I drove up to Berea, KY for the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Seed Swap, headed by local farmer/seed saver Bill Best, author of Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste: Heirloom Seed Savers In Appalachia. It was really cool to talk to the people selling and swapping seeds. I learned the history behind Orinoco tobacco (originally grown by John Rolfe of Jamestown) and got Egyptian Walking Onions, a perennial onion that reseeds itself, as well as Hickory Cane meal corn to make cornmeal and grits. I also got quite a few old varieties of beans. The Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center specializes in beans and sells seed from the website as well.
The seed swap was pretty early in the morning, so I still had time to catch the local farmers market. I’m so glad I did. I picked up chestnuts and pawpaws from one vendor and we talked at length about growing trees, advising each other on pruning, chestnut worms, and everything else we knew a little about. I bought Asian pears, carrots, and raspberries from the enthusiastic students at the Berea Ag booth. And finally, I bought bread from a wonderful older couple, chatting with the gentleman about their methods of soaked grain baking. His wife was Ukrainian and spoke very little English, but as I was leaving she pulled a cockscomb flower from her bouquet and slipped it into my bread parcel.
The gentleman told me they brought the seed from Ukraine, and as you can see here, the flower was in seed when she gave it to me – a fitting end to an heirloom seed sourcing trip. I’m excited to try to grow them next spring.
Here’s a good video on saving the seed from cockscomb flowers: