Bill Best knows a lot about Appalachian heirloom beans and the people who have grown and saved their seeds for centuries.
In his new book, Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste: Heirloom Seed Savers in Appalachia, he has distilled bits of that knowledge into stories about the history of seed saving, descriptions of heirloom varieties and their origins, and brief biographies of folks currently active in seed-saving activities.
Beans, tomatoes, apples, corn, winter squash and white cucumbers are covered in an easily absorbed, conversational style.
During the past half- century Many Americans have lost touch with the how-to of growing vegetable gardens, and locally sourced produce has been replaced by more standardized, lower-cost options at the supermarket. In contrast, pockets of heirloom seed savers have survived in Appalachian communities.
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Now, with a resurgence of interest in homegrown heirlooms, this book offers new gardeners a peek into what they've been missing, and a few hints about how to connect with cultivating the incredible diversity of edible treasures that are available.
When the knowledge of how to garden, and the experience of how delicious a fresh, locally grown vegetable or fruit can taste is not available, we forget how valuable an experience it can be.
"If you skip one generation, all is lost," Best says. "That's one reason for this book: to help people learn how again."
New gardeners looking for guidance and knowledgeable gardeners wanting to try a few new heirloom varieties will benefit from Best's years of experience.
'Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste: Heirloom Seed Savers in Appalachia'
By Bill Best. Ohio University Press. 200 pp. $22.95.