Heirloom Plants and Seeds Connect Us to Generations of Superb Flavor

Heirloom green beans from Best Farm, Madison County, Kentucky

Heirloom green beans from Best Farm, Madison County, Kentucky

We cherish heirloom foods for their deep, rich flavors. We savor, too, being part of an unbroken chain of generations of people who have "mmmmmmMMMMmmmed" at the taste of Brandywine tomatoes, Country Gentleman sweet corn, and Turkey Craw beans.

We enjoy this chain thanks to industrious gardeners and farmers who save seed each year, and seed companies dedicated to spreading heirloom seeds. Yesterday in The Evangelists for Heirloom Vegetables, a story in the New York Times Sunday magazine, Christine Muhlke profiled the young family at the heart of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The energy, commitment, business savvy, and early success of Baker Creek suggest we are eager to buy and try time-tested foods, including the 1400 heirloom varieties the company collects and sells.

I ran a little test on the online Baker catalog. I checked on sweet corn varieties, something on which I have strong opinions. A Golden Bantam variety is there, along with Country Gentleman and several other intriguing sweet corn, baby corn, and popcorn types. The inclusion and effusive description of the Charentais melon tickled me, too.

Baker Creek's owners collect and offer rare seeds from around the world. For example, under "M," I found a plant I had never heard of, the melodious-sounding fruit (I think) Casabanana Melocoton. It does not sound easy to grow in most of the U.S., but I won't be surprised to see it in a market soon.

In Lexington, we have our own amazing evangelist for all the good that gardening can do. John Walker, a scientist with prodigious positive energy for The Grown World, champions growing, gleaning, preserving and sharing wonderful homegrown food. John makes gardening accessible for beginners through his Edible Garden Series. These "lessons in gardening" include an upcoming class on Seed Saving. This session takes place on Tuesday, September 14, at 6:30 PM, at Beaumont Presbyterian Church, 1070 Lane Allen Road in Lexington. Contact , or call 859.278.5062 for more information.

John constitutes a strong present link in that primordial chain of seed-keepers and flavor stewards to whom we owe gratitude for every incomparable bite of heirloom goodness. Connect to people like John tomorrow night, August 17, at a "Soup's On" event, one of an ongoing series of Third Tuesday sessions Seedleaf and Maxwell Presbyterian Church hold during the growing season.

Bring your extra produce, come as a learner, or come as a helper. Just like that, you will be part of the long, ongoing chain that connects people to the miracles of food and flavor across time.

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The world is coming to visit central Kentucky this year for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. To help our visitors know more about Kentucky's food and food ways, Savoring Kentucky is rolling out 116 Savory Kentucky Bites, one for each of the 100 days before WEG begins, and 16 for the days during WEG, September 25 - October 10. Today's Savory Bite is number 62.