Tag Archives: seed history

6 Ways to Celebrate Gardening Heritage at Home

This past weekend we had the pleasure of being part of the 12th Annual Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. This festival which SESE’s Ira Wallace helps organize is a celebration of agriculture, history, food, culture. It was an amazing opportunity to learn more about historical gardening methods, heirloom seed varieties, traditional cooking recipes, and so much more. While we encourage everyone to attend the harvest festival (we can’t wait to see you next year), we realize that it isn’t possible for all to attend.

If you were too far away or just couldn’t get away from work this year to attend there’s a few things you can do at home to celebrate your gardening heritage this harvest season.

Organize a seed swap.

The Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello includes an awesome seed swap but there’s no reason you can’t set one up in your neighborhood with a few friends. Alternatively there are even a few Facebook groups dedicated to seed swapping.

Read, read, read!

Thankfully many of the wonderful speakers at the Heritage Harvest Festival also have books available. Adding these to your reading list can help you preserve history and become a better gardener or cook!

The Cooking Gene by Micheal W. Twitty

Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties by Craig LeHoullier

Southern Provisions: The Creation & Revival of a Cuisine by David S. Shields

Sustainable Market Gardening by Pam Dawling

Vegetable Gardening in the Southeast by Ira Wallace

“A Rich Spot of Earth” Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello by Peter J. Hatch 

Host a variety tasting.

At the festival, SESE puts on a huge tomato, pepper, and melon tasting. It’s a lot of fun but it can also be really helpful for gardeners unsure about which varieties they might want to add to their garden next year. If you can find others growing heirlooms in your area swapping samples may help you plan your seed order. If other gardeners in your area aren’t growing heirlooms offering a tasting of varieties you grow may encourage them to plant some of their own.

Visit a farmer’s market and try to buy local.

One awesome part of the festival at Monticello is seeing all the vendors with products grown and crafted in Virginia. Visit your local farmers market or search the web for people in your state producing food, beverages, clothing, crafts and more. Buying local is better for the environment and supports small business owners.

Take a local gardening or cooking class.

The workshops at the festival are a wonderful place to learn each year but you may be able to find some offerings close to home. Many communities have affordable classes with local chefs and master gardeners that don’t get the attention they deserve. Don’t be afraid to ask around!

Pass on your knowledge.

It was wonderful this weekend to see people of all ages from all walks of life get together to celebrate agriculture and history. You don’t actually need a festival setting to accomplish this though. Whether you’re talking to your neighbor about heirloom varieties, teaching your friend how to cook with fresh ingredients, or getting your kids involved in the garden you’re helping to protect valuable skills and history.

If you were able to attend we hope you enjoyed the festival as much as we did. If not try some of these ideas and celebrate at home. We hope to see you next year!

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A Brief History of Garlic

Turkish Red Hardneck Garlic

Garlic’s easy cultivation and powerful flavor has made it a favorite for farmers and chefs alike. It’s is an unbelievably common ingredient in food today worldwide but few people realize that garlic is one of the oldest known horticultural crops. Evidence from historical records suggests that garlic has been cultivated for at least 5000 years! There are references to its use found from ancient Egypt, India, and China.

Garlic is believed to be originally native to Central Asia as this is where it can currently be found growing wild. Many plants referred to as “wild garlic” worldwide are members of the Allium family (leeks, onions, shallots, chives) but are not in fact true garlic or Allium Sativum. All cultivated garlic comes from two subspecies A. sativum var. ophioscorodon and A. sativum var. sativum. Like many “wild garlics” elephant garlic, though tasty, is not a a “true garlic” but is instead a member of the onion genus.

Garlic Scapes

A. sativum var. ophioscorodon often referred to simply as ophioscorodon are the hardneck garlics. They are generally grown in cooler northern climates and typically produce fewer but larger cloves. They also produce garlic scapes or flower heads. These are generally cut off before they open and eaten. This allows the garlic to put energy into the bulb rather than flowering.

A. sativum var. sativum are the softenck garlics. They do better in hotter climates farther south than hardneck garlics do. They’re also favored for braiding and their ability to keep extremely well in storage.

The cultivation of garlic probably came about because it was easy for people to pull up and travel with for later use or to plant somewhere else. Garlic cultivation may have also been a quickly taken up by humans because of it’s ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually. Meaning that garlic can make seed, combining genes with other garlic plants, but it is also very simple to grow garlic clones from individual cloves.

Another reason garlic may have quickly become so popular and widespread is because it grows well in a wide range of climates and soil conditions. Garlic is also very hardy and susceptible to few diseases and pests. So much so that in modern gardens it’s used as a companion plant to deter certain pests.

As people traveled and traded garlic’s use and cultivation spread. Little is known about most of its first travels around Asia but it is documented that garlic was first brought to Europe by the Crusaders.

Interestingly garlic has played more than a culinary role in human history. It’s been used for both spiritual and medicinal purposes through the years. In fact, it’s the most widely recognized medicinal herb.

In medieval times it was believed that garlic could ward off all types of evil. A belief that easily lent garlic for use in warding off vampires. Many cultures also believed that garlic was an aphrodisiac or held special powers relating to love. In the Middle Ages it was grown by the monasteries for its healing powers.

In ancient Greece garlic was given to athletes as it was believed to enhance their power and in ancient Egypt it was often fed to commoners and slaves to keep them healthy and working well. This belief also led to it’s use in feeding both Greek and Egyptian warriors as well as Roman soldiers and sailors who needed to be strong.

Garlic’s use as an herbal remedy is as varied as it is widespread. In ancient China garlic was prescribed for respiratory ailments, digestive issues, diarrhea, and parasites. It was also used in combination with other herbs to treat fatigue, impotency, headaches, and insomnia. It was used similarly in ancient India plus was prescribed to fight infections.

Today garlic is most renowned for its pungent flavor but has also gained some scientific credibility as a medicinal herb. Though there isn’t conclusive evidence some studies suggest that garlic can reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, boost your immune system, and help the body fight off illness and infection through its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

Garlic’s story is ultimately a human story. This one plant has been handed down, shaping people’s meals (and possibly health) for 5000 years. If there’s an easy to grow plant that deserves a place in the home garden surely it’s garlic.

Remember garlic is planted in the fall so the time to start yours is now!