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Saving Corn Seed: 5 Things You Must Do

Saving Corn Seed: 5 Things You Must Do

  1. Grow a minimum of 200 corn plants together to maintain genetic diversity
  2. Choose the best 100 cobs from the 200 plants you grow
  3. Cut off the top and bottom of these cobs
  4. Take the seed off the middle parts of these cobs which is left
  5. Mix all your saved corn kernels together well – plant next spring

Use all leftover corn to make tortillas, posole etc. or use for chicken food

Continue reading Saving Corn Seed: 5 Things You Must Do

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Growing Out Rare Barley Lines

Screen shot 2015-07-22 at 2.31.13 PM

Wow, it’s that time of the year again. here at Koanga our garden crew are planning their  seed gardens and getting ready to begin planting seeds. We follow our own Garden Planner to ensure we get crop rotation happening, enough carbon from every garden to make enough compost to maintain and grow the soil in that garden, as well as all cross-pollination issues sorted, isolation distances, and  minimum numbers as well as fitting one crop to that following to ensure  the most efficient use of our garden beds. The planning is huge job!

Crop_Rotation_RLC_Heavy Crop_Rotation_Roots_and_Legumes Crop_Rotation_RLC_Carbon

To make it easier for you planning your home garden you can now search by crop rotation

This year we have 4 garden crew and  4 separate gardens operating and growing seed for you. Having 4 gardens including two isolation gardens will mean we can grow a few cultivars we previously were not able to.

Things such as Scarlett Flowered broad beans, an extra brassica, and a  few more of our amazing NZ heritage peas, an extra bean from the Phaseolus coccineus family (Runner beans)  and more.

As well as that  this month we are beginning a ‘grow out’ of all of the precious barley lines we hold. These are all ancient barley lines that come from all over the world, including India, Germany, Korea, Japan and Pakistan. Most of them came into this land over 20 years ago from K.U.S.A., a seed  saving organisation in the USA totally focused on saving our international heritage grains. They are incredibly rare and precious, and if we hadn’t been able to grow them out this year we may have lost the seed. The Essene flax seed we have in our catalogue is one of these ancient edible seeds, which actuality co-evolved in the fields with other grains such as barley and wheat. Essene flaxseed has become one of our food staples (you  plant it in August and September for best results)

Many of these cultivars were developed in India by a very special man 35 years ago for their ability to grow high quality food in difficult situations for the poor farmers, without external inputs. These are short season sumer cultivars.

Here is a taste of what we hold here: We are very very excited about these grains and find that they grow well in a home garden Biointensive situation and are productive and easy to use in the kitchen as well as being absolutely delicious. I had no idea ho delicious whole barley was until recently.

Following is a description (written by KUSA) of one of these cultivars we are holding and growing out, out of our collection that totals 19!!!


Sumire Mochi

Sumire Mochi, is a Spring growth habit, naked food-barley from Japan with purplish coloured grain and dynamic, vigorous tillering (production of grain bearing side shoots). Glutinous trait food barleys are very very rare, and this is one of them. It’s kernels contain the highly nutritious, efficiently assimilated, amylopectin starch. A very rare grain with outstanding agronomic performance and potential plus invaluable human nutritional properties.

We currently have 2 of these super special naked barley cultivars available to you, and hope to have lots more next season.

Growing plants for seed is not as flexible as growing them too eat, many crops must overwinter to get quality seed, that can actually be planted in Spring if you only want to eat them. We have been astounded this winter with many many -10 oC frosts and snow as well, to see how the Japanese Spinach handles these cold conditions. I love Japanese Spinach, it is my new cold season favourite. bunches are large, it grows in the cold, and tastes great. We’re eating the weaker plants in our Japanese Spinach bed now and will leave the best to grow to seed for you.



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Seed Selection & Improvement


We began our process of digging up all our root crops that will be going to seed next summer and laying them all out in a row so we can select the best to save for growing out and eat the rest. This is how the Black Spanish radishes looked, we replanted half of what we originally planted. This kind of rigorous rogueing is essential to keep seed lines strong and true to type. We have grown thousands of carrots this year and it’s going to be very very exciting to be able to chose just 500 to replant at 20cm diagonal spacings to collect seed next summer. As well as the carrots and salsify we also still have the parsnips to dig up in May and do our selection work on.

We also have our brassicas in the ground to over winter for seed next summer.. this year we’re growing out Broccoli De Cicco, Borecole, Filbasket Brussels sprouts, and Red Mammoth cabbages. Once again we will be planting several hundred of each and rogueing down to around ¼ for seed. Doing that each time we do a brassica growout maintains even lines of quality seed, a thing that is difficult to maintain in many brassica lines because there is so much genetic variation in them, and they constantly try to get back to their original wild ancestors. The brassicas we have that are closest to the wild lines are the most genetically stable and easiest to maintain eg Seakale, Borecole, and Dalmatian cabbage.


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Gail’s Spring Blog

A different method for starting seeds early

Up here in the Hokianga we don’t have really cold temperatures to deal with (in fact we really only had one frost this winter and that was back in early June). Now the weather is really changeable – hot and sunny enough some days for us to be removing clothing layers and feeling like we should be getting our sun hats on, very wet some days and some quite cold nights. Even though its relatively mild some things still need a help to get away early and I have a different system for starting seeds than Kay. We have a hooped tunnel house that we never got round to putting the ends on – once the tunnel house was up and functional the ends dropped off our ‘to do’ list. It provides shelter and some warmth but not enough to get some things started early in the season. Inside the tunnel house I had John build a hot box. Its made of macrocarpa and is about 1.2 by 1m and about 50 cms deep. Its up off the floor on legs and has a wooden base. Resting on the base and angled forwards is a piece of roofing tin – I’ll explain its purpose in a moment. In late July we collect horse manure and John scythes some grass and we build up layers in the hot box – manure, grass, manure, grass and then potting mix on top. I cover the whole thing with plastic using two cloche hoops pushed into the organic material in the box. The plastic I’ve been using for the past 5 years had finally shredded this year so I got a new piece – a recycled plastic wrapping from a double mattress from a local furniture store. Its a perfect size, cost me $2 and I kept it doubled for extra heat.

Hot box

The way it works is simple – the manure and grass clippings start to compost down and in doing so produce heat from underneath and the plastic cover keeps that heat in – even first thing in the morning the air under the cover is appreciably warmer than outside it.

Its a great place to start seedlings off – some things, such as Jimmy Nardello peppers, that really benefit from the direct bottom heat are sown straight into the potting mix while others that are easier to germinate (e.g. Red Kuri pumpkins) are sown in seed trays that are just placed inside the hot box. Once the seeds are sown they need occasional watering. Any surplus water filters down through the layers, flows along the roofing tin into a piece of guttering which directs it to a pipe which exits the box vertically. I keep a bucket under that which collects the nutrient rich water for use as a liquid feed.

jimmy nardello peppers

I’m really pleased with it as a system. It gets the seeds germinating early and up here I only really need it for August and September, by October everything germinates just fine in the tunnel house. So for the rest of the year I use it for growing root ginger – its perfect for that. I’ve found that the ginger for planting stores best in trays in potting mix in the tunnel house as then it doesn’t dry out too much. Once the hot box is no longer needed for seeds I plant the ginger into the box, without the plastic cover as it doesn’t need that. The ginger needs the warmth provided by the tunnel house and the nutrient rich matter in the box is perfect. It requires quite a bit of watering so the nutrient recycling by catching the water is great. The other thing ginger needs is to not be in intense sunlight – our tunnel house plastic is partially UV protected and gives some shade so it thrives in there. Its harvested in the winter when the foliage dies down – perfect timing to get the hot box ready for the seeds again.

Spring in the Garden

I had a walk through the garden earlier today – it felt very spring like and there were bees everywhere. The Sutton’s Dwarf Broad Beans that we grow are flowering away and look fantastic. In some parts of New Zealand it’s better to sow Broad Beans now but up here I’ve found it’s too late so sow mine in April or May. That means they’ll form beans before the weather gets too hot and gives me the added advantage of them finishing early so I can plant something else over the summer as I’m always running out of space.

bee on broad bean flowers

We’re coming into a really busy time now and I like to get some things started quickly to get ahead for later in the season. We grow Jimmy Nardello peppers and like to get them producing as early in the season as possible so start them off in the hot box. They are beautiful, elongated red sweet peppers that visitors usually mistake for chilli peppers because of their shape and colour. Once they are producing we eat them most days in a variety of ways but I think they are best just roasted. Up here in the north we have the added bonus of a prolonged season and they don’t stop producing until late June or into July.

Our tomatoes are also sown in the hot box to get them away early – we like to grow a range of colours and shapes. One of our regulars is Alma a red, egg shaped tomato that is very disease resistant and great for eating, cooking or drying. In fact a big treat this winter was the discovery of 3 jars of dried Almas stored in olive oil that had been forgotten at the back of a cupboard. They were from 2011 but were perfect and are delicious with our home made cheese. We also grow J Walsh Yellow good for eating fresh or cooking, Oxheart which we mainly use for cooking and Broad Ripple Yellow Currant which is great in handfuls in salad and always a favourite with children (and adults!) to browse in the garden. Eggplants grow really well up here and again its good to get them going early so I start them in the hot box too. We’ve tried several varieties and love them all so grow a different one each year. We grew Tsakoniki last year which were great. They have stripey red/violet skin and non-bitter flesh but we also like Florence Round Purple which are very dark skinned and look and taste amazing.

We’re still eating lots of salads up here in late winter / early spring mainly comprised of Rocket which overwinters easily here, American Land Cress, Sorrel, Endive Indiva Scarola, Raddiccio Rosso, Nasturtium leaves and flowers, and Calendula Flowers. We’ve also got lots of Chioggia and Bull’s Blood Beetroot that overwintered nicely and Tokinashi Daikon radish. They are great in a root salad along with Yacon which is part of our back order collection. Yacon is a perennial root vegetable that has small sunflower like flowers in the summer. The tubers are harvested in the winter and provide a sweet, crunchy addition to salads. We usually harvest some wild greens such as bitter cress, plantain, dandelion and puha to add to the salad and have that with homemade cheese for lunch each day. I sowed lettuce in the hot box in August to get some away early and it germinated pretty much straight away so that’s pricked out in trays already. We like to grow a mix of different lettuces (Four Seasons, Odells, Devil’s Ear) – the different shapes and colours look great and add interest to spring and summer salads.

The hot box will really start to fill up at the end of August. We grow Long Green Bush Marrow successionally over the season and the first ones will be sown after the new moon. We really like this variety as it produces great tasting courgettes but also very tasty marrows if you let them grow large. I think marrows are a very underrated vegetable. These ones have great flavour and are good for stuffing (often with our Four Seasons Quinoa). They even keep quite well and we still have a few on the pumpkin store that look perfect even now. We will sow our Red Kuri pumpkins at the same time as the marrows. These are a fantastic summer squash and are usually ready to eat by late December. They are very productive and great roasted, steamed or as soup and can be eaten skin and all. We sow our other pumpkin a month later and that won’t need the hot box. We grow Cupola, a beautiful large butternut that is a great keeper. The combination of the two pumpkins is great – we usually still have Cupola left in late December when the Red Kuri start and then by the time the Red Kuri finish around May we can start eating Cupola again.

We grow several kinds of beans each year and like to get some started early. I successionally sow a bean called Sinton throughout the season and start the first ones off in September. Sinton is a bush bean and great eaten either as a green bean or a drying bean. I usually do 3 sowings, the early ones will be eaten as green beans for a while and the plants left to produce beans for drying, the middle sowing will be just for drying as by the time they are producing we usually have lots of a climbing green bean called Blue Lake to eat, the final sowing will be mainly eaten as green beans (the Blue Lake have usually finished by then) and if the weather stays dry enough then a final harvest of drying Sintons.

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Fundraising Update – Save our seeds

Kia Ora,

We have been overwhelmed at the fantastic support that the Koanga member community has shown over the last month, it has been absolutely amazing……thank you!

As a sign of our appreciation to our donors to the ”Save our Seeds campaign” for their support, we sent an ebook gift  from the Koanga Institute team, a copy of one of Kay Baxter’s best selling books in ebook format.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that seed saving is slowly moving into mainstream focus. People are starting to understand that we are dependent on heritage seeds for both food security and higher levels of nutrition and health. With the UN estimating in 1994 that 94% of seeds varieties have been lost, the work that Koanga Institute and its founders are doing is more important than ever.

We would like to thank you for the $132,000 donated so far!!!! This is absolutely amazing and we are immensely grateful for your support for both the Koanga Institute and New Zealand’s heritage seeds future.
We have managed to negotiate one more extension on our impending 3rd January deadline for the first funds due, this has now been pushed back to the 30th of January.

We received a few comments that our last update was a little confusing, so we have clarified our goals below:

We need to raise a total of $700,000 by  June 29th  2014  to secure the land the heritage seed and tree collections grow on. Without this money we are at risk of losing the lot. We have some interim dates for a portion of these funds to be raised and paid to the landowners, the table below breaks this down including how much we have raised so far:

Due Date Amount Due Amount Raised to date Possible source of fundraising source
30th  January $ 295,000 $ 122,000 Online crowd fundraising
30th  June $ 405,000 $ 10,000 Speaking tours, workshop tours, business memberships, online auction, possible grants
Total $700,000 $ 132,000

We are conscious of being a non profit organisation focused on financial self reliance. Whilst we can sustain ourselves on a yearly basis, capital purchases such as land are not within our grasp with our current operating expenses. We are largely staffed by volunteers or staff who get paid very basic allowances. We are frugal with our operating costs. We are in the process of improving our current business model and offerings to ensure further development of Koanga Institute but this will take time i.e. 2 years to ramp up.

In our goal to purchase the land to save the seeds, we are not just asking for handouts, there are many ways that people can help that have tangible benefits i.e. buying a ticket and attending a talk by Kay Baxter on our nation wide tour, attending one of our workshops held in 5 locations in New Zealand, becoming a business member of Koanga Institute with benefits, donating to our online crowd fundraising campaign and receiving a free seed saving ebook.

Securing this land will not just mean the securing of New Zealand’s largest heritage organic tree and seed collections. It will also mean the securing of a future home for some of our research and development projects in self reliance and regenerative living.

The Koanga Institute has committed to developing a campus at 96 Kotare Road dedicated to:

  • holding our heritage food plant collections
  • research into all aspects of regenerative living
  • sharing our experience and knowledge

Through this, we aim to ensure the long-term sustainability, and regeneration of New Zealand’s bio-diversity heritage, and to contribute towards transformation in the wider community.

Primary Goals / objectives for 2013-2015

1. To continue our stewardship of our heritage collections, including:

  • new seed storage facilities
  • developing an East Coast heritage fruit tree collection further
  • continued collection of seeds
  • development of a seed bank incubator program within New Zealand

2.  To develop a research center that supports our vision.  Including the research,   modelling and promotion of:

  • the best practice of biological agriculture and production of nutrient dense food
  • the connections between soil, plant, animal and human health
  • the value of heritage varieties for nutrition and health.
  • the use of multi-tiered, perennial agricultural systems
  • use of traditional (non-industrialised) foods and food processing for good nutrition and health
  • appropriate technologies and self-reliant housing
  • appropriate social organisations (eg Community Land trusts, Bio-regional Associations,  Co-operatives etc)

3.   To further develop our membership base and the range of services offered to the public to ensure financial self reliance of Koanga Institute (a registered non profit organisation) including:

  • sales of seeds, books, booklets, and other products
  • an on-site campus for workshops, courses, internships and apprenticeships
  • seed bank incubator program
  • on-line courses and e-books.
  • consultancy and design
  • strategic commercial partnerships

4.  Once the land is paid for to research the development of a village community that models all aspects of our vision, including purchasing our leasehold site within the village
5.   To engage with a wide range of individuals and organisations nationwide and internationally in mutually supportive relationships and partnerships.
6.   To complete the transition from an organisation with a dominant ‘founder energy’  to an organisation that can be independent of the founders and engaged strongly in the wider national community.  This will include a 3 year program of skills development with the staff team, ongoing apprenticeships, and a well documented institutionalised set of processes and protocols.

Thank you for taking the time to read this note, refer below for more information on how you become involved.

Once again thank you for your amazing support, it IS truly APPRECIATED.
Kind regards

p.s. Please feel free to share all of these ideas and our need with all of your friends and contacts.

Crowd fund raising campaign-

We still need to raise more and would like your help to spread the word. We would be honoured if you would help us promote our crowd fund raising campaign to your community and friends through e-mail, newsletters, blogs, facebook,  other social media or contacting the media to tell out story. Click here to see our campaign.

Nationwide Speaking Tour
Our founder Kay Baxter is going on tour throughout New Zealand in May 2014  to talk about two very important topics, all funds raised go directly towards saving New Zealand’s heritage seeds and our campaign to buy the land the seeds grow on. The talk topics are:
1) Seeds, humans and the process of co-evolution
2) Nutrient dense food production and preparation for health

The tickets for these tours will go on sale click below to buy now (the first 50 tickets sold will receive a free Urban Garden booklet)

New Plymouth

Or can you help us with either sponsorship of the travel for the tour which will cover a campervan, small daily expenses and petrol or event locations ? This would offer significant media coverage. If so contact Emma [email protected]


Buy a business membership that offers your company many benefits click here to find out more
Become a life member for a lifetime of benefits click here to find out more

Spread the word:
Spread the word on facebook, twitter, google+ or any other online media/ distribution list. Contact the media and tell that you want to see us on TV

Sponsor someone on a course/ offer a scholarship- email [email protected] to find out more

Become an apprentice: We have a group of people willing to pay us to train garden and orchard designers and managers for a serious new co operative community in the Wairarpapa. Being accepted by this group as apprentices could potentially get you free training with us and entry and a wonderful work opportunity in this community. If you are keen please contract us urgently, or if you know somebody who may be interested please send this to them. This could support us a lot.

Do a course with us: Permaculture design course in February, Appropriate Technology Internship in February

The Koanga Institute is a nationally recognised charitable trust, dedicated to preserving the heritage food plants of Aotearoa. Over the past 30 years, fruit trees, vegetable seeds and perennial vegetables that are unique to NZ have been saved from extinction through our work. The Koanga Institute has also developed a comprehensive education program that offers the skills and understanding necessary for truly sustainable living in New Zealand, encompassing all aspects of health, sustainable food production and self reliance.