Last spring's seedlings, growing in the greenhouse.
As the winter winds down, the growers at the Accokeek Foundation have started to think about the upcoming season at the Ecosystem Farm. The time is ripe to make our planting plans and order our supplies and seeds. From the Rose de Berne tomato, with its rose-pink hue and heirloom flavor, to the colorful fish pepper, an African American heirloom with variegated foliage and an excellent taste, we’ve made note of our favorites from last season and our plans to plant them again.
While we do save our seeds whenever possible, we also order seeds from various catalogs. Some of our favorite sources? Fedco, High Mowing Organic Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.
In some of these catalogs, you might even spot seeds from the Foundation. We’ve supplied various companies with seeds over the years, from our Orinoco and Rustica tobaccos to our Virginia Gourdseed corn. This latter crop is an eighteenth century variety that was back-bred, recovered, and reintroduced by corn geneticist and former National Colonial Farm Director Ralph Singleton.
Virginia Gourdseed corn.
But seed saving can occur even on a small scale, and we encourage all gardeners to practice this small exercise in sustainability. A saved seed is a treasure that preserves the previous season’s perfect plant. For seed saving tips, we recommend Seed to Seed or SavingOurSeeds.org.
And for those gardeners who have the seeds but don’t know where to start, check out our upcoming Organic Gardening Workshop: Starting from Seed. This class—part of our season-long Organic Gardening Workshop Series geared toward backyard gardeners—will provide participants with the information needed to start their seeds and get a jump on the growing season. Click here to read more and sign up!
In March of this year the National Colonial Farm will premier its newly developed Foodways program. Over the years this successful program has fascinated visitors as they witness firsthand what our colonial ancestors ate and how it was prepared. This year we plan on taking the program and the visiting public even further into the culinary traditions of Maryland.
Maryland Fried Chicken
While we will still be cooking over the fire and using all the gizmos and gadgets of years past, the format will be drastically different! Each program will be presented much like a modern-day cooking show, where a seated audience (along with a few special guests or tasters) will watch presenters prepare a meal and discuss what makes each of these meals unique to the Tidewater area. From Maryland Fried Chicken to Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham we want to explore and celebrate the rich, culinary tradition that Maryland offers!
BUT WE NEED HELP!!!
Foodways Volunteers and Farm Visitors
Volunteers are needed to help with the prep work and assist during the actual “performance”. If you are a “Foodie” at heart, love history and would love to be a part of this program please contact the volunteer coordinator for further details. In addition to prep and set up we’d also like to set up times to test out many of the recipes we plan on doing during the season. We hope this turns out to be one of the most enjoyable, hectic and educational experiences for everyone involved!
Hog Island Sheep Grazing
At 5:00 p.m. last Saturday the National Colonial Farm was the perfect picture of a pastoral scene. Cows and sheep grazed in green pastures as shadows lengthened and light softened. By 6:00 p.m. the scene had become a spectacular 19th century landscape painting. An absolutely stunning sunset backlit house and barns with pink and orange and violet hues. But by 7:00 a chill crept across the fields as an inky purple sky sucked in all the sun’s light, and history took a turn toward the sinister. The near darkness revealed a shadowy scene where colonial ghouls lurked behind fences and spectral children played “Ring around the Rosie” and all fell – dead! Lost souls dined in an eerie tavern from which they knew they would never take leave. Nearby a ghostly farm wife snatched from the 18th century headlines told tales of her three late unfortunate husbands and how each met his fate.
National Colonial Farm as the Sunsets
“Twilight Tales,” this first-ever experiment in the darker side of colonial Maryland’s history, turned out to be a crowd pleaser. Visitors came out in numbers to be shocked and frightened and entertained. We don’t know how many made it home safely, but we heard from most of them that they liked it. Many stayed after their tours for cider and cookies.
Is this history? Real characters, recreated and embellished with a flair for the theatrical? What will they think of next?