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New project aims to save North Georgias heirloom seeds
Some of the seeds collected by the Appalachian Studies Center have yet to be fully identified, since the nature of the project is simply collecting seeds passed from one generation to the next. Okra seeds, bottom right, mingle with unidentified "pink miscellaneous" seeds.

Oral History Recording

What: Learn techniques and ideas for collecting personal and family stories. This class also is for volunteers who would like to interview local residents for the Saving Appalachian Gardens and Seeds project at the Georgia Appalachian Studies Center.
When: 9 a.m. to noon July 13 and 20
How much: $79
Contact: Continuing Education at North Georgia College & State University, 706-864-1918

Tips for saving your own seeds

  • Make sure that the seeds are very dry before storage
  • Store seeds in a cool, dark place preferably in glass containers in the refrigerator
  • For more tips, biologist Karrie Ann Fadroski suggests reading "Seed to Seed" by Suzanne Ashworth

They're not just plants and seeds, they're stories.

And a new project at the Appalachian Studies Center in Dahlonega aims to save these stories and the fruit they bear for the next generations of Northeast Georgians.

One of the project's proponents is biology professor and project manager Karrie Ann Fadroski, who said the project at North Georgia College & State University fascinates her.

"Even as a biologist I am still amazed that a seed becomes this real big plant that produces fruit," said the North Georgia College professor. "Set all the science aside, I think it's amazing that something that tiny grows into great big plants."

The Saving Appalachian Gardens and Stories project's mission is to collect heirloom seeds, which are 50 years or older and have been passed down through families in the North Georgia area.

"Right now we are trying to get things (seeds) that are really local. There are actually some really good seed saver exchanges that are geared toward Southern climates, but we want things that are specifically to North Georgia," Fadroski said. "What we've been trying to do is gather seeds at the farmer's market, putting word of mouth out, and so it's just to collect those seeds. Where we are really trying to work, where we have probably been the slowest, is trying to get the stories behind the seeds."

If available, the project volunteers would like also to collect recipes and storage tips for the seeds.

Alice Sampson, director of the Appalachian Studies Center, said she hopes the seeds "will be a teaching tool for the community and the campus."

Sampson added that the seeds they collect will head to a state seed bank for future planting and research.

This spring, with the new seed bank at the center, a small garden was planted and volunteers drop by to take care of an array of plants like corn, okra, plumgrannies, Cuban pumpkins, red field peas and pole beans.

Sampson said the plumgrannies are the most exotic in the garden. Fadroski agreed.

"The best way to describe them is that they are about the size of a small orange, they (have) real smooth skin and they are striped with green and white stripes with a little bit of orange when they get real ripe," she said. "You can eat them but I wouldn't recommend it.

"I wouldn't call it pleasant, but they smell phenomenal. People used to take them and put them in bowls in their kitchen. ... Women used to put them in their apron pockets and they would smell good."

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