'Impossible' Landrace Project Ideas

Discovering joseph’s book and learning landrace has made me feel like i finally burst through the walls of conventional gardening that told me i couldnt grow a garden because i couldn’t do it the way i was supposed to and everyone else did. During this learning journey, i have especially been inspired by the farthest reaching projects, like joseph’s garlic true seed, or mark’s sweet potatoes. I think it is magical what could possibly done with the landrace philosophy, and I want to see what the most out there project ideas are in the back corners of your brain! What seems like the most pie in the sky goal? What project idea are you hesitant to say out loud because someone will say its impossible? Or what might be a project that you wish you could take on but seems too difficult or requires more space, energy, or knowledge than you may currently have?


It would be fun to try re-domesticating some of the weeds that Native Americans domesticated for edible seeds but then abandoned after maize was introduced. But … probably not in this lifetime.


Dates. Frankincense trees. Eucalyptus. All childhood favorites… and I’m now in completely the wrong area for them. :-/


Just making it possible for our small liberal arts college garden to do plant breeding work with non-major students and a shoestring budget. Students voted for our first Landrace to be hot peppers.


I have spent the winter collecting grexes for maxima, moschata, and winter pepo varieties. My plan for spring planting is to poke holes in the ground, put seeds anywhere and everywhere there is adequate space in the soil that I have, dress around the new plants with some compost and bone char, and give them a bi-weekly dose of weak urine tea. The plants that survive and make seeds will be saved for next year, and eventually I hope to have the toughest, meanest pumpkins, butternuts and acorn squashes in the world.


You already know about my hopes for a cold hardy banana landrace. :smiley:

I’d also love to be able to adapt all my root crops to overwinter in the ground and stay tasty. That way, I won’t have to worry about keeping them in my house – I can just dig some up fresh whenever I want to eat some.

I already have that with Jerusalem artichokes (yay!). And obviously garlic and carrots. It may be a stretch to get yacon, oca, sweet potatoes, and potatoes to behave that way, but I certainly plan to try, once I start getting true seeds and can start trying to locally adapt them. Likewise any other root crops I decide that I want to start growing.

Much broader, and encompassing far more species: I want to have a winter garden that’s just as full of food as my summer garden. Perennials are a great start, and I want to encourage everything to perennialize that I possibly can. But what I’d really like is loads of perennials that can keep on growing through the entire winter, without dying back or going dormant. If they’re mostly leaf crops, that’s okay, as long as they’re tasty; it would be great to have fruit and seed crops, as well.

Garlic seems to match this description. It’s a bit too strong in flavor to eat in huge quantities, though. :wink: Still, I bet I can find more tasty crops that will keep growing (albeit slowly) through the winter. I have high hopes for Austrian winter peas.

Oh, I also want some thornless, sweet, tasty citrus trees that can grow here. Bonus points if they fruit in the middle of the winter and don’t care about being covered in snow while they’re fruiting. How’s that for grandiose? :wink:

I want a super productive winter garden so that I can use the water in my climate while it’s available. That way, I’ll be less reliant on storing rainwater to grow plants. Of course, I also want a super productive winter garden so that I can grow more food, in general – having two full gardens of food every year will greatly increase how much harvest I can get in my small growing space.


In ground potatoes are more of a spring crop in my experience. When I left them in the ground they overwinteted, popped back in the spring, and died back in the early summer. This was in the dry garden, so they survived through the summer. I didn’t use them as a crop, it was more of an experiment to see if they would grow under dry conditions.

No idea when the roots deteriorate, but I would guess early spring.

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I would like cold tolerant piper nigrum (black pepper). When I tried growing it before it died at about 50 degrees F.


I feel the same way as you about Piper nigrum. I would really miss this spice if I could no longer acquire it by purchase, and I do not like being completely dependent on that route. The only acceptable substitute I have found so far is Nigella damascena. Easy to grow, readily reseeds itself, very pretty flowers, unique seed pods that produce a good amount of seeds per pod, easy to know when seeds are ripe and seeds are very easy to harvest and winnow. Flavor notes seem to vary by personal tastes but I find nigella seeds to have a black peppery/oniony flavor. There is never a perfect replacement for the real thing, though.


I have grown nigella sativa (black cumin, even though they’re not related) but I didn’t taste it because I wanted to increase the seeds. I have also got seeds for damascena (love-in-a-mist) but never thought to taste them. I’ll have to try both this year.


I harvest and keep Nigella damascena seeds whole in my spice rack, and grind them when needed for freshest flavor, like peppercorns. The problem I have now is when I tell people about it and have them taste it, then they ask if they can have some to take home for their cooking. I oblige when I have enough to spare. Now every year late summer I have people asking for some and for the life of me I cannot get them to grow the darn plants themselves and do their own harvesting, they use all the seeds in cooking instead of planting some. Oh well. I will say, though, some people have tasted it and did not care for it. Kinda like cilantro, a love/hate and no inbetween.

@APUCommunityGarden This is so cool. I’d love to hear more about how you’re doing this. You’re teaching landrace plant breeding in a college?

I want to grow gourds for containers I’m editing a video now about how in Guerrero they grow gourds for all kids of containers, water bottles, seed storage, keep tortillas warm. So I want to be able to make those things +sponges and donate some to a local Pomo cultural project… I would have assumed gourds are too hot weather for me, but now I think it was Thomas P gave me hope and I’m going to try this year, a few varieties. Luffa probably I’ll try in a greenhouse.


When I was a kid, I grew little ornamental gourds in trees. I want to grow edible squash like that. Not sure it belongs in the “impossible” category because I fully intend to do it. Maybe muskmelons and watermelons too.


I’d like to grow turmeric, ginger, and black pepper. These are really far out for my cold climate. Has anyone already done a landrace on any of these?


Most warm loving plants are considered impossible or atleast demanding outdoors at 61 north and I like the exotic (by our standards) and difficult. I have had atleast some success with sweet potatoes, peppers, melons, watermelons, basil and c.moschata that are considered impossible. Tomatoes, other squashes and corn are less difficult, but still quite far from acclimatized. I don’t want just to grow them, but to grow them with as little trouble as possible. I want melons and watermelons to be easily direct seeded, when normally it’s recommended about month transplant period and after that growing protected. Tomatoes would be nice to direct seed and get full harvest. I’m going even futher into realm of impossibility this year with trying (again) to grow okra. This time kandahar pendi landrace which is hopefully slightly more resilient and I should have learnt something from past mistakes. On more cold loving plants like spinach, salads and radish I would like to have more bolt resistance. They are quite impossible if it’s hot and dry summer. They should be replanted every few weeks and not really in the middle of summer, but I rather have salad and spinach that would grow until august before flowering and radishes that are bigger (even if they take longer to grow). Not really somethin I’m currently working on, but after having damaged roots in swedes I was thinking that maybe it would be possible to breed stem swede.

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Yes, but typically not as part of a formal class, and with students from all majors (we offer a minor in Environmental Studies that requires completion of a significant project, so we usually have one student a year doing something in the garden for course credit). Our on campus garden and off campus workshops are mostly run by students earning service credits that are required for graduation, but we also strive to offer a community space and learning/leadership/research/portfolio building opportunities for them. And most shine when given the opportunity to do more than just show up and be grunts (the faculty advisors can write much better letters of recommendation for our garden students than for kids who just took our classes, even if they did get an A). Students are really excited about creating something, and developing a Landrace hits the sweet spot of students being able to see progress in a couple of years before they graduate but also being an ongoing thing. Also, we need some records and organization, but not so much that it’s completely overwhelming to, say, an art major. We talk a little about genetics and plant biology and soil biology, a little about history, a little about agriculture and environmental science and economics and etc. And mostly we grow things and taste things and have our breakthroughs and frustrations.


I’ve read that alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) seeds make a reasonable pepper substitute. I’ve found it difficult to grow though I’ve no idea why.

I think ginger doesn’t produce seeds anymore. According to Robinson’s “Return To Resistance” there aren’t any known wild relatives, either. Based on that, ginger would be exceptionally challenging. Maybe there’s a clone somewhere that hasn’t completely lost the ability to produce seeds? If someone was determined enough, invested the time and effort, and succeeded, though, it’d be quite the achievement.

I’m not as familiar with turmeric, but it sounds like it’s almost in the same boat. From some quick digging around online it sounds like in some cases it can produce seed, although they often are not viable. (Some people refer to pieces of rhizome as seeds, like they do with potatoes, so that adds extra layers of confusion.) There’s maybe a bit more hope in that case.

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I would be super interested in ginger and tumeric as well. I know theres a ‘wild ginger’ that i’ve seen in catalogues that are native (i think?) To the northeast US. I bet its possible to get some seeds out of it, if joseph got seeds out of domestic garlic. But would definitely take some time and effort and thought. I think a project like that would be one of the most exciting and fulfilling to take on, with such a high risk of failure and such a great reward at the end.