Over the past three years I have had the opportunity to meet with several delegations from The Russian Siberian Horticultural community. Their mission is to develop fruits vegetables, and grains that can survive winter temperatures as low as -65°F and yield well in latitudes that have a short summer with Iona cool days. Many Alaskan gardeners have discovered, to their sorrow, that many seeds and cultivars purchased from the Lower 48 do not do well here. Most United States corporate and university agricultural research concentrates on crops that are grown in more moderate climates. In contrast, the Russian research centers are located in Siberia where the climate is similar to Fairbanks.
Russians are a nation of seed savers. They do not have access to commercial producers of seeds, fruit trees, berries, or herbs as we do. Gardeners must raise the crop and then save the seeds which carry the genetic characteristics desired (arctic environment). They have done this for generations.
Each Siberian gardener has at least one coldframe to “jump start” their garden. It is estimated that 80% of all fruits and vegetables in Siberia are produced in personal gardens whereas in Alaska less than 1% of the vegetables consumed in Alaska are grown by the Alaskan farmers.
They grow many of the same vegetables and berries we do but have a larger variety of fruit trees, I believe the Russians have many plant varieties that are yet to be discovered. One plant they have developed which could flourish here is the Oblepeka thornbush berry. This berry is high in Vitamin C. The juice from the berry is used as an ointment for the treatment of burns and as a drink to improve digestion. Extensive research is being conducted to improve yields and to develop a mechanical harvester.
They also have a thornless gooseberry that is sweet and produces fruit the size of a golf ball; a tree that produces small lemons; many varieties of Actinidia Kiwi; and early maturing tomatoes. These hardy tomatoes are started in a Greenhouse and then transplanted to a sunny protected area of the garden to ripen. The tomatoes are full sized, rich in flavor, and acclimate to the harsh arctic environment.
In the spring of 1989, several varieties of tomatoes (59-65 days) were brought back from the Siberian Institute of Horticulture in Novosibirsk. I have obtained eight varieties of these tomatoes and have a limited quantity of each for sale.
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