“Traditional and Essential Seeds” with Bill Best

Appalachian Foodways Course for the UNCA Asheville/OLLIE/College for Seniors, April 1, 2015. “Traditional and Essential Seeds” by Bill Best.

Bill Best brought a large bag of Heirloom Appalachian Bean Seeds to accompany his talk of flavorful pots of “Beans and Leather Britches!” He spoke of “Traditional and Essential Seeds” and his lifetime of collection, identifying and sharing Appalachian bean seeds. Bill says that our Appalachian Foodshed is one of the most diverse of any county and seed saving preserves that diversity. We are losing much of that Lazy_Wife Greasy Beansbiodiversity as our right to save seed is a disappearing inheritance, thus we are losing much of our food culture heritage.

Bill keeps almost 700 varieties of heirloom bean seeds at the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center, which is at his farm in the Knobs country of Madison County just outside of Berea, Kentucky. Bill says that “Appalachian seeds represent a heritage going all the way back to the Native Americans.” He was recently invited to an Appalachian archeology burial site dig dating back 13,000 years. This was a woman who was buried with bean seeds. Many of those seed types still remain with us in today.

The culture of seed saving is an ancient one. The Native Americans planted beans in a configuration referred to as the three sisters. Beans, corn, and winter squash planted together. The beans will grow up the corn stalk and the squash covers the ground and helps keep down weeds. Bill says to “look for heirloom corn because the heirloom corn has the thicker stalk to support the weight of the vines.”

Bill’s family has been saving seeds for over 150 years and he gathered some of his first seeds in 1973. He started selling heirloom beans at the Lexington Kentucky farmers market and he now sells his seeds in all 50 states.

Bill Best’s new book, Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste is a must read for understanding why commercially grown beans are just a decoration, and not for eating. Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/09/27/2846594/berea-farmer-bill-best-advocates.html#storylink=cpy