Ancestral Seeds: Growing a Piece of Ancient History

Have you ever shopped in the produce aisle and seen a flashy display of Heirloom Tomatoes?
We were wondering what is so special about these tomatoes? The answer might surprise you. Ancestral fruits and vegetables are grown from seeds that date back to ancient times. Over the millennia, these seeds have gained enormous value. Sennedjem’s burial chamber, Scene: Farmer ploughing.


Around 1200 BC Sennedjem’s burial chamber, Scene: Farmer ploughing.

Around 1200 BC, About 12,000 years ago. Humans began to move from a lifestyle based on hunting and gathering to a more stable one based on agriculture. They settled down and began to plant and cultivate their food as well as domesticated animals. This is what has been called the Neolithic Revolution. Eventually, they began to choose and save the seeds of the most productive plants, the tastiest, the hardest, and the ones that kept their edible seeds the longest. Generations of this selection have resulted in stable crops that can be relied on to produce food for entire villages.

However, the first domestication of plants and animals is believed to have taken place in the Middle East. It took place independently in civilizations worldwide during roughly the same period (10,000-5,000 BC). Each group came to domestication through different routes. All succeeded in domesticating a unique set of plants, as shown in the table below. Middle East: wheat, barley Mesoamerica: corn, beans, squash South America: potato North America: amaranth China: millet, rice Africa: sorghum Immigrants were entering Ellis Island in 1902.

Immigrants were entering Ellis Island in 1902.

Families passed these ancestral seeds from generation to generation for centuries. When people began to migrate to other parts of the world, including the Americas, they brought their precious seeds. They were so significant that their owners often sewed them into clothing. That authorities would not confiscate them on Ellis Island. These seeds allowed them to survive in a hostile new world and reminded them of the past. According to gardening columnist Jim McLain. By the 19th century, seeds became “their heritage just as much as the Bible and family photos”. The names of the sources often hinted at the history behind them.

Words such as Aunt Ruby’s German Green Tomatoes. Dragon’s Tongue Green Beans, Moon and Stars Watermelons, Garden Peach Tomatoes. Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans and Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter ancestral tomato set each crop apart. When the Industrial Revolution began, many farmers left the fields. They moved to cities, searching for a different and better life. They brought their seeds with them and planted backyard gardens.

These gardens became useful again during the World Wars when supplies were limited. Families had to find ways to maintain their food reserves. According to Michael Pollan in “Farmer in Chief”. More than 20 million home gardens supplied 40% of the products consumed in America at the end of the Second World War “.

Kalamazoo in the 1870s

This photo of Kalamazoo in the 1870s shows what backyards were: places of work, not play. With the livestock and outhouses, they weren’t ideal for entertaining.

This photo of Kalamazoo in the 1870s shows what backyards were: places of work, not play.
Along with the livestock and outhouses, they were not ideal for entertainment. When the economy rebounded after World War II, backyard gardening lost its popularity; however, ancestral seeds continued to be used. Perhaps because of their intense historical and emotional value, these seeds were not lost when allotment gardens practically disappeared.

Although hybrids, cultivated for their uniformity and disease resistance, among other things. They become more popular with many farmers, heirloom seeds continue to hold their place in our society. They are known to produce delicious crops that often develop innate disease resistance.

Perhaps more importantly, they connect us to our past as a living link with our ancient ancestors. So the next time you see a sign indicating heirloom vegetables in your produce aisle. You can pay the extra dollar and enjoy a piece of history. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, order ancestral seeds and plant a little history in your garden.

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