Friday, February 27, 2015

Sunflower Savannah and 2015 Slow Food Grants

Schlafly Market TOMORROW- 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Market List- Grass fed Lamb Chops, Stew and Bone in Stew Meat, Shoulder Roasts, Leg of Lamb
Eggs and Eggs and  Lots and Lots of Eggs
Not Bad for a Gringo Salsa Verde, Chipotle Tomatillo Salsa
Cherry Serrano Pepper Jelly, Watermelon Blood Orange Marmalade

So the Cold weather has really been dragging everyone down including those in the barn. The Ducks are barely laying and the goose just plain gave up.
Sometimes in February, it seems like Spring will never arrive. There has been a bright Spot in our winter dreariness however. Sunflower Savannah has been graced with another Slow Food grant. This one for Heirloom Fruit Permaculture.
Last Fall, when we went to the Small Farm Show, we were there to talk about Slow Food and the Ark of Taste and most particularly Slow Food Grants.
I had already decided that the grant I was working on this year would involve Quince. I have long been intrigued by this fruit. It is mentioned often in old fiction novels, it is always an ingredient in those high end jams from those high end food stuff companies. In the USA Slow Food Ark of Taste, the are 2 quinces listed; the Sonoran and Meech's Prolific Quince. The Sonoran growing near the border's between California and Mexico of course could not begin to survive in Missouri climates and was immediately discarded as a choice. Besides, Meech's intrigued me as it was introduced in the late 1800's by a Reverend Meech and described as “the most uniformly prolific of all known varieties.”
I began writing the grant in early January as it was due on the 31st, not expecting to run into the trouble that I did.
After searching for Meech's Prolific quince on the internet using every possible combination of words, running into a woman called the "Queen of Quince" and then turning to my Organic Homesteading group, which has members all over North America and Canada. I was forced to do something that I never do ...give up. Commercial sales of this quince has pretty much disappeared from the United States. While there are simply hundreds of suppliers and growers of this tree in the UK, international regulatory restrictions not only prohibit but make it almost impossible to get anything from there to here with out breaking dormancy and dying along the way. To tell the truth only one nursery, RV Rogers of England, of the 50 or so that I contacted would even discuss it with me. In the US, only one nursery produces about
20 -25 whips, which is a tree without branches, per year and they were sold out by January 5th when I first contacted them. This quince is so rare that (if you can wrap your mind around this) the USDA expert on Quince does DNA testing on any tree claiming to be a Meech's and there are Meech's Prolific trees in the USDA clonal repository simply for the purpose of giving scions(starter branches to be grafted on another tree basically) to people who want to propagate them AND the only contributors to the repository are from the Department of AG specialist who's name is Joseph Postman and the woman who runs the only nursery in the US who grows the whips. Crazy no?
SO while I say I gave up, I mean that I gave up trying to find another source. I did order the scion branches but not ever having done this, I also obtained a promise from the nursery that if I got the grant I would get the first 5 whips from her 2015 stash which will be ready in November. Did I mention that I am not a patient person?

Black Republican Cherry was another item on our Heirloom Fruit Permaculture list. I found it
interesting that we have all eaten Black Republican Cherries without even knowing what they are. Most Yogurt and Ice Cream has contained Black Republican Cherries for years. We all thought they were Bings. Truth is that the Black republican Cherry is the parent to the Bing Cherry. In recent years the production of Black Republican Cherry has really slowed down because the seed is bigger which reduces the amount of flesh for usage. It has been almost reduced for use in grafting and pollination stock and is never available fresh. The interesting name comes from the fact the original growers of this fruit were abolitionists who participated in the underground railroad. Finding a source for this fruit was a bit easier but still there are only 2 sources here in the US that I could find. There may be some more obscure ones but after having immediate success in locating them and narrowing down which nursery's products would be more suitable to our climate, the search was over.

The final fruit inclusion was the American Pawpaw which is the largest unused fruit in America. Even myself who was born and spent much of my time in the Missouri Bootheel where Pawpaws are common and had a dad who was a hunter and forager in that area have never tasted one. He told me about them many times but never brought them home for us to enjoy. There has been a lot of research the last few years in Kentucky on Pawpaws so they were fairly easy to locate.

You may wonder at what the big deal is about keeping certain plants from dying out when there are bigger and better, newer varieties available. The truth is;

·       In the United States an estimated 90 percent of our historic fruit and vegetable varieties have vanished.

·        Of the 7,000 apple varieties that were grown in the 1800s,  fewer than a hundred remain.
       Experts estimate that we have lost more than half of the world's food varieties over the past century. As for the 8,000 known livestock breeds, 1,600 are endangered or already extinct.
If disease or future climate change decimates one of the handful of plants and animals we've come to depend on to feed our growing planet, we might desperately need one of those varieties we've let go extinct.
National Geographic, July, 2011
Some twelve plant species provide approximately 75% of our total food supply, and only fifteen mammal and bird species make up more than 90% of global domestic livestock production.
 Harvard School of Public Health
An important example of this is the Irish Potato Famine. We at Sunflower Savannah are committed to do our part to keep as many species as we can going. Thanks to Slow Food Stl, many of you have enjoyed the fruits of our labors(no pun intended). You have eaten Cayuga duck eggs, become addicted to the array of Heirloom tomatoes and tomato products that we have brought to market. A few of you have tasted roasted Cayuga duck and eaten Old Type Rhode Island Red Chicken eggs. We hope you will do the same.
See You at Schlafly tomorrow. Remember that the Market is only from 9-12 in the Winter.
God's Blessings on you and yours,
Sam and Bill


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