By Analiese Paik
I was so excited to learn that Seed Savers Exchange partnered with Slow Food USA to offer a 6-pack of Ark of Taste seeds this season. At $14.95, the Ark of Taste Collection is a budget-friendly, green food gift any backyard gardener would love, especially those who will be excited about growing heirloom foods that are delicious enough to be part of Slow Food’s 200 strong (and growing) collection of rare and endangered foods cataloged in the US Ark of Taste.
The USDA Organic six-seed collection includes beets, lettuce, beans, squash, peppers and ground cherries, all suitable for our climate zone. Read all the details about this special seed set below and place your order online for convenient home delivery.
The following text and food images are courtesy of Seed Savers Exchange.
This collection features seeds listed on the Ark of Taste – an international, living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. Slow Food USA works to identify endangered foods from across the country to add to the Ark of Taste, and to champion these foods so they stay in production and on our plates. Learn more about the Ark of Taste in the USA by visiting Slow Food USA’s website.
Sibley squash (Cucurbita maxima): Originally introduced by Hiram Sibley & Co. in 1887, the Sibley Squash is a perfect example of what happened to thousands of old varieties at the advent of hybrids – the erosion of genetic diversity and subsequent closure by the thousands of seed companies. Grown by an elderly woman in Iowa for over 50 years, its flavor becomes richer after the New Year – don’t eat until then, if you can help it!
Early Blood Turnip beet (Beta vulgaris): One of the oldest known heirloom beets still in cultivation, introduced in America around 1820 and a parent of the Detroit Dark Red beet – Slow Food USA states that “the dark red flesh remains flavorful, tender and juicy even when the beets grow large. Eaten raw the beet has an apple-like, slightly astringent flavor with a rich, earthy finish. The beet is good both boiled and baked and the leaves are an excellent cooked green. It is a superb winter storage variety, keeping well in root cellar storage for 8 months or more. Variable rate of maturity may make this beet less desirable for commercial harvest (and this may explain its disappearance from seed catalogs in the latter 20th century), however this characteristic is a plus for the small farmer and home gardener.” Flavorful greens, too.
Beaver Dam pepper (Capsicum annuum): Brought to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin in 1912 by the Hussli Family – Hungarian immigrants – ‘Beaver Dam’ makes a darned fine goulash and is highly versatile (used in sandwiches, stuffed with cheese, baked, stir-fried, pickled, canned…). The fruit’s sweet & spicy flavor has become the darling of restaurateurs everywhere, showcasing how near-extinct varieties can be revived through reintroduction into popular imagination.
Tennis Ball lettuce (Latuca sativa): A favorite of Thomas Jefferson, the coolest use for Tennis Ball is pickling in a salt brine solution; doing so ensures the lettuce can be tapped in the dead of winter for a much needed “greens” boost (which was particularly appealing for pre-refrigeration era families). Also used as a side dish to meals.
Hidatsa Shield Figure bean (Phaseolus vulgaris): The Hidatsa American Indians existed once upon a time along the Missouri River Valley of North Dakota. This bean was planted traditionally in a “three sisters” configuration (the three sisters being corn, beans, and squash). The Hidatsa people were devastated by small pox in the mid-1800s, and this bean exists today as a small part of their ancestral legacy. These beans have a pole habit and were introduced to the Ark in 2005. They make an excellent soup.
Aunt Molly’s ground cherry (Physalis pruinosa): Perhaps more aptly described as a fruity tomatillo than a low-growing stone fruit, these ground cherries bear marble-sized golden fruits surrounded by inedible papery husks. ‘Aunt Molly’s’ originates from Poland and is revered for its high pectin content (perfect for sugarless preserves). It’s a sweet treat for all ages, especially because of its versatility as one of the most natural “pre-packaged” snacks commercially available.
We encourage you to participate in the preservation of these varieties by growing them, eating them, and sharing both the produce and seeds with your community, thus ensuring their legacy continues.
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.