Native Seeds/SEARCH. Saving ancient Southwest heirloom seeds

Glass Gems corn from Native Seeds/SEARCH
Glass Gems corn from Native Seeds/SEARCH

Native Seeds/Search in Tucson plays a vital role in saving precious varieties of seeds for plants that survive and even thrive in the punishingly hot, arid climate of the Southwest and northwest Mexico. They even have a seed library. Check out seeds you want. Grow them under the right conditions so they don’t cross pollinate, then bring back twice as many. You keep the food. They have 1,900 different species of seeds in their seed bank.

They were once given a medicine man’s pouch which contained sunflower seeds they’d never seen before. This previously unknown variety of sunflowers proved resistant to sunflower rust and was soon cross-bred with commercial species. Who know what other benefit their seeds may offer?

Our Nonprofit Mission

Native Seeds/SEARCH conserves, distributes and documents the adapted and diverse varieties of agricultural seeds, their wild relatives and the role these seeds play in cultures of the American Southwest and northwest Mexico. We promote the use of these ancient crops and their wild relatives by gathering, safeguarding, and distributing their seeds to farming and gardening communities. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Tucson, Arizona.

Click to view-fullsized
Click to view full-sized

Sue just brought back some goodies from their store (they have mail order too, of course.) In addition to doing good work, all NS/S food is delicious.

Left to right, starting in top row. Chia Seeds (good as a drink or in salads.) Anasazi Beans (mild sweet creamy texture.) Christmas Lima (“forget everything you know about bland starchy lima beans.” Savoury flavor with hint of chestnuts.) Chili Chocolate Brownie Mix (Yum.) White Tepary beans, the preferred bean of the Tohono O’Odham, and quite possibly the tastiest bean ever. Chiptole Bean Chili mix. Tohono O’Odham Pink Beans (cousin of the tepary), and Black Turtle beans (good in New Orleans cuisine.)


Flamenco Tomato. Continues producing in hot weather when other tomatoes stop, and disease resistant.


  1. How do they protect against cross-pollination, especially from GMO corn? Is it on the honor system, or do they test? Cross-pollination is so prevalent that a USDA Organic inspector recently told a local organic farmer that with respect to corn and soy and the absence or presence of GMOs, the Organic label has become virtually meaningless – if you eat corn or soy grown in the U.S., it is almost certainly GMO, even if the seeds were bought from a certified organic source. Without testing, we can’t be sure.

    • The seeds have to been grown further away than specific distances from anything it could cross-pollinate with. I think this is the standard way of preserving a strain although, sure, it’s not infallible.

      I don’t know if they test. Seems like that would be expensive for a small operation.

      • Three years ago, a hay producer began planting GMO alfalfa 25 miles south of us. Conventional wisdom says we’re far enough away. But you know the wind here: Reality suggests that GMO pollen may have polluted the entire valley.

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