Step Up to the Plate: Stewed Lettuce

Step Up to the Plate: Stewed Lettuce

According to William Woys Weaver’s 1997 book Heirloom Vegetable Gardening: A Master Gardener’s Guide to Planting, Seed Saving, and Cultural History, the lettuce we know as 732 ‘Paris White Cos’ was "sold in this country as early as 1802 by Bernard M’Mahon of Philadelphia. M’Mahon sold it under the name White Cos."  Weaver describes the lettuce as “a heavy drinker and will never develop its famous crispness unless it is kept well-watered, none of which seemed out of the ordinary to me. But Weaver goes on, “This is also one of the popular lettuces that was used for stewing..." Yes, you read that correctly. Stewed lettuce. It sounded slimy to me, but intriguing nevertheless.

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Feaster Heirloom Mustard Feast

Feaster Heirloom Mustard Feast

When he donated seeds to us last year, Jerome said, “Cool weather is greens weather, and we like to eat these greens on special occasions. A popular menu is to have them served with sweet potatoes and ham.” Well, this year, Jerome wanted to share his tradition with the staff at SSE, so he sent up a box of freshly picked greens to help us celebrate New Year’s Day!

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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.

2013 Squash Festival: Squashtastic

Heirloom Squash Display

Heirloom Squash DisplayThe fifth annual Seed Savers Exchange Harvest Festival incorporated a celebration of squash with all the fun activities everyone has come to expect at the autumn event. The versatile and dynamic Cucurbita genus offers so much more than just pumpkins and zucchini, and the SSE crew was eager to show it off. Along with a beautiful heirloom squash display, attendees enjoyed a variety of gourmet squash soups, workshops on saving squash seed, a lecture on the origins and evolution of squash, and a talk on the culinary uses of different squash varieties. Pressing apples for ciderFestival-goers also helped press apple cider, sampled a variety of apples from the Historic Orchard, learned to plant and grow garlic, enjoyed a guided edible and medicinal plant identification walk, and learned to make broomcorn brooms. Turnout for the event was great despite the wet and cool weather, which was decided by all to be ideal conditions for the soup cook-off.

The Harvest Soup Cook-off is quickly becoming a highlight for this annual event, where chefs from some of the most respected local restaurants enter a soup for attendees to vote on. In the days prior to the festival each chef was given a box of Potimarron squash, and each one showed up Saturday with a delicious and unique soup for the contest. After the ballots were cast and the votes were tallied, Chef Tom Skold of Albert’s Restaurant was declared winner of this year’s cook-off.

Winner of the soup cook-offEntering his Harvest Bean and Squash Soup, the chef admitted he had not handled the rare Potimarron winter squash before. He said of it, "With such a brilliant, colorful squash, I was really excited to use it," adding, "this is a transitional time where you can still get your fresh produce out of the garden as well as your fall crops. Everyone is interested in eating this time of year, so it’s really a good time to be a chef." Below you'll find Chef Tom Skold’s winning soup recipe.

Download all of the mouth-watering squash soup recipes here.

Potimarron Squash

Harvest Bean and Squash Soup


¾ cup Anasazi beans, soak overnight water to cover salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste 4 cups Potimarron (or butternut) squash, peeled, large dice 6 medium tomatoes, cored, halved 6 tablespoons olive oil 1 ancho chili pepper 8 cloves garlic, sliced 1 white onion, large dice 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock 3 tablespoons rosemary, chopped ¾ cup hard cheese (such as parmesan), grated


1. Drain the soaking water from the beans, cover in fresh water, bring to a boil with a pinch of salt, and simmer until thoroughly cooked.

2. Preheat oven to 425F. Place the squash and tomato halves on separate baking sheets and drizzle them each with 2 T. olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Roast the squash and tomatoes 45 minutes at 425F and reserve, cutting the tomatoes in large pieces when cool.

3. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Toast the ancho chili on all sides and remove; when cooled seed and chop. Add the garlic to the same oil, toast golden brown and remove. Add the onions to the same oil and cook until caramelized.

4. Add chicken stock, rosemary, cooked beans, reserved squash, tomatoes, chilis, and garlic to the pot and bring the soup to a boil. Puree part of the soup to thicken, season to taste and serve topped with the grated cheese.

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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Fresh from the Garden

Fresh from the garden

Fresh from the garden When I grab a basket and go to my garden to gather fresh vegetables and herbs, it's like going to my own little market.  I look at gardening as a good workout and a chance to listen to the sounds of nature.

My favorite summertime recipes are those that require one trip to the garden to gather most of the ingredients, such as the following.

This recipe, as seen in the 2009 Seed Savers Exchange calendar, was a prize winner in the 2002 Food for Thought Recipe Contest in Madison, Wisconsin and printed in From Asparagus to Zucchini, a cookbook sponsored by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition.

I used the 'Amish Paste' tomato in this recipe. The healthy vines are producing blemish-free, flavorful red fruit that is excellent for fresh eating as well as preserving. Our growing season started out very wet and cool, and despite the dry weather since then, these plants continue to produce beautiful, tasty fruit.

The green beans I used were 'Ideal Market' and 'Purple Podded Pole' which are both very productive varieties. The Ideal Market produces colorful blossoms, and of course the Purple Podded Pole plant is decorative in all stages.

Prizewinner Green Beans with Tomatoes and Herbs

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 clove garlic, minced ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes ½ cup sliced onions 2 teaspoons dried ground thyme ¼ cup water 1 pound green beans, ends clipped, cut in half 1 sprig rosemary, leaves torn off the stem 2 medium tomatoes cut into wedges Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant. Add onions, sauté until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add water, thyme, and green beans. Stir. Cover, and steam-cook beans until nearly done, 10-15 minutes. Stir in rosemary and tomatoes. Cook briefly, until tomatoes are warmed through. Season as necessary. Serves 4.

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.

And the winner is...

And the winner is...

Despite concerns that our tomatoes would not ripen in time for the event, over 40 heirloom and open-pollinated tomato varieties (and one mega-mart hybrid tomato) competed for the title of this year's favorite. SSE staff, friends, and family brought tomatoes from gardens across northeast Iowa and Wisconsin to serve over 800 event attendees.

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Zucchini Abundance

Zucchini on the porch

Black Beauty Zucchini

It's that time of year again when gardeners everywhere are seeking out creative ways to utilize the abundance of zucchini and summer squash coming out of their garden.

Of course, here at Seed Savers Exchange we can't help but to encourage you to try your hand at saving seeds for next year's garden (scroll down to find a how-to guide for saving zucchini seeds). If you're interested in maintaining the characteristics of your variety in the next generation, you'll need to make sure your plants weren't cross-pollinating with other varieties. Of course, it can be fun to have a little backyard hybridization, too. Select one or two zucchinis to leave on the vine and save their seeds, then have fun with the rest! Make zucchini breads, cakes or soups that can be frozen and enjoyed later; Donate to a local food pantry or drop some zucchini on a neighbor's porch.

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Courtesy of Joanne Thuente of Seed Savers Exchange, here is a casserole her family loves:

Mom’s Zucchini Casserole

  • ½ pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 cups zucchini, cut into ¼ inch slices
  • 3 cups canned or fresh tomatoes, including juice (or 3 cups tomato juice)
  • 1 cup uncooked regular rice
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated (or cheese of your choice)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Brown and season ground beef; set aside. (Omit beef for vegetarian option). Sauté onion and sliced zucchini in the olive oil for 10 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes; simmer for another 10 minutes.

In a large buttered casserole dish (2½ quart), layer the ingredients in the following order: half of the vegetable mixture, half of the uncooked rice, all of the ground beef, the remaining rice, and end with the remaining vegetable mix. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, uncover, sprinkle the grated cheese over the top, and return to the oven, uncovered, for a few minutes, just until the cheese melts.

Serves 4-6.

Saving squash seeds


Find more seed saving tips on our website.

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.