The Utopian Seed Project is learning how to grow crops that are native to the tropics that with some additional care can thrive in Western North Carolina and beyond. It is important to us that we learn to grow these crops in open field / garden cultivation and that we have the ability to save seed or propagation material for planting the following season. In this way these crops can contribute to a diverse and sustainable food system.
This is an exciting area of crop trialing with some incredible culinary potential; we are exploring traditional food preparations as well as experimental southern applications. While many of these crops are new to us, we must remember that they are not new crops, and respecting the long histories and cultures is a critical part of our work. Wherever possible we attempt to work with people who have direct connections to the cultural homes of these crops.
It is also important to note that as we continue to experience a warming climate, many of these crops will become easier to grow as more traditional crops become more challenging to grow. We believe that building a knowledge base and regionally adapted genetic material will be a key component of our future sustainable food systems. Below you will find crop profiles, which will continue to expand as we learn more about each crop.
There are a large number of root crops grown in northern South America throughout the Andean mountain range (Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador). The most famous root crop from this region in the potato, with an enormous diversity of varieties available in that region. However many other root crops exist that could serve as a diverse crops in North America. A shared challenge of many of these crops is short day photoperiod sensitivity for tuber formation and a dislike of the extremely warm weather we experience in the Southeast.