Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Heirloom Vegetables

It is a little early in the year to begin salivating over fresh vegetables from the garden, specifically heirloom vegetables, but several things have brought my mind and taste buds to the topic.

Heirloom vegetables are so named because they are passed down generation by generation by families who value the specific variety of vegetable for its unique taste and physical characteristics. Seeds are prized and kept back year after year and passed down through generations. Some heirlooms can be traced back three, maybe four generations in the same family and often in the same hollow.

My sister, who recently received her master's degree from East Tennessee State University, worked in the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services on their Now and Then Magazine. Over the holidays, she was telling me about a story they did on a gentleman by the name of Bill Best in Berea, Kentucky who is president of the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center. Mr. Best is a man on a mission to to bring to the forefront the importance of quality heirloom fruits and vegetables, and to make mountain agriculture more economically sustainable.

Coincidentally, I also was given a book for Christmas by my in-laws titled Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a Year of Food Life, written by Washington County, Virginia resident Barbara Kingsolver along with her husband, Emory and Henry Professor Steven Hopp and daughter Camille Kingsolver. Her book is along the same vein as SMAC, the rediscovery of sustainable agriculture, good eating, and the bucolic way of life. I haven't finished it yet, but I'm enjoying some of the tales from her family's farming adventure.

Both have given me the itch to get out in the garden and start digging. The only problem is that my ground has been frozen until this week's respite from winter here in Virginia.

To placate my urge, I've decided to order some heirloom seeds that I can have on hand to stick in the ground when the time comes. I can almost taste the tomatoes now!

And since I have to wait until spring to plant seeds, I figure I can at least sow some virtual seeds for now:

Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center

Now and Then Magazine

Kentucky Living article on Bill Best

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a Year of Food Life

Appalachian Seeds

Seed Savers Exchange

NC State Organic Research Publication on Heirlooms

And another resource which I cannot find a link to:
Appalachian Heirloom Seed Conservancy
Box 519
Richmond, KY 40476

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