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Jude & Michael Fanton – Pip Magazine
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Jude & Michael Fanton

Beetroot

Wild beets are native to northern Africa and the coast of Spain and Portugal. They were introduced to northern Europe by the Romans who fed them to both their troops and horses. Beets adapted very well to cold, northern winters and from them sugar beet and the round red beet were developed. Collections of the wild relatives of beetroot are being made in Sicily and Calabria for large-scale gene banks.

Rockmelon

From tropical western Africa and introduced to southern Europe 2000 years ago, melons have been a popular fruit for a very long time. A distinctive group of melons called cantaloupes were developed in a place called Cantallouppi near Rome, where they became very popular with the emperor Tiberius. They were then introduced to Armenia from where they reached Iran, which became a secondary centre of diversity.

Broad Beans

Broad beans have been cultivated since prehistoric times in Europe. They were unearthed in the ancient city of Troy, found in Egyptian tombs as well as with Bronze Age artefacts in Switzerland, so their exact origin is difficult to determine. It is recorded that Romans used them as voting tokens and they reached China by the first century CE.

Save your seeds: Peas

One of the most ancient old-world vegetables, the garden pea can be traced to the Bronze Age. It was domesticated in Europe and later in southern Russia, Armenia, northern India, Pakistan and the mountains of Ethiopia. Primitive peas were found in the city of Troy. This vegetable reached China early in the Tang Dynasty, 600 to 900 BCE.

Save your seeds: Basil

Basil flowers are coloured white through to purple. They have an abundant and pungent nectar, and rely on insect pollination, so one basil will cross with others. You will need to separate different varieties by as much garden space as possible (preferably fifty metres).

Save your seeds: Onion

Onion is a hardy biennial from the southern parts of Russia and Iran. It was disseminated by the Indo-European hordes in their numerous migrations. Very ancient forms of onions are still for sale in Middle Eastern markets. Onions were considered sacred and were eaten in copious quantities by the Egyptians who honoured them in some of their monuments.

Save Your Seeds: Broccoli

Sprouting broccoli grows well in summer in southern Australia and in winter in warmer areas of Australia. It has two growth habits; one with a central head, and one that produces numerous small flower heads along the stalk (e.g. the sprouting Calabrese).

Save your seeds: Nasturtium

You can utilise all of this plant in your kitchen and garden. Add the flowers and young leaves to salads. You can use the green seeds (harvested after the petals have fallen) as a substitute for capers – to do this, simply pour freshly boiled vinegar into a tightly packed jar of unripe nasturtium seeds, seal the jar and store in a cool place.