Broccoli, radishes and cabbage are not native to Arizona, but you can still find seeds for growing them at Native Seeds/SEARCH.
Well known as a repository for seeds of Southwest heritage crops, the organization also sells seeds of other plants that do well in our arid climate.
“The Native Seeds/SEARCH collection is a long list of plants being grown in the Southwest,” says Melissa Kruse-Peeples, the organization’s conservation program manager.
That includes heritage crops that were grown over thousands of years by natives and over centuries by settlers from Spain, Mexico and Mormon communities. Cow pea, watermelon and cantaloupe are some examples that Kruse-Peeples mentions.
They are not native plants, but eventually became staples in the local diet and adapted to successfully growing locally.
Today there are plants that modern gardeners have learned do well here and request them from Native Seeds/SEARCH.
They include items like Jerico lettuce originally from Israel, Chioggia beet originally from Italy and the Beit Alpha cucumber that hails from the Middle East.
Examples abound at Native Seeds/SEARCH. Here’s one: It carries 27 varieties of corn seed; three aren’t from the Southwest heritage collection but grow fine here.
All of the organization’s seeds are open-pollinated and nonhybridized so that they grow true to their heritage. Kruse-Peeples says that’s what makes them hardy growers in the Sonoran Desert.
“Every seed is like a little time capsule of every place and environmental condition where that plant grew,” she says. “They have a history of those conditions.”
Seeds that came from plants that grew in climates similar to Tucson “will be more resilient to conditions in Tucson,” she adds.
The same concept works with seeds home gardeners collect from their homegrown plants, she says. Those seeds will grow well in the spots where their parents thrived.
“Every garden is an experiment in finding what works and what doesn’t,” she says.