The field at Brown's Garden, where Peace Seeds and Peace Seedlings grow and breed their crops.
Alan M. Kapuler Ph.D with his wife Linda Kapuler, photo by Scott Vlaun.
Alan M. Kapuler Ph.D., known as Mushroom, lives in Corvallis, OR with his wife Linda Kapuler. They have three daughters. Kapuler has a diverse seed collection of about 15,000 accessions. He also has chickens, orchids, and plants from around the world, and a passion to conserve biodiversity. Kapuler focuses on breeding high nutrition fruits and vegetables for humanity. He was the co-founder and Research Director of Seeds of Change, perhaps the first national organic seed company. He co-founded Peace Seeds with Linda Kapuler and Alan Venet in 1973.
Fifty Nine Years Ago A brief academic autobiography of Al Kapuler Written 5-26-2017
Fifty-Nine years ago I graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, New York. It was 1958 and I was 15 years old. My father William Kapuler MD took me to a course on potting and propagating orchids at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden when I was eight or nine years old. For several years following I worked as a volunteer in the orchid house on Saturdays. There were thousands of orchids in pots and hanging baskets. Shipments of species arrived from Central and South America. I learned to identify many genera and species of orchids. In addition to the orchid collection that I shared with my father, I had one in college, another in graduate school, and several connected with kinship gardening, organic horticulture and the conservation of plant biodiversity. During my years in high school studying science I entered and was one of the 40 winners of the Science Talent Search in 1958. My project was to put Cattleya orchid root tips into aqueous solutions of colchicine and look at the chromosomes in dividing cells. Sometimes the number of chromosomes would double. It was like seeing evolution in action. Yale University in New Haven Connecticut had accepted me as an undergraduate student in biology, perhaps the first one to put zoology, botany and biochemistry together with molecular biology. I founded the Biology Club and graduated phi beta kappa, and Scholar of the House with a 13 page thesis on genetic complementation in color mutants of Neurospora crassa, a red bread mold. This led to a paper with Harris Bernstein PhD in The Journal of Molecular Biology about intragenic complementation mapping functions that challenged existing concepts of genetic complementation and their relationship to protein three dimensional structure. After graduating from Yale, I was accepted by Rockefeller University in Manhattan, New York as a graduate student in molecular bioscience. To get into Rockefeller U. one needed a personal recommendation from a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Since I was doing fungal genetics in the laboratory of Norman Giles PhD, already a member of the NAS, he called up Detlev Bronk PhD, the President of Rockefeller and arranged for an interview. So one day I arrived at the Rockfeller campus in east, central Manhattan at 10 AM and left at 6:30 PM having been accepted as a PhD candidate. Six years later I received a PhD in Life Sciences, specializing in molecular biochemistry, nucleic acids in particular. Edward Reich MD PhD was my PhD research professor at Rockefeller U. At one point he wanted me to learn animal cell tissue culture techniques and how to measure cancer viruses using these techniques. So I went to the laboratory of Howard Temin PhD in Madison Wisconsin, rented a room for several months and learned about Rous Sarcoma Virus and animal cell tissue culture. When I returned to Rockefeller, I moved the cell and virus systems from Madison to Manhattan. Every day I got to talk with Dr. Temin and to ask questions about his many papers on viruses, cancer and tissue culture. His lead technician told me when I was leaving that he had not been so interested and inspired in a decade. Later on he wrote me a letter thanking me for having inspired him in discovering the reverse transcriptase viral genetic system that makes DNA copies of viral RNA genomes. He won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this discovery. Although I learned biochemistry in Reich’s lab, my great good fortune was to meet and learn organic chemistry from William Agosta PhD. His tutorial in organic chemistry gave me a predictive mechanistic understanding for carbon based molecules. With Howard Spector PhD giving weekly lectures about new discoveries in biochemistry, I was gifted with the connections between carbon based organic chemistry and the much smaller set of biochemical reactions that come from them. I could figure out many things that most folks could not see. After graduating from Rockefeller University in 1968, I worked in several laboratories: George Acs PhD lab in the Institute of Muscle Disease in NYC; Sol Spiegelman PhD Institute of Cancer Research at Columbia University in NYC and A.M. Michelson PhD lab in the Rothchild Institute of Biophysical Chemistry in Paris, France. During this time, I was hired for a three year contract as an Assistant Professor of Virology in the Microbiology Department of the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT. It was in Michelson’s lab in Paris that the lights turned on. Most folks working at the Institute left at 5PM so with the keys to the library in my pocket, I began studying and working at 7PM . With access to analytical optical techniques using fluorescence, circular dichroism, optical rotatory dispersion, infrared and ultraviolet spectrometry I worked in a concentrated and focused way through most of the nights. In a couple of weeks I accomplished several years of work. It was also in Michelson’s lab that Picasso jumped into my mind and I began drawing and later painting. By the time I heard and listened to the meaning of Dylan singing ‘How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see’ I had authored and coauthored a dozen or more peer reviewed scientific papers in journals like Nature, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Biochemistry, Biochim. Biophys. Acta. Dylan set my focus on world peace, organic bioagriculture, conservation of biodiversity, kinship gardening and the planetary flora. I have practiced yoga since the early 1970’s while growing, collecting and breeding new food and flower plant cultivars. The core of a non-violent society and the path to planetary peace is a non-violent, sustainable, organic food system. We also need more organic gardeners who are creative plant breeders. At this juncture in my lifetime, I have done about 1500 acrylic paintings on canvas. My art involves the times we live in, the struggle for the earth and the earth is in our hands. My current science relates to public domain plant breeding and the betterment of human health by improvement of nutritional characteristics in our food plants. However, art and organic gardening now predominate.
Dr. Alan Kapuler with Espeletia daisy from Colombia, 1963, and as Mushroom, 2001.
Linda Kapuler in Tiger's Eye Zinnia Spiral Breeding Patch. Photo below is of Mushroom in the old seed room, by Scott Vlaun.
A Retrospective, Thirty Years Later By Alan Kapuler Conceived in unity and born for the common good, as part of the back to the land movement inspired by the consciousness revolution of the '60's, 2 Al's and a Linda founded Stonebroke Hippie Seeds in a $90 a month rental house in Jacksonville Oregon in 1975. We knew little about gardening, less about seed saving and nothing about business. A few years later we changed the name to Peace Seeds. Here is a true story: Mushroom was standing by the sink cleaning seeds from a Buttercup Winter Squash, putting the internal pulp and seeds into the compost bucket when it occurred to him that three months later he would buy a packet of the same seeds costing the equivalent of an hour's work in the gladiolus field where he was glad to get $1.92 take home pay while in reality he could save the very seeds he was tossing out, completing the cycle of saving the seeds from the foodplants he and his family had grown in their backyard garden. Completing the cycle, from plant to seed to plant, endlessly with thousands of cultivars in most all the foodplants of the temperate zone on planet Earth was our dharma for the next twenty years. From the outset we were organic, we were hip that poisoning the earth with 'cides and synthetic fertilizers was not the way to abundance, goodness and biodiversity. At first we turned the land by hand, double deep digging, by choice. Later on tillers and tractors came into our lives like credit cards and bank accounts. Persistently we collected and amplified seed stocks of the best heirlooms that came our way. On a visit one year to Frances Hoffman in Nampa, Idaho, we saw huge amaranth plants with long thick spikes that she likened to elephants in her garden. She re-accounted that the heirloom seeds had been passed on since the 1880's by devoted woman gardeners and originally came from Germany. Some 20 years later a visitor from Peru saw one in our garden and exclaimed "Quihuicha". She identified it as one of the ancient staple Andean grains. So the seeds came from Peru to Germany to us. An early paradigm was 'seeds are atoms'. Inscrutible, True it was the radical hippie era. Salads, the main staple of our diets had a minimum of 20-30 kinds of leaves, roots and flowers. Non-violence (ahimsa) was a major interest. Meditation on the mad violence and misuses-of energy in our world led to scrutiny of the human food system. Discoveries were made that reduced the amount of killing in our day by day eating and growing tops of carrots, radishes, parsnips, turnips which were replanted to give new roots. Some could also flower and make seed. Garlic and onion bottoms were replanted. They regrew. This process 'snibbitting' encouraged a different view of life, a gentler and more loving touch in the connection between growing food and nurturing our loved ones. We ate and replanted the same garlic for three years. We saw in the apples and other roseaceous fruits the core of a perennial, non-violent food system, for temperate zone humanity. The world spins and we city-kids became gardeners and farmers, falling in love with one another and life itself. Alan Venet, Linda Sylvester and Al Kapuler worked beyond the norm and into the future from an infinite present that gave us daily miracles in the garden. Our experience progressed from human food plant cultivars to the planetary genome pool. Our interests expanded to include the local Oregonian species, the endangered and extincting bioregional species, and the world flora. Peace Seeds, initially A Planetary Gene Pool Service and now A Planetary Genome-Pool Resource and Service was born from the need to provide a way to conserve biodiversity, from the stoned tripping high dream of peace and goodness for everyone, and from the dereliction of humanity allowing the ongoing destruction of the biological world. The Middle Years: After saving the seeds for hundreds of cultivars, we began to search for a way to understand the structure of plant diversity. We wanted to grow and collect kinds central to the biodiversity of the world. So we came to Rolf Dahlgren thanks to Ken Chambers of the Botany Department of OSU and his bubble mapping system which allowed us to represent the groups of plants in a way that facilitates a kind of gardening that optimizes diversity. Olaf Brentmar and Mushroom worked together in the beginnings of what we then called 'coevolutionary gardening'. In its subsequent development, we call it 'kinship gardening'. Kinship gardening optimizes diversity and provides guideways for permaculture. Another story: Mushroom was quite upset after a sister got on his case for talking about kingdoms of organisms. She, quite rightly, pointed out that slugs, slime mold, bacteria and daisies have no kings, that it's a human thing and as such misconstrues the actual relationships among organisms. He told his sad tale of the paradox of name and meaning to Linda and she thought for a few minutes and said "why don't you take the g out of kingdom since that gives you kindom? Isn't that what you've been talking about anyway? Kin. And that was another fundamental paradigm change. Kinship gardens flourished during the era when Al Kapuler became Research Director of Seeds of Change. Seeds of Change, a national organic seed company, brought certified, organically grown seeds of hundreds of heirlooms, open pollinated and originally developed flower and food plants to tens of thousands of gardeners. We support the connection between the seeds and the plants with whole cycles, with the needs for fertility enhancing regimes in our composts, cover crops, rotations, and in the grexes that come from multi-mixed hybrid populations of choice cultivars as a way to adapt vegetables and flowers to our own ecosystems and to radical weather. In the process we discovered that many F1 hybrids give rise to stable and valuable lines after a few generations. So after growing Sweet 100 Tomato for a decade and saving seeds yearly, we had a open pollinated line which we called Peacevine Cherry Tomato. Some years later a study of Vitamin C content in 35 varieties of cherry tomatoes found Peacevine Cherry to be the highest, higher, even than its parent. Another successful open pollinated line from a hybrid is True Gold Sweet Corn from Golden Jubilee Sweet Corn. While we explored kinship gardens of annual temperate zone food plants, family level kinship gardens of the Asteraceae (daisies), Solanaceae (tomato, potato family). Apiaceae (carrots) Lamiaceae (mints), and the world flora, including one inside a 30'x96' greenhouse, that flourishes to this day, Mushroom continued to explore directions for nutritional selection based on the free amino acids that are used by our cells to make proteins. Free amino acids of the kinds used to build proteins are found in the petals of sunflowers and marigolds, in snap beans and snap peas, in squash and yacon, in carrots and broccoli (green more than white), in sweet corn, in gobo, in cabbage and kale, in tomatoes and potatoes (as much free aminos as in protein-3% each), in zucchini and winter squash, in onions, garlic, leeks, in beets and in giant groundcherries, in chicories and radicchios. in the new growth of bamboo, the root of the licorice plant, in the tops of fenugrek and shungiku, in arugula and the roots of black salsify. The '90's: After Seeds of Change bought the mail order business of Peace Seeds turning it into Deep Diversity, Al Kapuler began earnestly to breed for the public domain as part of a program to provide meritable new introductions based on nutrition and originality. All of our seeds are bred using classical genetics giving us and the gardening public open pollinated true-breeding lines. The opportunity to provide unique cultivars for the organic community was an inspiration. Now we have the Purple Sweet Corns, Tiger's Eye Sunflowers, the tall and grand Marigolds including Red Metamorph, China Cat, Orange Sunshine and La Ribera, and Nutribud Broccoli, Swanlake Melons, Gaia Snap Bush Beans, True Gold, True Platinum, Rainbow Inca, Martian Jewels, Double Red and Antholutea Sweet Corns, Savoy Kales, Turnip Grex, Three Beet Grex, Pearls of Heaven and Newburg Onions, Opal Creek, Sugaree and Green Beauty Vine Peas, Purple Parsley Bush Peas, Early Moonbeam Watermelons, Endurance, Gloriosa, Sunshine and Dragon's Fire Sunflowers ..... As Peace Seeds had moved north of its birthplace to Corvallis, Alan Venet and Cheryl Lee began Southern Oregon Organics, another seed company devoted to heirlooms, organics and ecosanity. Several years later they began a collaboration with David Seber leading to the internet organic seed company Sow Organic Seeds. The changing era and the discoveries of molecular biology brought genetically modified organisms into our awareness, our food stores and our lives. Now GMO's, the patenting and ownership of living creatures and the consequences of scientific discoveries in the realm of cells, viruses and macromolecules are increasingly prominent in our concerns. The New Millenium 2000 and beyond with the introduction of transgenic chimaeras into the biosphere, a new era of life has begun. These experiments in the genetics of food plants laced with genes from viruses, bacteria, fungi and other creatures are being tested on humanity, unlabelled and regarded as safe in many foods, mostly processed as if to disguise their origin. Among the alternatives to the slaughterhouse food system are widespread gardens, extensive cultivation of soybeans for tofu, miso, tamari, tempeh and edamame, cultivation of gourmet and medicinal mushrooms, biodiverse silvaculture, water, soil and species conservation and Mollisonian permaculture. As an alternative to GMO's, from the Andes come many ancient, generationally tested foodplants of great value. While we are familiar with potatoes, peppers (Capsicums) and winter squash (Cucurbita maxima) which are native to the Andes, these montane ecosystems have given rise to other useful crops including yacon, oca, maca, zambo, arracacia, the Andean lupin, mashua, mauka, ulluco, and others. Consider this example: Yacon is a relative of the sunflower, the jerusalem artichoke, the dahlia, with large sweet tubers. It has several merits. The tubers contain inulin, a polymer of fructose that is not digested by our alimentary canal but is metabolized by the lactobacilli in our large intestine. Thus it feeds us B Vitamins, including B-12. Yacon plants have central crowns of eyes used for propagation, Laterally and extending to underneath the crown are the edible storage tubers, to 2 pounds, that are virtually tasteless on harvest but that sweeten up after several weeks in storage at room temperature. This is an example of a non-violent food plant. It provides a delicious vegetable containing the free amino acids isoleucine, valine, asparagine and glutamine. Then too, in our Willamette Valley garden, transplanting a greenhouse grown crown division in a gallon or 2 gallon pot gives about 10 pounds of tubers in one growing season of April to November. They like lots of water during summer and early fall. We have gardened in the Willamette Valley for fourteen years. It has been our good fortune to lease 2.5 acres with deep and fertile soil and abundant water. Currently, our annual seed list is 2 pages with 75 cultivars. In 2003, we grew about 150 pounds of the tuberous, edible rooted Shamrock plant (oca, an oxalis), the second most common Andean food plant. At the turn of the millenium, Al Kapuler retired from Seeds of Change and resumed Peace Seeds. Development of more nutritious crops for the Willamette Valley, Oregon, the Cascadia Bioregion, the localization of our activity to our ecological correspondances, the economical and efficient use of our energy resources, increasing use of microorganisms to enhance our gardening, these things interest us now. We continue to work for Peace, overcoming and persisting through our own frailties and lack of insight, growing further into breeding for the public domain, selecting and developing nutritionally improved cultivars, and engaging kinship gardens where and whenever possible promoting gardening, conservation, organics and biodiversity. Acknowledgements and Appreciation: Extensive thanks go to many folks for their myriad contributions to Peace Seeds and a healthy, fertile world. The following are some of the most prominent contributors: Eric Ackerson, Doug Ackland, Alan Adesse, Aprovecho, Monk Bergin, Jerry Black, Lindsay Bradshaw, Olaf Brentmar, Alice and Hal Brown, Heather Coburn, Craig Crowder, Carol Deppe, Don Eminhiser, Ianto Evans, Yvonne Frost, Peter Gilman, Kathy Ging, Green Journey's Steve and Aline, J.J. Haapala, Gabriel Howearth, Frances Hoffman, Scott Jarvis, Carl Jones, Kusra Kapuler, Lester Ketchie, Tracy and Dan Lamblin, Peter Liebes, Lost Valley Educational Center, Peter Miller, Steve Northway, Rich Pecoraro, Jennifer Peterson, Christian Petrovich, Joe Reeder, Steve Rose, Chris Roth, Marcus LaRusso, Bina Schulte, Seed Saver's Exchange, Howard Yana Shapiro, Hope Shepherd, Curtis Showell, George Stevens, John Sundquist, Taylor, Craig Thomas, Tobias, Louisa Tompkins, Scott Vlaun, Judy Weiner, Ken Williams, Frank and Susan Wise, Coelesta Yeoman and the many other people who have planted, weeded and shared with us the work, joy and trials of life. Distinguished thanks go to Dr. Robert Nagourney for successfully treating my non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Since the mid 1980's, we have published eccentrically with a 3-4 year interval the Peace Seeds Resource Journal. The last issue was Volume 9, 2001. These journals provide an ongoing account of our work with kinship gardening, free amino acid nutrition in our foodplants, the phylogenetics of food plant orders and families under headings of Planetary Ecology, Gardening, Botanical Science, Health and Nutrition. Special thanks to Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, The Beatles and The Grateful Dead.
Mushroom and Linda Kapuler, Oregon Country Fair, photo by Serena Kapuler.