Many varities of plants are lost to time. Wanted to start a thread in hopes some can be located. What lost vegetables or fruits do you wish you had? One comes to my mind that is a shell bean that I believe the native Americans grew. Specifically my belief is the beans were Cherokee. These beans were unique because they were two or three different colors that must be grown together. Certainly things like this get lost because people try to separate the beans white beans just with white ones and red beans just with red. Historically I know that everyone who did this could not grow the beans as they were one species that could not be seperated. The beans 100% of the time failed when seperated. The beans are ancient and I’m not sure anyone is familiar with them anymore. It seems they were grown by a seed company within the last 20 years who understood the complexities of growing them. Seed savers or some similar group could possibly have saved them. There are pears I grow I don’t know what they are and to date Noone can identify them. I’ve told the story before of the wild pumpkins we lost when I was still a child. We did not appreciate them or even realize what we had. It was my belief everyone had wild pumpkins growing in great abundance all over their fields. In modern times some of the most fascinating stories I’ve heard were told by a surprising group of people. A sanitation worker told me of the thousands of unique fruits and vegetables that grow plentiful all around the sewage treatment plants lagoons. Must admit I smiled and laughed a little bit when they told me. The varities sounded very good but ofcourse Noone goes near where they are growing for obvious reasons without a really good reason.
Probably too big a topic to keep on track.
But, seeds saved and passed along are valuable.
I do have a very small quantity of a bean tht is black, white and buff…
referred to I believe as a ‘greasy bean’. It’s a ‘green bean’ if harvested before the pods turn color. Pods look more like “crowder peas” or something. Have no idea if they resemble the ‘Cherokee’ you are referring to. Last time I planted about 75 seeds, the buff color almost disappeared.
That gives me hope as you are familiar with the concept. That might be some form of them they could be eaten as green beans but since they were string beans most people would not grow them for that purpose as they would need snapped and stringed instead of just snapped.
Perhaps, but I almost NEVER grow stringless beans.
Been several years since I grew Blue Lake pole beans…that’s the last stringless I’ve planted. I don’t have a lot of tillable space.
I think this thread is a great idea. As it grows it can be segmented in to categories.
Great thread idea! Clark, have you checked with the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center (formerly of Berea, Ky., now in Cookeville, Tn.)? They have many rare and historic bean varieties. One of their principal founders, Bill Best, is famous as an Appalachian bean collector. He amassed a collection of 700 or so beans—including, I believe, Cherokee varieties. My folks got Goose beans from him many years ago.
Could these have been something like Cherokee Tan Pumpkins? Hoss Tools is, as far as I know, the first and only seed company to ever offer it. I’ve grown it before, and can send you some seeds if you like. It’s C. moschata, very vigorous and very pest- and disease-resistant; the small pumpkins are great keepers.
The Slow Food Foundation keeps a “most wanted” list of lost varieties:
One of their recent success stories is the Dyehouse sour cherry, rediscovered in Pulaski County, Kentucky. You antique apple fanatics might want to keep your eyes peeled for the “Kentucky Red Crabapple.”
Did anyone purchase the perennial beans from Oikos Tree Crops before they closed?
I wanted to last time I ordered from them, but they were out of stock every time I looked.
I’m curious if anyone here found them worthwhile as much as anything.
Last visit to my Tennessee home place, I brought back some top setting onions. I have no idea what their real name is, but my mother had them passed down thru the family for generations. They grow and self seed by throwing off small cluster of new onion sets that are self rooting once on the ground. I have not seen them anywhere else, but I’m glad I preserved them when I had the opportunity. The onion tops are great for salads and snacking and the tubers can be used like any normal onion for cooking.
Those are Egyptian walking onions. They are great to have around.
Finally someone knows a name! Great, yes once established you just harvest year after year, never need replanting. I should have known to ask you Clark! Take care
Merry Christmas! There are a few different types of walking onions I’ve observed. My family has been passing some around for 100 or so years so the individual strains get to be unique. We grow a dessert king watermelon that’s seed Originated in the Missouri area where it was grown 50+ years we know of but once in awhile it throws a pink melon. My mom loves them but she wanted primarily yellow so I bred the pink out of them by never saving seed from a pink one. 99% are now yellow whereas 1 in 10 was pink originally. Everyone says selection is to slow but I think it’s fairly fast. Those walking onions you have are likely unique now but originally they were most likely like everyone else’s.
My grandmother’s maiden name was Clark. My mom would at times tell me why my cousins on her mother’s descendants side of the family were dark skinned and dark eyes. She explained that in generations past the family had Cherokee blood relatives. I never got much detail only brief discussions. My fathers heritage was pure Irish. Do you happen to know if your family name was related to the Clark’s living near Somerville, Tn? Just curious! It always seemed like my mother had a lot of hand me down practical knowledge about how to do things.
Strange you ask I do have relatives in Tennessee and kentucky. Dont know much about them. There was a Hatfield who married a distant relative but was murdered in a feud. Not the feud your thinking of. It’s a long story but no Clark’s were involved as far as I know. Will see what I can find out if anything. Visited Kentucky once and people were very nice just like Tennessee. They are well manored which is rare now and it shocked me a little bit.
Ok I may see what my oldest brother knows that I never knew. I do know my cousins were very savy about hunting and fishing. I hunted quail with one of my cousins who was a crack shot. Very often he could bring down two birds with a single shot. He was a remarkable person
Look up “Hickman Snap beans” and see if that is what you remember. Sandhill also carries Grandma Roberts Tri-Color which is a similar variety but originated in southern Tennessee.
As for pumpkins, Glenn Drowns at Sandhill Preservation has several that are worth looking into.
Now for the bad news. Growing heirloom varieties has been a major part of my life for the last 20 years. I produce seed that Glenn retails. Some of the varieties I’ve grown were major winners. Some were abject failures. The point is simple. With heirlooms, there is a roughly 30% risk of total failure in a given climate. On the other hand, there is a good possibility of finding a new-to-you vegetable that you will never be without. As an example, I grew 3 or 4 varieties of okra over the years that I will never touch again. They are so totally non-productive that it is not worth producing seed. Flip side of this, I grew half a dozen other varieties of okra that were very good and well worth a repeat. But… A local heirloom provided by a woman in my area is my hands down favorite okra because it can be fried, baked, boiled, dried, and pickled and is excellent in each usage. Glenn sells it as “Granny Franklin” okra. He described it to me as the okra that he gave to a preacher - originally from the deep south - and was told that this was the way okra should taste. I also give good marks to Cowhorn and Jing Orange if you are interested in some of his other varieties.
Of all the “lost” varieties I’ve heard about over the years, the one I wish most I could find is a purple seed pole bean that had a history of being grown by Native Americans in the midwest. I know of a purple seed bean - Rio Zappe - but it is a western sprawling variety, not a climber. Note for those of you who get the cart ahead of the horse, I am NOT talking about Runner Beans!
I thought of something else that makes a good story. About a dozen years ago, I was talking with Glenn Drowns planning what I would grow for him that year and he mentioned that he was failing miserably growing cowpeas. I asked him how he was growing them. He said he was planting them in rich soil amended with lots of chicken manure. I laughed and said he was “killing them with kindness!” Then I told him to plant his cowpeas on the poorest sandiest soil he had. He did so and picked cowpeas until he got fed up with picking cowpeas. Point of this is simple. Even with 40 years experience, Glenn did not know how to cultivate cowpeas. We all have room to learn.
P.S. I will share my ultimate tip on how to grow okra. I’ve never seen this method recommended anywhere else, but it is the most consistent way I’ve found to grow an abundance of okra. The method is simple. Okra needs moderately fertile very well tilled soil and must be kept weed free for best performance. Plant 8 to 10 seed in hills with all the seed in a circle less than an inch diameter. The hills should be between 1 and 3 feet apart in the row. The row needs 3 to 4 feet on each side because the plants are going to sprawl a good bit. How do you determine the spacing between hills? Simple, check the vigor of the variety being planted. Clemson Spineless should be 2 feet between hills. Cowhorn should be 3 feet. Jing Orange and Perkins need 2.5 feet. Lee “space saving” okra does very well just a tad under 2 feet apart. Some “dwarf” varieties do fine with hills 1 foot apart in the row. Once the seed are in the hill, rake 1/2 inch of soil over them and step on them hard with your foot. This ensures soil contact with the seed. When rain falls, the seed will grow and because they are so close together in the hill, they will pop the cap of soil off which permits a high rate of germination. When the plants are 6 inches to a foot tall, thin to 2 plants per hill selecting the most vigorous plants to keep. The rest is simple. Keep weeds under control, fertilize the plants at least once after they are 2 feet tall, and harvest either daily or every other day once it starts to produce.
I chopped very finely the stalk and put them in potato salad. A favorite onion!
When you say cow horn are you referring to longhorn okra? Some friends were Cajuns who moved here to Kansas. The Cajuns had married into a part cherokee family who moved next to me. They had a way of growing things like okra that was pretty amazing. They were very kind to me often sharing things like their bumper crops of okra.
Longhorn and Cowhorn are different varieties. I’ve grown both for seed though it has been 11 years since I grew Longhorn. Longhorn is slightly fatter than Cowhorn and gets tough just a little bit sooner meaning you have to be diligent to pick it while still tender. Most okra will stop setting new pods once 3 or 4 have formed on the plant. Cowhorn will keep setting new pods though it eventually slows down usually with 15 to 20 pods maturing seed. I’ve been working on a strain of Cowhorn for 34 years.
Here is a photo of young Cowhorn okra plants just as they start heavy production.
This is a picture of a Cowhorn plant with 22 pods of okra. This plant is 15 feet tall. I was holding my camera as high as I could reach to take the picture.
If you want to grow some okra just to figure out what you like, here are a few to try:
Cowhorn - tall, very heavy producer, can harvest up to 6 inches long
Granny Franklin - My overall favorite okra because it is so versatile
Heavy Hitter - very high production, but has to be harvested daily
Jing Orange - very good production, red/orange color, good fried
Lee - developed for shorter but still productive plants
There are another dozen that I could suggest, but the above gives a broad range of growth types and uses.