I am still eating food from plants that were started by my great-great-great grandmother...
When our canals were dug 150 years ago, the workers made a point of burying their apple cores along the banks. Many of them sprouted, survived, and are still providing fruit today. Asparagus likes growing along ditchbanks, and since that ground was unsuitable for planting crops due to being so uneven, asparagus was planted along the ditches. We no longer use the ditches having converted to a pressurized irrigation system 40 years ago, but the asparagus is still feeding my family each spring.
I collect mullein from the wildlands. No telling how long it's been growing there, hundreds of years I suppose. That was introduced from Europe.
I grow corn... That came up from Mexico around ten thousand years ago. I'm still reaping the benefits. I've tried many times to grow corns from Oaxaca, alas, they fail in my garden. But for generations they failed, and failed, and traveled a little further north from time to time until they finally became well enough adapted to grow at my place. The plant breeders continued pushing the boundaries, and today corn grows as far north as Alaska.
I still grow onions that my aunt's mother-in-law collected from my great-grandfather's farm. That's as far back as anyone's memory reaches. No telling when they were originally planted.
There is a grove of apricot trees growing where my daddy used to have his clubhouse when he was a lad. They'd pick apricots from the orchard, and climb the hill to the clubhouse, and eat the apricots, or throw them at each other. One of the pits germinated and survived, and has created a grove of apricots 65 years later.
In like fashion, this piece of land I now occupy has a small carved-out fenced chunk where a tenant couple built a house in 1949. The wife is said to have been the gardener of the family, and she lasted longest, but she passed sometime in the 1970s or 1980s. The house was subsequently allowed to deteriorate and is now uninhabitable. When I started beating the bushes and really paying attention to what grows here, I found that woman's horticultural legacy everywhere. An old but fruitful Kieffer pear out back was probably hers, but the endless clumps of daffodils marching off into our woods in serried ranks certainly were, because we still find the original clumps she planted along the dripline of her eaves, now merged into a solid daffodil hedge the width of the house. Also descended from her plantings are the numerous clumps of day lilies and blue iris to be found for several hundred yards in all directions, and the dozen or so clusters of feral garlic near her former back yard. I'll wager I haven't found (or recognized) everything yet. Her front yard is also the only place on this property where the soil is soft and rich and yields under your feet; elsewhere it's a hard mud, heavy with clay and small stones and very light on organics. I'm battling the Johnson Grass that thrives there now; in time her carefully-built soil will be my garden area for root crops.
Without opining about an unraveling, I think Joseph's post makes an important point. We can be sure of very little about the world beyond our deaths, but we can be surest of this: somebody else will walk "our" land in the future. It can be no bad thing if they find it fruitful, surely?
Dan Boone wrote:Without opining about an unraveling, I think Joseph's post makes an important point. We can be sure of very little about the world beyond our deaths, but we can be surest of this: somebody else will walk "our" land in the future. It can be no bad thing if they find it fruitful, surely?
Here's a video about one of the food forests I care for. It's in a suburban backyard. It was originally planted by someone that is long gone. So I can't claim credit for most of the trees, only for their stewardship. I had much more influence over the understory plants. When I arrived on the scene it was lawn.
This month I have been eating lambsquarters. In the fall I eat sunroots. They were both staple crops that were domesticated and propagated by an agricultural system that I know little about, and by peoples who have long been gone from this area. And yet I am still reaping the benefits of their agricultural system. People are all the time telling me that they can't save seeds, or domesticate new species, because they don't know how... As far as I can tell, nearly every food species that I grow and eat was developed by illiterate farmers who had zero training in genetics... It was sufficient to know that plants make seeds, and that offspring tend to resemble their parents and grandparents. Whenever I think about it, which is often, I am filled with awe and gratitude.