Tricks for Finding Heirloom Seeds
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“It was pretty much kind of a Noah’s Ark approach,” Nelson says.
The seeds they preserved are now distributed to Native Americans free of charge and sent around the world to farmers in similar unforgiving climates. The group’s seed stock contains gems like variations of Tepary beans, which are more nutritious than pintos and have a substance that delays the release of blood sugar, making it helpful for diabetics. The project also has corn seed that reaches maturity in just 60 days.
Davis-Hollander says any group that still maintains strong traditions likely has heirlooms.
“If it’s a more culturally intact community, those people tend to be a little more tied to the food and the plants,” he says.
Road trip roundup
Sometimes, there’s nothing like a good drive to find seeds, says Jere Gettle, owner of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri. A few years back, he found a round silver squash during a slow meander through Mexico. Baker Creek now promotes it as Pipian from Tuxpan on the website. The squash meat is nothing to write home about, but the seeds are delicious and used in a regional dessert.
“We collected this variety near Tuxpan, Mexico, from a gentleman at a roadside stand. We were driving along the road watching for anything unusual that pops up,” Gettle says.
He’s also brought back eggplants from Thailand during a similar seed-hunting trip. His customers also have mailed back seeds from Portugal and Sweden.
The work of sleuthing out rare heirloom seeds can be daunting, says Lawn, but the rewards can be sweet, as when he tracked down and sampled a slice of a sought-after Mountain Gold Gopher melon in someone’s garden.
“When we found it, it was like a revelation,” he says. “There are a lot of ‘wow’ moments.”
Readers: Send stories and photos of your favorite heirloom finds to editor@Grit.com or Editor, GRIT Magazine, 1503 SW 42nd St, Topeka, KS 66609.
Craig Idlebrook is a freelance writer in Maine. His work has appeared in MOTHER EARTH NEWS, Mothering and Funny Times, among others.
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