thousands of years of seed heritage. According to the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, 96 percent of the commercial vegetable varieties available in 1903 are now extinct. Warnock will grow this seed out and reintroduce it in the U.S. over the next two years.
“It took many hours of research to find this antique onion seed, and I am grateful that the government was able to fly in a sample from Norway,” Warnock said. “It is a rare and special opportunity to bring back a vegetable that is extinct in this country.”
A single onion requires two years to produce true seed. The seed will be planted in Warnock’s backyard garden in a special compost-heated hot bed that has taken a week to prepare. The seed must be planted in winter using the historical method or the seed risks losing its winter growing potential.
Three centuries ago, this onion variety was prized as the best onion for growing overwinter in cold climates. But today, the winter gardening that prevented mass starvation for centuries is a lost art.
Warnock is the author of the national bestseller The Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers, which has sold more than 12,000 copies since it debuted in August 2011. His book teaches gardeners the four methods for growing pure seed in their own garden so they don’t have to buy vegetable seed.
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