Springtime at Heritage Farm

Springtime at Heritage Farm

Spring has arrived in a flurry of activity here at Heritage Farm.  Here's a quick peek at what we've been up to lately.  Have a look at our calendar of events and plant to visit us this year.  There's plenty going on, and we'd love to welcome you to Heritage Farm! 

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Apple Upside Down Gingerbread


There’s a chill in the air, and it’s time to fill your kitchen with the warm smells of apple dishes.

This Apple Upside Down Gingerbread recipe appeared in the 1999 Seed Savers Exchange calendar, and was created by world-class chef Richard Palm. The ingredients and method follows. Enjoy!

4 Tbsp. melted butter ¾ cup brown sugar 3 tart baking apples, peeled, halved, cored and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease or spray the bottom and sides of an 11 x 7 x 2” metal pan. Pour the melted butter into the pan and sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over it. Arrange the thinly sliced apples over the butter and brown sugar.

Mix the following batter and pour it over the apples:

2¼ cups sifted, unbleached all-purpose flower ½ tsp. baking soda ½ tsp. salt 2 tsp. ground ginger 1 tsp. ground cinnamon ½ tsp. ground cloves ½ tsp. ground nutmeg ½ tsp. ground allspice 1 tsp. Dutch processed cocoa ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter/melted and cooled to room temperature ¾ cup molasses ¾ cup granulated sugar ½ cup buttermilk ½ cup milk 1 large egg

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, spices and cocoa in a bowl. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, molasses, sugar, buttermilk, milk, and egg. Add the dry ingredients and beat until the batter is smooth and thick (about a minute), scraping down often.  Pour the mixture over the top of the apple slices in the prepared pan. Bake on the middle oven rack for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes.


Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization, with a mission to conserve and promote America's culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

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.

Apple Pie: One more reason to preserve heritage apples

Apple Pie: One more reason to preserve heritage apples

When you have an orchard like Seed Savers with 550 apple varieties, no two pies are the same (or at least they shouldn’t be—what’s the fun in that?). Orchard Manager Dan Bussey reveals his favorite pie recipe with tips and tricks for working with heirloom apple varieties.

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Apple Grafting to Preserve Diversity

Pewaukee apple

Pewaukee apple “This apple comes from an old tree at my grandmother’s home, and it is the best apple I have ever tasted.” We hear this story a lot around here, and usually, the story ends like this: “Now the tree is dying, and nobody in the family remembers what variety it is.”

Well, there is only one thing to do, graft! Apples are propagated by grafting a part of the old tree, called scionwood, onto a new rootstock. Grafting is necessary because apple seed produces offspring unlike the parent plant. This propagation technique allows you to determine how large the tree will eventually grow – choose dwarfing rootstocks for a small backyard or a large pot on a patio, or graft onto a standard rootstock to grow a full-sized tree that will survive generations.

Join us and learn this ancient skill by attending one of SSE’s bench grafting workshops held on April 5 and April 12, 2014 (editors note: registration is now closed). Attendees will go home with three heritage apple varieties and the skills to start their own orchard. Workshops are led by Seed Savers Exchange orchard manager and apple historian Dan Bussey, who is nearing completion of his book documenting all of the named apple varieties grown in North America since the 1600s.

Listen to Dan Bussey's talk, "Our Apple Heritage," here.

View a short video introduction to apple grafting from Dan:



View a past SSE webinar on apple grafting here: