A Brief History of Seeds and Plant Domestication

Learn about the history of seeds and plant domestication and how diversifying our crops with different seed varieties may help prevent blight.


| August 2012



Bags of Grain

Diversity of food crops has been dwindling worldwide, and untold numbers of human foods are going extinct. What are at risk are our seeds, especially ancient breeds, and our crop biodiversity. And our health.

FOTOLIA / CHARLES TAYLOR

Seed varieties have declined significantly since the beginning of time, and even more so with plant domestication. World blight may come upon us if we continue to depend on limited varieties of corn, soy and wheat. This excerpt from The Seed Underground (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012) by Janisse Ray covers a brief history of seeds and how we must diversify our crops with heirloom and vintage seed varieties in order to increase agrodiversity and protect the health of Mother Earth. This excerpt is from Chapter 1, “More Gardens, Less Gas.” 

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The woman who answered my knock didn’t look like a revolutionary. She was slim, in blue jeans and hyacinth turtleneck. Sporty reading glasses hung from her neck.

“Right on time,” she said.

I smiled. “For once.”

When I decided to learn as much as I could about seeds, I was directed to a village in central Vermont where a woman lives—a quiet, under-the-radar revolutionary, I was told—who understands some things I’m trying to understand.