Sharing Heirloom Seeds

This weekend we went to the New Hampshire Fall Festival at Strawbery Banke. We bought a membership this year, in no small part for the express purpose of watching their gardens change throughout the season. This time we got to see border collies herding sheep and goats (which was totally awesome), a team of oxen pulling a cart on skids, and several other animals (Tiegan may want an angora rabbit to pet and for fiber crafts — we'll see if she can sneak that past Kirk, who has his own interest in eating rabbit). 

Another table we spent a good deal of time at was the heirloom seed table, sponsored by Slow Food Seacoast. They staff the table with expert gardeners who grow and save seeds from many heirloom varieties, and they'll give you a packet of seeds of whatever you ask for. They're loaded with information and advice. We picked up several:

I snagged angelica seeds (an herb I have been reading about as for old fashioned sweets, but haven't been able to find — score!) and seeds for a pumpkin variety called "long pie." This is a medium sized pumpkin that looks more like a long, orange squash. The coolest part was that old-time New England farmers used to preserve the pumpkin by drying it in long strips as a fruit leather. Then they would reconstitute it with milk or cream before using it too cook, making a very rich pie. Totally going to try that next fall!

Kirk picked up some Kentucky Wonder beans, which are the tan ones above. He likes beans, so I'm guessing he wants to have these for English breakfast or whatever. 

The other two slips of butcher paper have tomato seeds smeared onto them. These seeds were from the Shapiro House, which is interpreted during the early twentieth century. This is my favorite house, because there is a garden and fruit trees, and in the kitchen an interpreter plays the mother of the family, who is always cooking something. This time she was making sauerkraut (to which she added apples, which she said is the Russian way — I think we'll try that this winter if our cabbages ever head up), and the kids got to help smash it down into the crock with a wooden plunger — much easier than Kirk's method of punching it down with his fists!

She also had a basket of tomatoes, which Kirk immediately identified as Moskvich, just like ones we grew this summer. I know I spent most of my blog space rhapsodizing about the gigantic Rose tomatoes, but the Moskvich were also really good, lasted longer off the vine, and ripened earlier than any other tomato we grew. 

Having duly impressed the interpreter, she shared with us seeds for a Ukrainian yellow tomato, which she said was the sweetest tomato around. I'm expecting another variety that has proved itself in Russia and the Ukraine to do well in our relatively short growing season, and am looking forward to starting these this spring.

This method of seed saving seems pretty simple, so Kirk plucked one last Moskvich from the compost pile and smeared its seeds on some paper to dry. That probably skips over the fermentation that I've seen recommended, so we'll see how it goes. Endless experimentation here: We're always trying something new — or old!


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