In this video, research scientist and public domain plant breeder, Alan Kapuler, who prefers to be called “Mushroom”, takes us on a tour of his exotic greenhouse, a 21-year biodiversity experiment in Corvallis, Oregon, he refers to as Kinship Garden.
As Mushroom explains in the video, one central purpose of Kinship Garden is to learn which plants are possible to grow from the tropic and semi-tropic areas of the world. In addition, he has chosen to grow related plants based upon the newer phylogenetic classification (ANGIOSPERM PHYLOGENY) that provides an accurate picture of an organism’s place in the evolutionary tree of life.
“You can look at the greenhouse as an experiment that was successful. In the sense that it explored a bunch of stuff that we didn’t know, what will grow here, what will produce,” says Kapuler. He continues, “We are just finding out that a lot of the stuff we like to get from the tropics and semi-tropics, can we grow it here?” Kinship Garden is an ongoing experiment designed to answer those types of questions.
The other purpose is to collect and grow native foods and medicinal plants, and from the Native Americans, Wapato and Camas, whose roots were once part of their staple diet. Along with his daughter Dylana and her partner Mario (Peace Seedlings) they are growing some of the high nutrient -value native Andean root-based plants, including Yacon, Mashua and Oca. As Kapuler explains, much of the North American diet today is based upon nonnative grains (wheat and oats) that originated in Asia and the Fertile Crescent. Mushroom argues that switching to native and Andean root crops and away from large monoculture farming would improve both the environment and the nutritional quality of our diets.
Growing food and discovering the wonders of biodiversity in the garden are intertwined with Kapuler’s expansive view of the world. Politics and the garden spring from the same soil of life; humanity and the fate of our planet are entwined with our food system and how we treat our fellow man and all living things. Somehow we must temper our hearts, we are but a speck of matter against the backdrop of the entire known universe, at large. Closer to home, Kapuler explains further about his greenhouse: “to collect species in the same family, and different genera, and make your own pattern and take a look at what goes on to figure out from your own experience, not from a book, not from a university, but in a garden. What is a genus? What is a species? What will cross with what? Can I make a tomato that tastes like an apricot?”
Kapuler sees his greenhouse as a way “for honoring the biodiversity of life”. “The humility to respect that life can not be owned and patented and that from a life dedicated to growing food plants, without a lot of financial resources, a way to have good health, an interesting life, do things that our kids would respect and participate in, find experimental methods of growing diversity which is always opening endlessly, because there are so many species.”
“We want to say that growing life is incredible. Being interested in diversity is thrilling and demanding and you don’t have to take time off, you can do it for the rest of your life,” says Mushroom with a grin.
In the video, Mushroom refers to Laniakee, a super cluster that includes our planet and that is moving toward the “Great Attractor”, a mysterious region of deep space. He sent me a link to the following video that provides additional context.
“On the edge of a super cluster, called Lanikea, in a galaxy called the Milky way, around a star we call “The Sun”, there’s a small blue planet, our home.”
- Kinship Garden Layout (used in the video)
- Mushroom’s Blog
- Alan Kapuler: Man of Science, Ideas, and Humanity
- Alan Kapuler: Man of Science, Ideas, and Humanity part 2
- Alan Kapuler: Open Pollinated Public Domain Plant Breeder part 3
- Alan Kapuler: Man of Science, Ideas, and Humanity part 4
- Alan Kapuler: His Garden and Thoughts on Life
Below are some pictures from his greenhouse: