The Heritage Garden
I garden for a number of reasons; one is I want fresh food, another is I love to grow plants, plants of all kinds, a third and as equally important as the first two, is to preserve our heritage. What does gardening have to do with heritage and history, simple, when you plant heritage seeds you are continuing to grow plants that have been planted by gardeners for at least 50 years and in some cases even more.
In other words if you plant, for example, Camp Joy cherry tomatoes in the Spring, and save some seeds in the Fall, when you plant those seeds the following Spring you will get Camp Joy cherry tomatoes. Another bonus as you continue the cycle of saving and planting over the years the tomatoes will adapt to the climate and produce more prolifically after several seasons.
The ability to have confidence in the vegetables and flowers you grow is important but do not underestimate the historical value of growing your garden or at least a part of it from heritage seeds. Creating a heritage garden does pay other dividends besides good quality fruit and seeds.
Terra Edibles is my principal source for heritage seeds. I mention them because their catalogue provides information about the heritage of some of the seeds they sell. For example, Cherokee Trail of Tears beans. This is a pole bean that can be sued as a dry bean or a snap bean. It is named Cherokee Trail of Tears because this bean was originally grown by the Cherokee and accompanied them in October 1838 in the trek through the Smoky Mountain, a journey that saw 4,000 Cherokee die.
Heritage seeds also have a family legacy, as families when they moved to North America from their homelands brought seed with them. Seeds they planted where they settled and seed which in some cases are still being grown today.
If you are looking to preserve a bit of North America’s past by starting a heritage garden you can look for heritage seeds when it is time to purchase your supply or you can consider Seed Savers Exchange. Seed Savers Exchange was begun in 1975 with the mission to save North America's diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, while educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity.
The heritage garden does not differ from an organic garden except that the gardener has decided to use heritage seeds as often as possible when planting the garden.
The use of heritage seeds in a school garden could complement a history class or a social studies project. The heritage garden produces quality vegetables and helps the gardener preserve a piece of the country’s history. The heritage garden becomes a living document to events past and to our ancestors’ lives.