Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bean Bonanza

I really should have gone fishing this morning. Really. But something is holding me back. I AM LITERALLY BURIED UNDER A MOUNTAIN OF BEANS!!! How did this impasse come about. It's simple actually. It called "gardener stupidity syndrome." Let me explain.

It's due to my love of history actually. In the depths of winter I ordered a packet each of string and wax beans from my regular supplier (Burpees). Fine. Then a catalogue shows up from Seed Savers near Decorah Iowa.

HGTV explains "Heirloom gardening is becoming popular with new and seasoned gardeners alike. To be classified as antique or heirloom, a plant must come from a seed family that has been grown in a garden for at least 50 years. What makes heirloom gardening so special is that in most cases the seeds have been handed from generation to generation over the centuries.

One of the largest heirloom gardens in America is Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa. It is also home to the Seed Savers Exchange, a non-profit seed saving program that is dedicated to passing heirlooms on to the next generation of gardeners."

The bottom line is that Seed Savers is about preserving biodiversity. Many of the thousands (over 18,000) preserved so far) of seed varieties come with a history. That's the hook that did me in. For instance, the Arikaras, the Mandans and the Hidatsas. All native Americans tribes associated with the epic journey of Lewis and Clark. The tibes grew beans and squash and corn and sunflowers. The seeds were handed down from generation to generation in the Dakotas. Being a major fan of Lewis and Clark I went crazy and ordered up numerous varieties, especially beans and squash.

Some examples: Arikara Watermelon . A small, pink-fleshed, and sweet melon. Descendant of small Spanish watermelons brought by traders from St. Louis in the late eighteenth century.
Hidatsa Beans . These are dark red and good for chili and salads
Omaha Pumpkin . It is very prolific and sweet. Dr. Melvin Gilmore originally collected this from the Omaha Tribe in the early twentieth century.
Arikara Squash . This large blue-green squash is the earliest winter squash; it will set fruit and out yield all others under drought conditions.
Mandan Squash . This is the earliest squash and was obtained by Oscar Will from the Mandan Indians. It is a small, round, striped summer squash that will ripen anywhere and is drought resistant.

I ended up, for example, with four additional packages of beans. Not exactly an intelligent way of planning ones gardening needs for the following summer. Thus today I'm picking tons of beans and furnishing the neighborhood. They smile, they nod and I regale them with stories of Lewis and Clark, depending upon the kindness and hospitality of the Mandan villagers through the harsh Dakota winter. Feasting upon beans and squash as it were.

They are very tasty I might add and I'm looking forward to their squash this fall.

Troutbirder - "the history gardener"


  1. I loved the post. Wish I were your neighbor and could share in the bounty.

  2. I KNOW you're enjoying those fresh beans from the garden!! Wish we were your neighbors. ;-) Thanks for the history lesson, as well. I knew about Seed Savers. Now I'll have to "check them out!"

  3. You sound like my neighbor..."Hey, Leedra want a few beans?" I have learned if I say yes to be prepared for a bushel of beans. That was last year, and still have lots in the freezer. This year I have been saying "No thanks, I will just photograph your garden.
    Specially the bird eggs in the tomato plants."
    Enjoyed the post story. Maybe you will be able to give enough away to get back to your other hobbies.

  4. Wonderful and informative blog. I can't wait for our place up on this dry mountain to sell so I can havea garden. Maybe next year...Thanks for sharing..

  5. Interesting read, I'm actually growing my first garden this year, hopefully I didn't plant too much.

  6. A very interesting post. I wish I had a garden again! I used to get heirloom seeds from a company in Idaho called Seed Blum. Good luck with the harvest!

  7. If you like Seed Savers you will probably like this one too:

    I love to grow heirloom crop plants when my garden is up and running! (this year it has been transformed into wildflower cultivation...!)
    The taste of old garden varieties is far superior to hybrid plants and what interesting varieties you can get!!!

    Many people believe that you also obtain a greater variety of antioxidants and other healthy micro-nutrients from the older crop plants even if it is only due the large diversity of the plants themselves. Makes for much more exciting gardening than the typical modern garden with only a few regulars.

  8. I don't have many heirlooms but I do insist on heirloom tomatoes. By far the best tasting tomatoes!

    It is great to see them becoming more available to gardeners.

  9. Love this post. I am an avid reader of books about Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea. I have walked their trail through Idaho. Want to come join me sometime? I am very pleased to learn of Seed Savers. I have a garden every year, but got so busy with teaching my Native American Studies classes and preparing to travel to visit Indian people and Anasazi ruins in New Mexico that I did not get the garden planted. You might be familiar with Winona LaDuke's book All My Relations. She has a very good chapter about Native American agriculture and has facts and figures about the nutritional superiority of the Native American three sisters (beans, corn and squash). She does have figures about the Arikara and Hidatsa crops as well as the crops of other nations.

  10. Oh I'm so glad to know you found heirloom is all this sustainable farmer grows. You're right on about the seeds being saved for many years. The flavor is unsurpassed, the content, the health benefits- intact. Though heirlooms don't yield like other seeds that have been genetically modified to do so. The beauty of the heirloom is that it is a complete living history lesson and those who keep it growing are in fact participating in keeping these varieties alive and sustaining that very history. Also please consider Johnny's Seeds out of Maine. They have, in my experience the very best germination rate and conduct business with little farmers, such as myself- in obtaining heirloom seed crops every year from our farms. And should a conflict arise with anything- they bend over backward to straighten it out. It is so good to know that so many are arriving at heirloom quality- keeping history, taste and health of the earth intact.