Legacy Donor: George McLaughlin

George and Jerreth McLaughlin

George and Jerreth McLaughlin

Seed Savers Exchange’s upcoming online exhibit, Legacy Donors, focuses on a select few of our longest-term members whose passions for gardening and seed saving have been foundational in our upbringing as an organization.  Since 1976, 41 members have donated over 25 percent of our collection. One Legacy Donor that will be showcased in the exhibit is lifetime gardener George McLaughlin. Along with his wife, Jerreth, George has donated over 60 varieties to SSE, and has listed 130 varieties in the yearbook.

After George graduated from Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, IN, the McLaughlins spent 14 years as missionaries in Tasquillo and Ixmiquilapan, Hidalgo Mexico. Each pueblo had wildly different climates and soils, but they persevered with gardening and seed saving. While in Ixmiquilapan wrote to a fellow seed-saver, saying that his Salem Split Leaf sweet potatoes barely produced, but he “just keep it going for the sake of family heritage.” While there, George collected memories and recipes that often influence their lifestyle to this day.  “There’s a squash drink that we learned about when we lived in Mexico called atole…[which] is a hot drink normally and it’s sweet. It’s traditionally consumed, where we were in Mexico, around Christmas time. I loved it and when we came back to the states I decided I needed to figure out how to make it ‘cuz I had neglected to get the recipe. I figured it out and then I added an American twist and use pumpkin pie spices in it. So it’s absolutely delicious, it’s wonderful on a cold winter night!”

Old Timey Cornfield Pumpkins, which George uses in his Atole recipe.

Old Timey Cornfield Pumpkins, which George uses in his Atole recipe.

After their mission was over, George and Jerreth returned to his childhood home state of New Jersey before settling on their farm in northeastern Oklahoma, where they maintain a vast garden, a herd of goats, and a brood of hens. Currently George is working on their website, Homesteading Education. There they seek to teach prospective homesteaders how to do everything from baking sourdough to raising chickens; with hopes of adding dozens more topics in the years to come. In addition to their website, the dynamic couple also facilitates the Green Country Seed Savers network; which aims to connect gardeners in their area with varieties best suited to the climate extremes of the region. The group holds monthly meetings in local restaurants while the Green Country Seed Savers web page allows for members to put forth questions and answers, recipes, and posts about general homesteading and community.

Americanized Pumpkin Atole

1 egg

a few glugs of molasses

some sugar (brown or white) *roughly ½ cup or to taste

2 cups of cooked squash

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves

optional – 2 or 3 tablespoons of peanut butter

Milk- at least a pint, if not more (George uses goats milk from his flock and adds more while in the pot)

Add everything except the milk to a blender and blend. Taste to see if it needs more sweetening.

Pour the mix into a pot and heat until just boiling. George normally pours this mix into a two quart pot and adds some additional milk before heating it. Serve and enjoy!