Amalia Escobar Galpert
How many years have you been saving seeds?
I've been saving seeds for 24 years.
What inspired you to start saving seeds?
During my first pregnancy, I thought about bringing a new human being into the world to feed and started saving seeds.
Did anyone in your family save seeds that taught you?
My mother saved her own seeds in the Andes mountains near Cuzco. After I moved to America with my husband, he helped teach me about seeds.
What seeds do you save? Do you feel like you have a seed saving specialty in a particular crop?
I save Aji Amarillo (Peruvian chili), Roma tomatoes, corn, and garlic. Over the years, I've brought many seeds from the Andes to see if they will grow in the U.S. so that I can use them in traditional dishes. Approximately 20% of these seeds succeeded in growing in Seattle and on the central coast of California.
What do you love most about seed saving?
Growing corn and saving its seed to grow again makes me feel complete.
Do you have a seed saving philosophy?
I want to help people be healthier. Our bodies need all the elements that Mother Earth produces. We are made of the same elements. Plants predigest all these elements and minerals for us so we are nourished when we eat them. Corn especially is an example of abundance. Saving seeds is a way to recognize our relationship with both plants and earth.
Which questions are you most asked by other seed savers?
I'm often asked about plant problems and when to harvest seeds.
What was the most important piece of advice you received when you were getting started? Or what single piece of advice would you give a new seed saver?
JUST DO IT!! And save the bigger seeds because they are more energetic.
Are you doing any active seed breeding?
Anything else you would like to share?
When I lived in Seattle, I was able to start passionfruit plants from seed, a major achievement in that climate! Also, when I plant it, each new seed receives a name. At the end of this interview, I will share about a Peruvian seed ceremony that inspires me.
What special seed would you love to share in hopes that more people save it and steward it?
Common name: ancient Peruvian Corn
Species: Zea mays
Why is the variety special?
This variety reminds me of happy times in my childhood when my mother often made a drink,
, for the whole family by boiling the corn with pineapple peel, cinnamon, fennel, orange peel, lemon, and sugar. My mother grew all of the flavors except pineapple. That was grown in the jungle.
How did you find this plant/seed?
My sister found this corn in a Cuzco market and gave me the seeds to bring back to my home in the United States.
Describe the characteristics of the plant.
Seed is our Mother and continuation of life on our planet. The seeds start as babies, as newborns who require great attention and care until they are big enough to survive on their own, then they care for us humans. My black corn plants grow about 12' high and produce one or two ears per plant. Husks are deep purple.
Where can folks get this plant if they wanted to steward it?
I want to share my seeds and I'm interested in pooling my seeds with seeds grown from another seed source to expand the genetic base so the variety stays healthy.
Ancient Peruvian Annual Seed Ceremony
Every year farmers and community members dress in their best clothes and carry their seeds from Bolivia, Ecuador, the Andes, and Jungle to a place in the Peruvian Andes. On June 21, a ceremony begins with blessings and attendees sing and dance. After blessings, seeds are exchanged during this ritual. On their way home, people leave some seeds along the way and take the rest to plant in their region.
This ritual is now being revived in some areas.