The authors of the new book Chasing Chiles: Hot Spots Along the Pepper Trail singled us out as a force working for the preservation of heirloom chiles in a recent interview on grist.org – Hot stuff: chile peppers, climate change, and the future of food. Authors Kurt Friese, Gary Nabhan, and Kraig Kraft (an ethnobotanist, a chef, and an agroecologist) examine climate change through the lens of the chile pepper. In another grist post, Nabhan writes about Global weirding and the scrambling of terroir.
We carry seeds for three of the chiles they track in the book – Habaneros (the Yucatan), Fish Peppers (Chesapeake Bay area) (sold out for this year), and Jimmy Nardello’s (from Italy via Connecticut).
Gary Nabhan will be presenting at this year’s Heritage Harvest Festival on the findings of the book. You can download free booklets on Place Based Foods from his website. The most recent – Appalachia – From Rarity to Community Restoration and Market Recovery – features a piece on heirloom grinding corns of Appalachia by our own Ira Wallace, as well as articles on heritage apples, pawpaws, wild spring greens, traditional sweet potato curing, and Bill Best of Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center on the Noble Bean.
Information in this post comes from and is inspired by the new book The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe.
Some gardeners and farmers don’t thin corn at all. But sowing extra seed ensures a uniform stand of corn (especially important for small plantings) and allows us to select for seedling vigor. Thinning gives us plants with better disease and pest resistance, producing earlier, larger ears. For seed savers, selecting the best plants is essential not just to improving a variety, but also to simply maintaining it.
It’s too easy to put off thinning a stand of corn until the plants are a knee-high jungle, competing for light, water, and other resources. But thinning corn just after the plants emerge isn’t in our best interests as gardeners or seed savers either. Ideally, we wait until the plants are about four inches tall.
Why not simply keep the very first plants to pop up? Because these are not necessarily the first seeds to germinate. Many old-time, open pollinated heirloom corns put more energy into their roots initially, before sending their shoots upward. And we love this about them. It means they have bigger, better established root systems when the tender seedlings become vulnerable above the soil. And if the plants get nibbled on or otherwise set back, they can recover much more easily. If we were to select the first plants to emerge, we’d be selecting against this very useful trait.
Additionally, until the plants are about two inches above the ground, they’re still growing off the food reserves in the seed. And that depends on the size of the kernel – which is mostly determined by its location on the ear and the genetics of the mother plant, not on the seed genes. Once the corn seedlings reach four inches tall, we can compare their vigor based on their individual genetic profiles.
So as much as you may hate to watch those extra corn plants creep ever taller before you ruthlessly tear them from the earth, we trust you’ll do the right thing. Wait until your corn seedlings are four inches tall to accurately choose your most vigorous plants. You’ll be helping keep these old-fashioned varieties as hardy and productive as our forebears bred them to be.
OSGATA President Jim Gerritsen released this statement, March 29th, 2011, the day Southern Exposure joined 60 other plaintiffs in filing suit against the Monsanto Company:
Today is Independence Day for America. Today we are seeking protection from the Court and putting Monsanto on notice. Monsanto’s threats and abuse of family farmers stops here. Monsanto’s genetic contamination of organic seed and organic crops ends now. Americans have the right to choice in the marketplace – to decide what kind of food they will feed their families – and we are taking this action on their behalf to protect that right to choose. Organic farmers have the right to raise our organic crops for our families and our customers on our farms without the threat of invasion by Monsanto’s genetic contamination and without harassment by a reckless polluter. Beginning today, America asserts her
right to justice and pure food.
Read the Press Release and follow developments
at Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association: OSGATA.org
Our Non-GMO Policy and the Safe Seed Pledge