180 Pages of plant knowledge

117 Plant Reference List

More than 100 illustrations of seeds and plants

The Seed Savers’ Handbook is a complete reference for growing, preparing and conserving 117 traditional varieties of food plants.

It was written in 1993 by Michel and Jude Fanton, founders of The Seed Savers’ Network, especially for Australian and New Zealand cultures. It is however applicable to all situations.
The Seed Savers’ Handbook has 180 pages with stunning original illustrations.

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More than 39,000 copies have now been sold!

The book begins with eight chapters on the issues around seeds globally and the practicalities of saving your own seeds. Three quarters of the book gives practical seed saving information on 117 food plants, mostly vegetables, with the remainder culinary flowers, herbs and spices. Each plant has a description, its wild origins, how to cultivate it, save its seeds or otherwise propagate it, storage of the seed and its medicinal and culinary uses.

Permaculture, biodiversity, organics and companion planting are the principles that underlie the contents of this book.

Michel and Jude Fanton wrote The Seed Savers’ Handbook from experience and with a great deal of research. It has been a reliable reference book not just on propagating and breeding your own vegetables, but also for how to grow and use both common (corn, tomatoes, beans, cabbages, etc.,) and unusual vegetables, such as tumeric, peanuts and several species of gourds.

Included are many Asian and South American vegetables, herbs and spices.
At early 2014, 36,000 copies of the original edition have been sold with another 30,000 copies of translations and adaptations sold around the world.

Reviews

Bill Mollison, founder of Permaculture and recipient of the Australian Achiever Award 1993, says in the book’s preface:

“I believe this book to be essential for all caring farmer, gardeners, cooks and parents, and I trust that it will speed our return to good nutrition and a healthy society.”

Megg Miller, editor of Grass Roots:

“Many people care passionately about the environment and conserving it for future generations. An integral part of this is concern for the demise of old-fashioned varieties of useful plants and vegetables. But philosophical thought and rhetoric alone cannot turn the tide – the timely publication of this informative and practical book will do much to guide ordinary people to becoming caretakers of our diverse seed heritage.”

Submit a review:
We welcome commentary on The Seed Savers’ Handbook to help us help all of you with this extremely valuable resource. Email a Review

Michael Boddy, editor of Kitchen Talk Newsletter:

“Our best recommendation for this book is that it will help you strengthen the wholesome connection between soil, plant and self, by showing you how to select and reproduce the seeds that best respond to the region in which you live. Scale is not important here. At whatever level you wish to work – from the single pot on the window-sill to a paddock full of earthly delights – you will find The Seed Savers’ Handbook waiting for you, to tell you things you need to know.”

Derek Cooper, Presenter of Radio 4 in London UK.

“If you cherish your greens devour this splendid book designed to save our shrinking vegetable heritage.”

Alan Gear, Chief Executive, Henry Doubleday Research AssociationUK (HDRA)

“The definitive work on vegetable seed saving combines passion and practicality – every gardener should read this”.

Translations & Adaptations

An adaptation was made for the UK (in 1996) with Jeremy Cherfas with a PhD in animal behaviour, a prolific senior science writer.
Previously life science and biology editor of the New Scientist, a morning broadcaster with Radio 4 and a television journalist, Jeremy authored 16 science books and is a frequent contributor to the Financial Time, The Guardian, The Economist and the BBC Wildlife. Jeremy co-authored the Seed Savers’ Handbook for  Uk conditions with the Fanton’s.

There are also translations published in Japan (2001)  with 900 Seed Savers’ Handbooks in Japanese public libraries, and Italy (2005 and 2013) with two publishing houses.

The Seed Savers’ Handbook has been translated in many ways over the years.
Some of these efforts are quite formal and precise, while others are enthusiastic efforts to serve the needs of a particular time and place. We appreciate all the work people do, no matter and kindly ask for an adaptation to local cultures and conditions rather than a faithful translation, when possible.

A Spanish translation is in hand and publication have occurred in Cuba.
The book was reworked on the request if the author to reflect Cuban examples and seed practices. A translation into French is also in-hand and E-books in Spanish and French are coming soon on this site.
There have been abbreviated translations and adaptations done in these languages:

  • Macedonian/Bulgarian by the Bulgarian Seed Savers.
  • Basque by a local sustainable agriculture group in Spain
  • Khmer by the Women’s Affairs Department of Pursat Province, Cambodia

Contact Us know if you would like to make a translation into your language.

117 Plants Reference List

Amaranth
Artichoke
Asparagus
Basella
Basil
Bean
Beetroot
Bitter Gourd
Borage
Broad Bean
Brussel Sprouts
Cabbage
Calendula
Cape Gooseberry
Capsicum & Chilli
Cardoon
Carrot
Cassava
Cauliflower
Celeriac
Celery
Celtuce
Chervil
Chicory
Chilacayote
Chinese Cabbage
Chives
Choko
Collard
Coriander
Corn
Corn Salad
Cowpea
Cucumber
Dandelion
Dill
Eggplant
Endive
Eschallot
Fennel
Garland Chrysanthemum
Garlic
Garlic
Chives
Gourd
Gramma
Guada Bean
Hibiscus Spinach
Hyacinth Bean
Jerusalem Artichoke
Kale
Kohlrabi
Korilla
Leek
Lettuce
Lima Bean
Luffa
Marigold
Marjoram
Mint
Mitsuba
Mizuna
Mustard
Mustard Greens
Nasturtium
New Zealand Spinach
Oca
Okra
Onion
Oregano
Oriental Cooking Melon
Pansy & Violet
Parsley
Parsnip
Pea
Peanut
Peruvian Parsnip
Poppy
Potato
Pumpkin
Queensland Arrowroot
Radish
Rhubarb
Rocket
Rockmelon
Rosella
Rosemary
Runner Bean
Sage
Salad Burnet
Salsify
Silver Beet
Snake Bean
Sorrel
Soya Bean
Spinach
Spring Onion
Squash
Sunflower
Sweet Potato
Taro
Tarragon
Thyme
Tomato
Tree Onion
Tumeric
Turnip
Water Chestnut
Water Spinach
Watercress
Watermelon
Wax Gourd
Winged Bean
Yam
Yam Bean

Handbook in Italian

Handbook in Japanese

UK Adaptation

Jeremy Cherfas co-authored the seed savers handbook for the Uk with the Fanton’s. With a PhD in animal behaviour, is a senior science writer. Previously the life science and biology editor of the New Scientist, a morning broadcaster with Radio 4 and as a television journalist, Jeremy authored 16 science books and is a frequent contributor to the Financial Time, The Guardian, The Economist and the BBC Wildlife.

Български / македонски преводи

Bulgarian/Macedonian Translation

Изтегляне Seed Savers Handbook в македонския / български – PDF

The Seed Savers’ Handbook Contents

Part One – The Issues

  • The Seed Savers’ Network
  • Why Collect
  • Beginnings
  • Seed Savers at Work
  • Background to Biodiversity
  • Seed Homelands
  • Life in a Freezer
  • Green Non-Revolution
  • Anyone for Hybrids?
  • Designer Genes

Part Two – The Practicalities

  • What Seeds to Save
  • A Variety of Sources
  • Plants Move
  • Plants Adapt
  • Only Connect
  • Purity and Production
  • Pollination
  • Keeping Them Pure
  • Annual, Biennial, Perennial
  • Selecting and Collecting
  • Criteria for Selection
  • How Many to Select
  • When to Collect
  • After the Seed Harvest
  • Cleaning
  • Drying
  • Diseases
  • Storing
  • Germination
  • Tests Planting and Planning
  • Seed Starting
  • Rules of Thumb for Planting
  • Planning a Seed Garden
  • Permaculture
  • Principles of Practical Permaculture
  • A Special Family – Cucurbits
  • Characteristics
  • Pumpkins and Squashes
  • Hand Pollination
  • Planting the Seeds

Part Three – The Plants

How to save seeds or propagate by cuttings, tubers, rhizomes or roots the following 117 vegetables, culinary herbs and flowers.

Additional notes on cultivation, usage, origins and the meaning of the botanical name of each plant.

Traditional varieties are described so that you can look out for them.

©2020 Seed Savers Foundation

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