Garden Fresh Food: A Delicious Way to Preserve Heirloom Seeds

Cooking and growing your own food are dying skills, but with these skills dies the variety of heirloom seeds available for planting.

  • Picking Squash
    Planting and harvesting your own crops is a great way to preserve the variety of foods in the world.
    Photo courtesy

  • Picking Squash

Dear friends,

The autumn winds are sweeping through the valley I call home. The leaves which once were a vibrant shade of lime green are speckled with splashes of brown and gold and drifting silently to the ground. Another summer harvest is behind us and safely enclosed in glass canning jars lining pantry shelves in a few small farmers' kitchens. The smell of woodsmoke fills the air and I can hear the laughter of my oldest girl picking up walnuts with her grandfather behind our house.

The cycle of the seasons is a comfort to me, and with them bring family traditions and fond memories. Oftentimes these memories are tied to foods that we relish with each passing season. We look forward to asparagus in the spring, the first watermelon we crack open in the heat of summer and pumpkin pie in the fall.

I love how the scents and flavors of the season come to life on my dinner table. It amazes me how few people know how to make pumpkin pie from scratch or even cook a meal from scratch for that matter. This is a basic survival skill that was passed down from generation to generation. Now we have the convenience of pre-cooked, pre-made, flash-frozen and microwaved “meals.” What ever happened to homemade? I think it is high time we revive these skills of knowing how to grow our own food and cook it!

Our agricultural heritage is one of the most under-appreciated inheritances we have. As I travel across the country and overseas, I am amazed how many small communities developed their own unique varieties of tomatoes, squash, peppers, beans… and the list goes on. Oftentimes they are lovingly named after the family or town they came from. However, the sad fact is many of them have been lost and are only a memory recalled by a few old-timers or old seed catalogs.

A couple years ago Jere and I were rummaging through an old homestead on my parents' property. The outbuildings had long since collapsed under the weight of snow and fallen trees. We took moss-covered boards and flipped through the rotted lumber, dodging rusty nails and a tangled mess of barbed wire to find broken mason jars and bits of enamelware. Under a pile of lumber covered in leaves we found a small jar filled with squash seeds. These heirloom seeds were at one time carefully stored on the shelf for a planting season that was never to come.



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