A Spring Preserved

A new term is heard more and more in agricultural circles: heirloom plants. These are fruits, vegetables, and trees that embody the best traits of their genus and family and deserve to be preserved for the future. This takes special care, as seen in the two examples below of environmentally-conscious gardeners who strive to keep heirloom plants alice for future generations to enjoy.

Over 60 years ago, Hank Lotvin culled the best beans from his garden in Ghent, New York so that his neighbor Flossy could cook up the best beans anywhere. A new Noah's Ark has kept Hank's seeds, and others, available for 21st century baked
bean lovers. The New York Times reports that seeds for Hank's X-tra Special Baked Beans are available at the Hudson Valley Seed Library, a co-op venture organized by Ken Greene:


Members of the Hudson Valley Seed Library, who have grown from 60 at the start to nearly 700 now, pay a $20 annual fee for 10 seed packs of their choice. The library offers 130 heirloom plant varieties, 50 of which come from locally produced seeds like Hank’s X-tra Special Baking Bean. Mr. Greene has high hopes for replenishing those seed stocks this year. The long, dry summer provided ideal seed-saving weather, he said; last year, partly due to the wet, chilly summer, only 10 percent of members sent back seeds. He should know by the end of November if his hopes have been realized.

While Ken Greene saves seeds for his neighbors in the Hudson Valley, Amy Goldman collects them for posterity. In the early 1990s, Goldman helped emotionally disturbed children grow up stronger in the broken place as a clinical psychologist at Astor Services for Children. Since then, she has transferred her talents as a nurturer/organizer to grow some of the best heirloom tomatoes in the world, as featured in a slide show in Scientific American and recognized by leading horticultural experts:

In her garden in Rhinebeck, N.Y., Amy Goldman grows some 250 vintage varieties of tomatoes collected from around the world, including one from the Galápagos Islands that is as sweet as candy. In her book, The Heirloom Tomato, published last August by Bloomsbury USA, she revels in the stories behind each kind, like that of Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter tomato, which helped Marshall Cletis Byles pay off his $6,000 home loan in the 1940s.

From her plot of land in Rhinebeck, Goldman has grown melons, squashes, and tomatoes which have garnered high acclaim and she serves as Board Chair of SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE, a non-profit organization based in Davenport Decorah, Iowa that preserves heirloom plant varieties through regeneration, distribution, and seed exchange. Their goal is to ensure that this world's biodiversity is kept alive for future generations. Every year they produce an annual yearbook, and their seeds are storied in the impregnable Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway.

As maple trees shed their colorful leaves and months of dormancy and hibernation for plants and creatures in the Northern hemisphere come upon us, the work of master gardeners like Ken Greene and Amy Goldman reminds us of a Spring Preserved for the future.

William Van Ornum


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8 years 3 months ago
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault  - that's so nrat!

My sister and I had a graden for a while with seeds we bought from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ... http://rareseeds.com

This reminds me of ethnobotany and the work of Richard Schultes, Wade Davis, Mark Plotkin, etc.  :)
we vnornm
8 years 3 months ago

Did you notice any difference between the heirloom seeds and regular? What did you grow?

Wonder if they saved any original Galilee mustard seeds? Now, those would sell....

best, bill
8 years 3 months ago
  My sister grew vegetables like squash and tomatoes and zucchini.  I grew flowers, like blackeyed susans and hollyhocks.  I think one of the differences with heirloom plants might be that they're less bug or disease resistant?  Here's a photo of the hollyhock ....  http://povcrystal.blogspot.com/2009/06/hollyhocks.html .... and here's one with a balcjeyed susan ... http://povcrystal.blogspot.com/2010/06/photos-from-yard.html

Galilee mustard seeds - heh  :)
8 years 3 months ago
For someone like me who has a deep appreciation for and enjoys the patrimony of faith and art that our church has lovingly and faithfully cared for  and has been handed down to generations of humankind, the idea of a spring preserved through heirloom seeds is just enchanting.  I think it was one of the Church Fathers who said that the blood of the martyrs was the seeds of our faith.  And, er, the lowly mustard seed! So, how appropriate the patrimony of heirloom seeds!!  Thanks for a lovely essay, Bill.
Leah Jimenez
8 years 3 months ago
Dear Bill,

I like the heirloom seeds story and I beleive that Amy and Mr. Greene need to teach agricultural classes to people who are very interested in growing these kinds of fresh fruits nad vegetables.  Gifts like these need to be passed down to future generations to those who care about what goes into their bodies, considering all of the nitrogen fed and GMO grown products that hurt  people's health.  Writing a book and being catalogued is wonderful but many people cannot afford these materieals and need hands on application skills.  Therefore these people need to to teach those who truly are interested in growing healthy foods for their families and to be able to pass it on to their proginy.  Great article.  Thanks.



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