The Doomsday Seed Vault turns 4 on February 26, 2012
And CBS News reported on some impressive birthday gifts that the Norway seed vault received last week—nearly 25,000 samples of seeds from around the world, including grains that grow on one of the world’s highest mountain ranges.
This brings the total to 740,000 seed samples now stored an Arctic mountain on the Svaldbard archipelago. Why do we need such a vault? The CBS article explains (see link below):
“Our crop diversity is constantly under threat, from dramatic dangers such as fires, political unrest, war and tornadoes, as well as the mundane, such as failing refrigeration systems and budget cuts. But these seeds are the future of our food supply, as they carry genetic treasure such as heat resistance, drought tolerance or disease and pest resistance. Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, one of the entities responsible for the vault, said in a news release.
All about plants. In other words, the vault is intended to act as a backup for living crop collections around the world. So what kind of samples were included in this latest birthday gift?
- Grains from Tajikistan’s Pamir Mountains, including wheat that grows across a wide range of elevations, in hot summers, and harsh, snowy winters.
- A variety of wheat, known as Norin-10, which is the source of genes that have given modern wheat plants strong, short stems capable of supporting more grain, contributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.
- Several subspecies of barley imported to the U.S. from Poland, and grown in the Pacific Northwest; these subspecies gave rise to modern varieties, including one malting barley called “Klages” that is popular among craft beer brewers.
A massive structure in the side of a mountain, the vault has the capacity to hold 4.5 million seed samples (each with about 500 seeds) for a maximum of 2.25 billion seeds. Located near the village of Longyearbyen, Svalbard — a group of islands north of mainland Norway, the arctic permafrost offers natural freezing for the seeds, while additional cooling brings the temperatures down to minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 degrees Celsius).
What about animal foods for our Doomsday needs? A related article explores the seven perfect survival foods—and I agree with six of them. You see, the scientists who prepared the list for LiveScience.com are among most of the world’s brightest who still believe we need to eat animal protein to survive. But at least they demonstrated a sense of humor in their opening paragraph:
If you could take only seven kinds of food to a deserted island, what would they be? Bacon might top your list, but you won’t have a cardiologist to bail you out when your arteries fill with fat.
Although still uninformed about fish, they do know a thing or two about eating healthy:
Diets benefit from being diverse. U.S. health organizations advocate eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day. In Denmark the number is six, not because they want to be healthier but because six sounds like the word “sex” in Danish, and the campaign plays on the pun of “sex every day.” The Japanese try to eat 30 different kinds of food each day.
Here’s their list of seven-–including the fish that is on almost everyone’s list thanks to those precious omega-3s. They lead off the list with this introduction:
Sticking just to the following seven foods would likely serve you better than the typical American diet and meet your needs for macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
- Beans. As with berries, most beans are highly nutritious. Black (turtle), red (kidney), pinto and soy top many nutritionists’ lists of so-called superfoods. This will probably be your best source of calcium and iron on the island. Beans are a versatile island food, too, for once dried the keep for a long time.
- Kale. While most leafy green vegetables will do you good, kale is particularly rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. You can boil the stems for a simple vegetable broth. Kale was bred from wild cabbage, and close cousins include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, collard, kohlrabi, mustard and rapini.
- Cantaloupe. As with berries, cantaloupe is both tasty and nutritious. Although a little high in sugar, it is too good a source of vitamins A and C and potassium to pass up. Its lack of fat and lower glycemic load index makes cantaloupe a slightly better pick than bananas.
- Berries. Blueberries, raspberries, wolf berries … take your pick if they are available for picking. Few foods match berries in flavor, vitamin content and antioxidant potency. To this list add kiwifruit, once called the Chinese gooseberry but changed for marketing reasons. Kiwifruit has more vitamin C than oranges and about as much potassium as a banana. Beware of poisonous berries, such as holly, Franken Berry and Boo Berry. Nasty stuff.
- Barley. Could anything be sexier than oats? Yes, it’s barley! Okay, maybe both grains just remind you of Wilford Brimley having a good bowel movement. But barley, more so than oats and other whole grains, lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and raises “good” HDL. As with other grains, barley has essential vitamins (such as niacin and other B vitamins) and minerals (manganese and selenium) that are otherwise not so abundant in fruits. And if you have enough of it on your island, you can brew up some beer or whisky.
- Seaweed. Where there’s sea, there’s seaweed. Even the laziest among us can harvest what gets washed up. Kelp, alaria and laver (kombu, wakame and nori in Japanese cuisine) are among the most common. Almost all kinds are edible. Seaweed is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Once dried it will keep of months, too. Seaweed is a regular part of the Asian diet, and most Japanese homes will have four or five kinds on hand. Even if you avoid sushi, you’ve eaten seaweed in ice cream. Irish moss (carrageenan) is a thickening agent.
- Fish. Chances are, being on an island, you’ll have fish around. If a river runs through it, and if that river has salmon, then you’re really in luck. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for your heart. Any fish, though, is a good source of healthy fat and protein. Best of all, you can eat most ocean fish raw, in case you forgot to bring your top seven favorite Zippo lighters.
Avocado. My substitute for fish. In survival mode, there will be none of the harmful omega-6s in my diet; therefore, I am simply not worried about getting my omega-3s or I would’ve chosen walnuts as my substitute. (The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 is most important.)
The Tarahumara don’t eat fish and they seem to be doing just fine without them. Still worried about omega-3? Well, just substitute walnuts for the seaweed, I doubt that you’re eating much of that anyway.
In closing, here are the two reference articles mentioned earlier.
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