July is Seed Savers Exchange Month in Iowa

July is Seed Savers Exchange Month in Iowa

In recognition of 40 years’ dedication to saving and sharing heirloom seeds, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has signed a proclamation announcing that July, 2015 is officially Seed Savers Exchange Month across the state of Iowa. In the proclamation, which was signed at the state capitol in Des Moines on June 10, Governor Branstad encourages “all Iowans to honor and celebrate this occasion through appropriate festivities and observances” and commends the staff of Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) for the “diligent efforts and undying passion by which they complete this important work to preserve our rich heritage.”

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Tools of the Trade: Our Top 10 Seed Saving Supplies

Tools of the Trade: Our Top 10 Seed Saving Supplies

Saving seeds from your home garden is easier than it may seem, but never underestimate the power of having the right tools for the job. Here are some of our favorite tools for beginning backyard seed savers and an explanation of how to use them.

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(Almost) Instant Replay: 9th Annual Tomato Tasting Results

(Almost) Instant Replay: 9th Annual Tomato Tasting Results

Perhaps the only thing that the staff a Seed Savers Exchange love more about their jobs than growing plants  is actually getting to eat some of the amazing fruits that these plants produce. As part of our work here we get to take part in taste evaluations and no evaluation is more anticipated and beloved than our Annual Tomato Tasting.

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Reinvention of the Humble Tomato Tasting

Reinvention of the Humble Tomato Tasting

Due to the popularity of our on-site Tomato Tasting, and the wild success of last year’s Apple Tasting event in Des Moines, we had the idea to hit the road with our tomatoes. As we began developing plans for a Tomato Tasting Block Party at the Tiny Diner in Minneapolis, we got inspired to expand beyond our initial vision for an off-site outreach effort.

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Evaluating Heirlooms with 2014 Conference Attendees

Evaluating Heirlooms with 2014 Conference Attendees

Part of the evaluation process (and arguably the most fun) involves Tasting Trials. Aside from SSE Members who participate in the Member Grower Evaluation Network (M-GEN), the Evaluation Program has not requested public participation in the Taste Trials up until this point. Sixty-five participants at the 2014 Conference and Campout gave us detailed rankings and notes about 4 snap beans, 5 carrots, 4 collards, and 11 kale.

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2014 Heritage Farm Companion Spring Edition

2014 Heritage Farm Companion Spring Edition

The Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) quarterly member publication, The Heritage Farm Companion, is now being made available online and our 2014 Spring Edition has just been posted.

Non-members can get a preview of this edition by reading about SSE's past and upcoming farm-to-table collaborations with the Pepperfield Project in this article by David Cavagnaro.

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Seed Saving School

Seed Saving School

Our most comprehensive workshop available, the Seed Saving School combines early-morning classroom lectures with hours of hands-on activities out in the field. Students have the rare opportunity to experience seed saving from start to finish: garden planning, plant isolation, hand-pollination, seed harvesting, seed cleaning, storage and seed sharing.

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Forgotten Tastes

Heirloom Apple Tasting

Few people know that our garden heritage contains a rich diversity of thousands of apple varieties. The limited variety of modern commercial apples leaves little room to experience the diversity with which we were at one time endowed, with varieties grown for specific purposes like pressing cider, baking, storing, and making sauce. SSE has obtained a majority of the pre-1900 varieties still in existence for its orchards, where hundreds of different apple varieties that flourished in the 19th century and before are on display. Heirloom Apple TastingOn Sunday, October 6, Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) held Forgotten Tastes, An Heirloom Apple Event in Johnston, Iowa, at Grade A Gardens. Operated by Jordan Clasen and Thomas Burkhead, Grade A Gardens grows SSE vegetable varieties for a CSA and many progressive Des Moines restaurants.

Despite rain and cold weather, the event attracted 200 guests from Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Minnesota. Forgotten Tastes provided a rare opportunity to taste and enjoy over 70 heirloom apple varieties from SSE’s historic apple orchards. Guests recorded their notes as they proceeded through the apple lineup, tasting apples with whimsical-sounding names and curious histories, including Northern Spy, Sops of Wine, and Zuccalmaglio’s Reinette. Wine, artisan cheeses from The Cheese Shop, heirloom apple tarts from Tami’s Tarts, South Union Bakery bread, and cured meats from La Quercia were specially selected to pair well with the apple varieties. Two delicious versions of hard cider were available for tasting, and guests enjoyed music by members of Cousin Eddy while they mingled. Meanwhile the lecture tent was packed with eager learners enjoying talks on heirloom apples, orchard management, grafting, and cider. Speakers included SSE’s Diane Ott Whealy, Dan Bussey and Steve Carlson.

Cheese DisplayHappily for Seed Savers Exchange, Kari and CJ Bienert organized a "Happy Apples" event at The Cheese Shop (Shops at Roosevelt) the following evening with SSE’s Orchard Manager Dan Bussey talking heirloom apples and CJ suggesting exquisite cheese pairings. What a perfect way to top off the apple weekend!

Slow Food Des Moines was instrumental in making the event a success, through help with planning, food, and enlisting some 30 volunteers. Also assisting were Paul and Lori Rottenberg, of Orchestrate Hospitality, the marketing partner for Gateway Market and other “fresh and local” restaurant businesses.

Forgotten Tastes was sponsored by Wells Fargo. Ticket sales provided much needed revenue to support the work of Seed Savers Exchange.

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and promoting America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.