Cultivariable is a small, experimental nursery. Our focus is on breeding new varieties of minor crops suited to cultivation in the Pacific Northwest. Although we work prospectively or aspirationally with about 30 different species, the majority of our time is spent on five crops: ulluco (Ullucus tuberosus), mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum), yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius), oca (Oxalis tuberosa), and Andean potato (Solanum tuberosum subsp. andigenum).  Our focus is on producing varieties that perform well in small-scale, low input agriculture.  We breed varieties that have a diversity of flavors, colors, shapes, and sizes and we value culinary appeal and beauty over size, yield, and uniformity, although those can be nice traits as well.  Along the way, we hope to make new discoveries and share that information so that we can all become better growers and breeders of these crops.

We grow almost everything that we sell, although we’re increasingly seeking to work with other local farms to produce some items. We are not certified Organic and have no intention of becoming so, but all of the crops that we offer are grown without pesticides or herbicides of any kind and all field grown crops are grown entirely with organic fertilizers. We grow this way because I believe that using these crutches is an impediment to breeding varieties that have good resistance and performance in low input agriculture. We do use some pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in the greenhouse and the lab because controlling the spread of disease is very important in the vegetatively propagated crops that we offer and there is no other effective way to accomplish that in such close growing conditions. We don’t sell any treated plants though – they have gone through a full season in the field before we offer them. We eat out of the same bins that we sell from.

None of our products are GMO and our breeding work is all done using traditional methods. All of our original varieties are released under open source terms through the Open Source Seed Initiative, which means that you are free (and encouraged) to use them as the foundation of your own open source breeding projects.

9 thoughts on “About

  1. Terrakian Dragon says:

    I received the ulluco, mashua and oca tubers and some potato seed from you folks, and I have to say that I’m glad I found you! :-) Many of the tubers were already forming buds when I got them, so I must have just got in under the wire with my order. :-p Pity I missed out on the yacon and the grab-bag of ulluco- somebody snagged the last of those before I could, the lucky dog.

    I’m looking forward to growing these veggies in my attempt at a self-sufficiency garden. I’m hoping the massive storm that sat and blew the heck out of us for the last four days won’t ruin my tubers’ chances. (crosses fingers)

    Thanks again for providing these rarities!

    • bill says:

      TD, thanks for letting us know that everything arrived safely. Check in around November for anything you missed. We are going to have at least three times as many varieties for next year and we are growing a lot more yacon to meet demand. We tend to send sprouting tubers to locations that are already suitable for planting. That doesn’t mean that you have to plant right away though. You could easily go another month before planting or you can pot them up to grow a little bit before transplanting them. I think your storm can only help. All of these crops like plenty of water. Good luck!

  2. elsie4444 says:

    Have grown this special tuber x 24 years; my Anna hummers love the bright flowers each fall. Lost all (hundreds) of my tubers last winter. Reordered 3 (sad-looking nonviable ones) from another well known company. Sadly never grew. Hoping to give the birds their gourmet treat this fall if possible. A Seattle Urban Farmer

  3. Susan Rodiek says:

    Glad to find this amazing project. I was so impressed with the excess dahlia “tubers” after thinning, and just wanted to know if they were edible. I appreciate the detailed information on so many different uncommon edible plants!

  4. Branden Harder says:

    Will you please give some justification for being anti-GMO? As far as I’ve been able to tell, it’s along the same lines as believing in the flat earth or that vaccinations cause autism. Given the quality of the growing guides and blog posts I’ve seen here, I really don’t want to believe that you people could be so anti-science.

    • bill says:

      I’m not anti-GMO. I’m not exactly pro-GMO either. Saying that our work is non-GMO is not an ideological statement, just a factual one. I get a surprisingly large amount of email asking which of our products are genetically modified or making assumptions that they must be, so it saves some time for me to broadcast the very straightforward answer that all of my breeding is conventional. Philosophically, I occupy the ideologically impure middle ground. I am in favor of genetic engineering as a plant breeding tool. I am also generally unimpressed with most of what has been accomplished with it so far. I don’t expect that situation to continue indefinitely though. We will learn by using the technology as with any other and I expect the applications to get better as we learn. If it were within my capabilities, I would definitely investigate GE to solve certain kinds of problems, like photoperiod or male sterility, for example. It is not a real temptation for me because GE is just not practical on my scale. If it ever comes within my reach, then it will be an interesting negotiation with our customers to discover what they would be willing to accept.

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