This summer, I drove halfway across the country to rural Iowa to take the helm of Seed Savers Exchange. I decided to make the journey into a listening and tasting tour of sorts, one that involved family, friends, gardeners, farmers, and cooks, who, like you, care about our food heritage. Throughout the trip, I was reminded time and again of why the work Seed Savers Exchange does with your support is so important to us all.
From chartreuse ‘Romanesco’ broccoli harvested fresh from my cousin’s garden in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and a stir-fry of Asian greens cooked with a gardening friend in Philadelphia, to a curry made with ‘Star of David’ okra in Charlottesville, Virginia, and some fried green tomatoes (replete with remoulade) enjoyed with a friendly market farmer in Charleston, South Carolina, one thing rang true: The food we love and the heirloom vegetables that we continue to grow are a vital part of our identity and history, some of our most cherished memories, and an undeniable connection to those we love.
On my tasting tour, I sat down with a well-known chef who is dedicated to preserving rare Southern varieties of wheat. He told me about milling the seeds locally to maintain a fast-disappearing part of our food supply that is at risk. The locally milled flour is the signature ingredient in his amazing biscuits. I also had lunch with a home gardener from North Carolina, who served the tomatoes that her “Daddy thought were the best.” Each time I shared a meal with a host, one thing was evident — the heirloom and historic varieties we love not only hold the promise of hidden disease-resistance and the ability to withstand challenging weather, but also contribute to our sustenance in a larger way. They define our connection to ourselves, to one another, and to our pasts.
My last stop before arriving at Seed Savers Exchange was my hometown, Chicago, where I spent treasured time in the home, and at the dinner table, of my 89-year-old mother. She was excited to put her favorite summer treat on the table, the first sweet corn of the season, fresh picked and glowing gold on an old platter always reserved for this use. I smiled as I watched her take her first bite.
Three months later, we gathered at her table again as I watched her taste a ‘Moon and Stars’ watermelon that I had brought back from Iowa to celebrate her 90th birthday. Watching her smile as she leaned forward to bite into it, I knew without a doubt that what we are saving at Seed Savers Exchange is much more than just seeds.
I know that on some early summer night in the future, I will not be able to look across the table at my mother, smiling and savoring a bite of that fresh sweet corn of summer, or the season’s first watermelon. But I can make sure that the variety she loved so much is still grown in my garden, served on my table, and saved in my heart.
This holiday season I am thankful for her, and people like you, who understand and support what it is that we are preserving and cherishing at Seed Savers Exchange.
I invite you to contribute and help maintain our heirloom seed supply with a year-end gift to Seed Savers Exchange.
Your support for Seed Savers Exchange not only regenerates varieties placed in our seed bank for the future, it also puts these rare seeds in the hands of farmers and gardeners, breeders and scientists, so that these seeds can continue to be a part of who we are and help define what our future might hold.
Let’s see to it, together, that these time-honored favorites are shared at family dinner tables for generations to come.