Browsing Tag

Seed Saving


Irish Seed Savers Workshop in Carlow Town

February 5, 2019

Irish Seed Savers Workshop in Carlow Town

What’s Happening with Irish Seed Savers?

On Saturday, 16th February 2019 from 10am to 3.30pm Wayne Frankham from Irish Seed Savers will be coming to Carlow town to run a workshop about saving our seeds and protecting our heritage. It will take place in An Gairdín Beo, a charitable project and community garden in the heart of Carlow town who are partnering the event. The cost for anyone participating is €10.00 each for the day. This includes refreshments, a light lunch of soup and sandwiches (vegetarian friendly) prepared by local social enterprise The Delta Centre, and the booking fee which Greenside Up has managed to absorb into the costs thanks to Carlow County Council/Local Agenda 21 funding, making this a not-for-profit event.

Pre-booking is essential due to the catering requirements and in helping Wayne prepare his material for the day; as a tutor I know the challenges involved in building a workshop that might be for 10 people or 60 people. If you’re interesting in joining us, the link to the booking site is below:


The workshop will include seed background including cultivation, culture & challenges, local & international solutions, basic botanics including classification, producing quality seed, bolting/overwintering, isolation, populations, manual handling, storage.

Why is this event with Irish Seed Savers important?

Irish Seed Savers co-ordinate the Seed Sovereignty Programme in Ireland. It’s a programme which aims to aid and promote the development of agro-ecological seed production in Ireland and the UK.

Set up by The Gaia Foundation in the UK, it works with new and established seed producers to increase consumer and producer awareness, and increase production opportunities for seed produced in the UK and Ireland.

Current figures suggest over 80% of seed is imported. Certified organic seed figures are even higher. Yet a handful of small enterprises including Real Seeds, The Seed Coop and Vital Seeds in the UK, as well as Brown Envelope Seeds, The Herb Garden and Irish Seed Savers here in Ireland, all demonstrate the diverse range of seeds which we can produce in our own environment. And they are all active in sharing their skills and encouraging more growers to produce great quality seed in our own farms and gardens.

Calendula Seed Head - ready to harvest

The programme has enabled training programmes for those wishing to diversify their commercial production to incorporate seed for own use, exchange and market. It’s a development which many growers find immensely rewarding as they engage in the full cycle of plant life. It’s not without its challenges, contending with pests, humidity and seasonal quirks and variables in weather. But with each plant generation, adaptation to regional environments occurs in each crop variety, and experience develops to share between growers.

This is a pattern which is emerging around the world. The Gaia Foundation took great inspiration from the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security who generously share their experiences online and visited the UK in 2014.

The Seed Guardian Programme from Irish Seed Savers

Here in Ireland Wayne Frankham is Seed Outreach coordinator at Irish Seed Savers. They have a dedicated network of Seed Guardians who help to expand the production capacity of the Seed Savers 20 acre farm in Clare. The Guardians have all undertaken four season Seed Saver training, with the most recent trainees beginning last November. Wayne has been visiting established Guardians, taking part in public grower and culinary events, and providing basic seed training for growers and communities, all around Ireland and the UK.

‘a food revolution starts with seed’

Why join the workshop on the 16th February?

This is a great opportunity to learn more about the trials and events touched by the Programme, as well as learning the essentials of seed saving for this and future generations. Because, as the Seed Sovereignty website says ‘a food revolution starts with seed’.

For more information about seed sovereignty and seed security look up Irish Seed Savers and see the links below, or come along to the workshop and find out more.

Seed Security Canada
Seed Sovereignty Info


Food & Drink

Calendula officinalis: Edible flowers aren’t just for salads

September 10, 2014

Calendula officinalis - ancient, medicinal & edibleToday I was showing the autumn group of community gardeners at Freshford one of my favourite flowers in the vegetable garden, Calendula officinalis. Arguably one of the best companion plants around, Calendula, more commonly known as Pot Marigold, has an uplifting range of colours on the yellow to orange scale, continuously flowers throughout the summer months and has the ability to attract slugs as well as white and blackfly. This unfortunate trait makes it a handy sacrificial plant, or an indicator that there’s a problem pest in the garden but to be honest, apart from one white fly incident in a polytunnel, that’s not something I’ve really noticed in the years I’ve grown it.

Calendula officinalis - ancient, medicinal & edibleCalendula will always find a way into gardens I work with for its ability to attract pollinators, its vibrancy, and knowing that if I look at it often enough, one day I’ll finally get around to making the soft, healing hand and body lotions that Calendula is often associated with.

Calendula Seed Head

Calendula Seed Head – ready to harvest

At this time of year you might notice the petals falling off the plants and the seeds beginning to show themselves. As we’ve had such a dry spell recently, the seeds are setting naturally on the plants without rotting, something that often occurs during wet autumn days. The seeds can be gently removed and placed in brown envelopes, ready to sow again either in the springtime or undercover now for early flowering next year.

For centuries however, Calendula officinalis has been used medicinally in cultures around the world. According to Jekka McVicar’s Complete Herb Book, the inspiration behind the cupcake recipe below, there are some wonderful and ancient stories surrounding this herb. Among other tales, wreaths of Calendula were used to crown the gods and goddesses, the flowers added as an ingredient in love potions in medieval times and the leaves used in the American Civil War by doctors rushing around the battlefields treating open wounds.

For now however, I’ve been wearing a domestic hat and made the buns using the following recipe:

Calendula officinalis - ancient, medicinal & edibleCalendula Cup Cake Recipe

Makes 16

100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self-raising flour
2 tablespoons milk
2 tbls fresh Calendula petals

Preheat oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6

Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs and flower into a bowl or food processor and mix together until fully combined. Add the milk gradually (pulse if using a processor). Fold in 1½ tablespoons of the petals then spoon the mixture into paper bun cases. Sprinkle the remaining petals onto the top of each bun mixture and add a small sprinkling of sugar on top. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and place the buns on a wire tray to cool.

Calendula officinalis - ancient, medicinal & edibleThis is a handy little cupcake recipe regardless whether you add the petals or not. The buns are light and fluffy and given the history of calendula, with each small bite I felt like I was connecting with our past, and of course, they must be good for us if they contain a medicinal herb 😉


Are you a Calendula fan? Have you noticed it’s abilities as a companion plant or used it medicinally or in the kitchen?

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