Category Save Your Seeds

Save Your Seeds: Lettuce


Lactuca sativa – Lac, latin for ‘milk’ referring to the white sap, and sativa for ‘cultivated’.


The origin of cultivation dates from early days in the temperate parts of Caucasus (Azerbaijan and Georgia), in Kurdistan, Kashmir and Siberia. The Romans grew a pointed, narrow-leafed Cos just like the Rabbit’s Ear lettuce that we know today. It was only in the 16th century that the head lettuce was described for the first time.


Lettuces need to grow fast with adequate water in hot Australian summers. They’ll do better and are more tender grown under a shade cloth or a bush than in full sun. To ensure that Romaine lettuces heart up, it’s best to grow them close to each other. Tender hearts can also be obtained by binding the leaves together as they grow.



Raphanus sativus – from the Greek raphanus meaning ‘easily grown’ and the Latin sativus, which means ‘cultivated’.


Radishes have a long history of cultivation and their origins are not certain. Alphonse de Candolle (1886) mentions that wild specimens were found near Mt Ararat in Turkey, and in Palestine and Armenia. It is thought there were two major centres of origin: the warmer parts of Europe and Asia.


The radish varies enormously in size and shape, from small red ones to large white ones.

Save Your Seeds – Parsnip


Pastinaca sativa – pastura in Latin means food and sativa means cultivated.


The parsnip we know today evolved from the wild parsnip which is still growing in Europe and Asia. It was a staple in the middle ages, but fell into disuse with the rising popularity of the potato. It is naturalised in New Zealand.


Parsnip is a root vegetable grown for its large, creamywhite roots. It’s closely related to parsley and carrots which all belong to the flowering plant family Apiaceae.

Save Your Seeds – Eggplant


Solanum melongena – solanum is Latin for nightshade, melongena is Greek for ‘sprung from a fruit tree’.


The purple eggplant, now so common, was domesticated in India and Burma; it arrived in China by the fourth century. Arabic people introduced Europeans to the delights of eggplant in the seventh century.


There is great variation in eggplant fruits, from the common large purple to the pea-sized yellow ones of Thailand. The first eggplants grown in England were small and egg-shaped, hence their English name.

Save your seeds: Peas


Pisum sativum var. sativum – pisum means pea; and sativum means cultivated, in Latin.


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: Beans


The ‘common bean’ Phaseolus vulgaris – phaseolus being Greek for bean and vulgaris Greek for common – covers both green beans (French beans) and dried beans such as pinto, navy, kidney and borlotti.


Although there are records of bean cultivation in Mexico in 4000 BCE, the plants seem to have originated from the temperate regions of South America. The Incas of Peru are thought to be the domesticators of beans.


Some beans are grown to be eaten green when the pods are tender (green beans or French beans) and others are eaten dried (kidney, navy). Green beans have either no parchment (inner skin) in their pods, or a very thin one, and the beans for drying usually have a thick parchment. Apart from the green beans being left to mature on the bush, the seed-saving techniques for both green and dried are very similar.

Save Your Seeds: Dill


Anethum graveolens var. esculentum. Anethon is the Greek word for dill. Graveolens means strong smelling and esculentum means edible in Latin.


Dill is an annual whose distribution is widespread due to its medicinal popularity. Being native to such diverse climates as Central Asia, Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Armenia, parts of Turkey, northern Tibet, Afghanistan, Mongolia, northern India and Pakistan is an indication of its hardiness.

Dill also grows wild as a natural companion to field crops in southern Europe.

Save your seeds: Rocket

BOTANICAL NAME: Eruca sativa. Eruca is the old Latin name for rocket and sativa means cultivated.


Despite renewed culinary interest in rocket, it is not a modern plant. It has been eaten for its tender though acrid leaves for at least 2000 years throughout western and eastern Europe.


A low annual herb, rocket is also called roquette and arugula. There are approximately 20 different varieties. A few different species of the genus Eruca are grown for salad in places like Crimea and Azerbaijan.

Save your seeds: Basil


BOTANICAL NAME: Ocimum basilicum, O. gratissimum, O. sanctum and O. canum.


There are several species of basil, all of them native to either Africa or Asia.


There are both perennial and annual basils, and their shape and size range from almost prostrate to mighty bushes two metres high.


Basil is predominantly a warm season plant. In cool climates, plant for summer cropping. Perennial basils thrive after a winter pruning.

Save your seeds: Onion


BOTANICAL NAME: Allium cepa. In Latin, allium means garlic and cepa means 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.

In recent times, UN officials have found old varieties in Iran that show resistance to thrips and this has greatly benefited the industry. Thrips are slender insects with stout, coneshaped mouth parts with which they scrape the onion stems and suck out the sap, causing yellowing of the leaves.


Onions have many close relatives, such as A. cepa var. aggregatum (French shallot, potato onion and multiplier