After a lifetime of growing vegetables, collecting rare and endangered varieties whilst travelling the world for work and pleasure, and saving them to share with others including displaced people wishing to reconnect with growing familiar crops, this is a book that tells the stories of how the vegetables we often don’t think about or simply take for granted journeyed from wild parent to cultivated offspring and found themselves at the very centre of our food culture.



In The Seed Detective, Adam shares his tales of seed hunting and the stories behind many of our everyday
vegetable heroes. We learn that the common garden pea was domesticated from three wild species over 8,500
years ago; that Egyptian priests considered it a crime to even look at a fava bean, that the first carrots originated
in Afghanistan (and were purple or red in colour), and that the Romans were fanatical about asparagus. Taking
us on a journey that began when we left the life of the hunter-gatherer to become farmers, Adam tells tales of
globalisation, political intrigue, colonisation and serendipity – describing how these vegetables and their travels
have become embedded in our food cultures.

‘I didn’t know what to expect from this humble Ukrainian pepper when I first took it into the kitchen but, as
soon as I had a nibble, I was smitten’. The taste of a Ukrainian pepper – the Capsicum Annuum – in Donetsk 30
years ago had a life-changing effect on filmmaker Adam. While shopping in the central markets,
amidst the economic and political collapse of the Soviet Union, he started to discover more local growers selling
vegetables and fruits, who had been cultivating heritage varieties and saving seed on small plots of lands for
generations. Adam began to seek out these local growers, saving seeds from all over the world, on a mission to
bring home spectacular varieties to catalogue, grow and share – and hopefully prevent them from being lost

A keen gardener since boyhood, Adam now lives in Wales and focuses full-time on his garden. He grows over
100 varieties a year on his 3.5 acre, south-facing vegetable plot next to his house – a garden than has its own
reputation in the media already. From high summer to late winter he spends his time harvesting the dried pods of
beans and peas, scooping seeds from ripe tomatoes and rotting cucumbers, washing and drying them on every
available window sill. His garage is filled with jars of over 500 seeds collected from around the world and saved
from previous crops, all of which he uses, shares and sends to the heritage library.
‘We are a nation of vegetable growers,’ says Adam, ‘and this book explores the wonderful world of rare and
endangered heritage and heirloom vegetables – and why we must keep growing them and saving their seed, not
only for our gardening and culinary pleasure, but to pass these stories on. Vegetables are truly our history on a

Adam Alexander is a consummate storyteller thanks to forty years as an award-winning
film and television producer, but his true passion is collecting rare,
endangered but, above all, delicious vegetables from around the world. He lectures
widely on his work discovering and conserving rare, endangered garden crops, is a
board member of the national charity Garden Organic, and his knowledge and
expertise on growing out vegetables for seed is highly valued by the Heritage Seed
Library, for which he is a seed guardian. Adam shares seeds with other growers and
gene banks in the USA, Canada and the EU, and he is currently growing out seed of
heritage Syrian vegetables to be returned to the Middle East as part of a programme
to revive traditional horticulture. He has appeared on Gardeners World and the
Great British Food Revival, CNN’s Going Green and Radio New Zealand.


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