In New Mexico you can find postcards embedded with plantable chile pepper seeds, so of course I had to get some.
Before I was a baker in Savannah Ga, I worked at a garden center in St. Augustine, Fl. St. Aug is known for datil peppers, brought over by Minorcan settlers long ago, and despite being the tastiest pepper I’ve ever had, it’s not widely known. So besides datil pepper sauces and jellies and the like, we’d always recommend little pepper plants or seeds as a perfect souvenier!
In New Mexico you can find postcards embedded with plantable chile pepper seeds, so of course I had to get some.
Hey Shannon , thanks for the reply !
That’s awesome ! especially considering that they were seeds of an edible plant. I totally agree they sound like they make an excellent souvenir.
I’ve got a kind of stupid question but I’m curious, just to clarify, when you say Minorcan you are referring to the Spanish Balearic Islands , right ?
If so , do you know if that community arrived during the times of the Spanish colonization or were they later immigrants when the country had become the USA?
I had to look it up! Here’s the most concise answer I could find:
Brilliant ! will check this out
I brought rice from various places…some grow …some not…i think there is sometimes rice that one cannot regrow , one has to buy new seedlings…thanks monsanto,i think…and i brought papaya seeds… prickly pear cactus, many plants,i always try it…some work ,some not…needs a lot of attention,and sometimes i am otherwise to busy…
When I was homesick in my last year of college, my friend made me the sweetest care package from home. A tiny cactus (that I killed…) and wildflower seeds! Since I was far from home, I did not plant the wildflower seeds, but now that I’ve moved back home I have planted some and…so far no results.
Last year, before I moved back home, another friend and I did a trip down the coast from Oregon to San Diego and along the way we stopped at Poot’s Cactus Farm to look at the “cactipuses” as my friend put it. I got a couple succulents, including an aloe that had neon orange on it! The aloe I still have, but I can’t even recall what the second one was. It might be what’s sitting in my window sill, or it might be dead…
I’d be wary of bringing back foreign seeds or plants from overseas. Even if you manage to evade Customs officials (this is tightly regulated and largely illegal), you can cause immense damage to the environment. All over America, foreign plants are crowding out native plants or passing along diseases of various kinds.
Thank you for your reply bernerthomas ,
Check the disclaimer I wrote above
I saw the disclaimer and respect your warning. I just wanted to reiterate your disclaimer because it’s such an important point. Here on the East Coast, a lot of native species have become endangered because of invasive species. Not only that, but Customs will probably seize anything you bring home anyway.
Fair point , I agree it is worth restating the ecological impacts of invasive flora.
It’s also worth clearly stating the illegality of doing so:
“All travelers entering the United States are REQUIRED to DECLARE meats, fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, soil, animals, as well as plant and animal products (including soup or soup products) they may be carrying”
"Civil penalties may be assessed for failure to declare prohibited agricultural products and may range up to $1,000 per first-time offense for non-commercial quantities. If the items are determined to be for commercial use, violations will be assessed at a much higher rate. "
And despite your disclaimer, this is not just or even primarily about “invasive species.” Foreign plants can carry diseases not present in U.S. crops. And unless you are a botanist, most of us are not capable of knowing which plants can transfer diseases to others. For example, the citrus family is incredibly diverse, containing not just some of our favorite fruits (and commercially important species), but also herbs and shrubs like rue, and sichuan peppercorn. Many diseases are shared among these plants, with foreign varieties having tolerances that our local crops may not.
This is the primary reason they require declaration of plants and seeds. Not to stop invasive species spread.
As a scientist, I would say that unless you are a professional with a very important reason for doing so, no plants and seeds should ever be taken overseas. If you are a professional, there are official avenues for getting permission to do so.
While I agree with most of what you have said I dont think it is quite as black and white and to clarify my post was mainly addressed towards the collecting of plants / seeds within a country (and not from protected areas either), although this may not have come through clearly in what I wrote.
Specifically I was thinking when writing the post about times in Brazil when I have collected the seeds of plants such as the Lobeira (“The apple of the wolf”) and others from Cerrado fragments outside of protected areas in the garden of my girlfriend’s family and how much joy it brings to watch these plants grow .
In terms of international travel , sure , it stands to reason that there are inherent ecological risks and important legal considerations to take but what about regional domestic travel between federal borders or even within a state?
Plus there are plenty of situations where the seeds of a plant or a plant itself may be purchased/ traded/collected legally from seed exchange groups , websites or shops. The USDA cracks down on illegal plant trades and also heavily monitors and advices seed exchange groups online on these matters.
Moreover, I was not referring to the illegal collection of species like cacti, orchids , cycads. This is monitored by CITES , enforced by law (albeit not as effectively as would wish) and is relatively well publicised by the media (Not as thoroughly as the illegal wildlife trade in fauna though).
Finally it is worth mentioning that there are cases of climate threatened endangered plants ( and yes , I know the practice is still highly controversial and about the lack of scientific consensus to its merits). Moving these outside of their natural range through assisted translocation (yes, of course , with scientific oversight) is actually key to conservation like for example the Torreya taxifolia, coastal red wood, and Joshua trees.
Late to the party… I’ve been growing or attempting to grow things from my excursions since I was a child of the '60’s. My parents were born in the '20’s, and both had memories of foraging for wild food and garden gleanings to supplement Depression fare.
I’ve grown asparagus from crowns I dug up at derelict commercial fields, blueberries and blackberries from woods and wild places, sassafras, white pine, white birch, mountain laurel and dog roses from wild state forest tracts in New Jersey.
As a peripatetic exurbex (an Urban Explorer in the Exurbs), I’ve gotten old shrubs from abandoned places, tons of bulb plants, rampant groundcovers and more.
The only things from other countries I’ve ever grown have been legally obtained/purchased and usually container grown. For many years I’ve grown Indian Shot, Canna indica, that may have come from smuggled sources before I was born. It’s so common in the Caribbean and peninsular Florida, and definitely not as showy as most nursery canna, so I grow it only for sentiment.
I sometimes grow wild mints that I find in waste places. Been on several wild plant digs with permissions to collect endangered, or desirable, plants from areas about to be bulldozed. Orchids, fruit trees, grasses.
The purloined plants do not serve as memory spurs. Generally they are more botanical interest for me.
When I was living in Korea, I brought back coriander seeds from Thailand because I couldn’t get coriander in Korea, and I really missed the taste. About three years later, coriander became available at the markets.
I tried growing mangosteen, it didn’t work.
When our kids had left home and gone off to college, my (then-) wife and I began taking at least one “major” trip each year [A major trip we defined as one requiring a passport]. Our first trip was to re-visit England (We were there for the first time in 1973, when I was touring with a rugby “side” from San Francisco. . .and, had our butts handed to us, by the way!)
We arranged a home exchange with a British couple; and, we settled in for several weeks in a 400-yr old cottage in the Cotswolds. . . in the village of Barford St. Michael. Exactly the sort of place you’d imagine would be “Really English!”
Our cottage was right next door to the local chapel and cemetary. . .dating from the 12th Century! Slate-tiled roof; a classic Norman entry; and, weathered stone grave markers.
And, here is where I got the idea of bringing back a “true” travel souvenier. . .One grave stone (dated from the early 1600’s) was toppled over; and, “sneaking out” from under the stone was a brave rose bush with several lovely red rose “bushes”. . in dire need of pruning.
I found a pair of garden scissors in our cottage. . .And, commenced to do some rose-bush snipping.
I made several cuttings about 12"-15" in length; wrapped them in a wet paper towel; put them into a zip-loc bag; and, put them in my luggage.
They went through the UK baggage check (when we left Heathrow); and, US Customs (when we landed in San Francisco). . .And, when we arrived home in Davis (Calif) I planted the cuttings in our garden. And, they happily grew like gangbusters! And, gave us beautiful red blooms in about three months! And, reminded us of our trip. . .And, began a “tradition” that I’ve continued to this day. . .
The garden in Davis (which my wife “received” in the divorce settlement) now sports roses from South Africa (the town of Nelspruit, not far from Kruger Park); Scotland: (Stirling Castle of William Wallace fame; Edinburgh (Holyrood; Burns Monument; Esplanade); Balmoral Castle; various locations in the Highlands; England (several Oxford colleges; Harrogate; various locations in the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales; Warwick Castle; George Harrison’s garden in Henley-on-Thames); Spain (the Prado garden; Nerja; Malaga; Toledo; Granada; the Alhambra); Topkapi Palace in Istanbul; Penetanguisheen near Ontario; and, a rose from the Canadian-side of Niagara Falls. . .And, half a dozen or so “notable” California wineries in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. . .
I now carry a small pair of pruning shears in my luggage and zip-loc bags. . .And, virtually all clippings were “allowed” when I asked permission. . .Rural or public locations did not “require” permission.
And, the clippings have NEVER been “denied entry” at any airport; nor when I returned to California (which has very strict agricultural laws). . .
And, when those roses bloom each year, the memories are as alive as when first “acquired!”
That is a beautiful family tradition that you have started Expert and an impressive collection especially considering that the roses came from such historical sites!
I’m particularly impressed by all the clippings you collected from the Spanish sites you mentioned , did you do the cutting discretely without being noticed ? or did the staff allow you to do this?
Also its awesome to know that the airport security let them through , this is what I was implying in my previous comments by saying that it isn’t quite as “black and white” as some people seem to think it is.
I ALWAYS asked if it was a “formal site” such as a Castle or a Park. . .And, I have NEVER been turned down. . Often, the gardener (or, person-in-charge) would do the cutting for me. . .and, I was able to assist in “suggesting” the cutting to be made. Several times I was asked to send a photo of the bloom; For instance, at Stirling Castle, my mother visited about a year later; and, I sent along a photo with her. She spoke to the gardener, telling him "This is from the “Crazy Yank”. . He laughed and said he remembered; and, posted the photo in the Visitor Center! Several times I asked for cuttings from a “private residence” and, was usually invited in for tea; one time was given dinner and a place to sleep that night. Chatting with people about their garden will REALLY “open up a door!” And, have the “PLUS” of creating a “memorable moment!” I generally do my “homework” before I travel somewhere. . .read up on the history; the culture; the food; etc. . .And, the cutting becomes a “secondary issue” within the context of my visit. . .If there is a “universal” wherever you travel, it is that people LOVE to tell you about WHERE THEY LIVE. . .And, really appreciate when you show a “special interest”. . .And, above all, I ALWAYS thank the people I meet for their “allowing” me to visit them and their country!
Re: putting the cuttings in my luggage. . .I generally bring along photos of MY home, to show my “hosts”. . .Because they ask about MY home! It’s better than bringing photos of your kids. . .And, when I go through Customs, I have the photos ready to show WHY I am bringing in plant cuttings (By the way: Rose cuttings are quite distinctive; and, if possible leave a rose bud on one of the cuttings!). . .Again, a smile and a pleasant demeanor REALLY goes along way with security people. . .DO NOT FIGHT WITH THESE PEOPLE! THEY ARE JUST DOING THEIR JOB! And, they really do NOT make the rules! So, do everything possible to make their “unpleasant task” just a tad easier!
I also carry two (2) REAL cameras. . .which sets me just a wee bit apart from the “casual tourist traveler”. . .The two-camera thing has often gotten me into “special places” that the average traveler never sees: Such as the basement & foundation under Stirling Castle; the attic of a 400-yr old pub near Middle Barton where I “met the ghost”. . and, the roof of Topkapi Palace (just like Peter Ustinov et al in the movie “Topkapi!”)
I love the sound of these datil peppers!
I’m the food editor at Atlas Obscura, and I think they’d be a great addition to our database of unique food and drink. I don’t know if you’ve checkout out the food and drink database (https://www.atlasobscura.com/unique-food-drink), but like with our Atlas, it’s a community project. If you’re game, I’d love for you to consider adding the datil peppers to the database! You can use the link below:
Mayhaps I will, I’m surprised no one has yet!
Oh, you’ve got to do it now! I’ll eagerly wait for it!