Seeds And Their People Radio Show
In this fourth episode, we talk with Chris’s parents Rufus and Demalda Newsome of Newsome Community Farms in Greenville, Mississippi at Christmas. While Rufus pulls seeds from cotton he talks about growing up at ten years old working in the cotton fields as a weed chopper, a hoe filer, and a water boy. While Demalda chops vegetables for the Christmas meal, she describes growing up harvesting fruits from neighborhood trees and beans from an overturned bean truck, and getting watermelons from the watermelon man. While she and Chris make tamales, we talk about how they’d always eat them with hot donuts in the Delta at Christmas, which brings us to talking about segregation and desegregation. She describes her advocacy and food sovereignty work with Newsome Community Farms, Community Food Security Coalition, and Food First. There’s a hidden track at the very end where Rufus opens his very first moringa pods (see the videos here) and the grandkids get to taste the seeds and the way they transform water, and we discuss seed maturity and storage, and the importance of eating good bacteria.
This episode is all about one plant with countless names: Molokhia (Corchorus olitorius). You may know it as Jute, Jew's Mallow, Egyptian Spinach, any of the names in the title of this episode, or as something else altogether! This plant is beloved throughout the world and so we talked to people whose roots are in Vietnam, Haiti, Philippines, Nigeria, Palestine, and Syria about how they grow, harvest, prepare, eat, and save seeds from this delicious, nutritious, healing, and slimy plant. You will hear many similarities and differences. One thing is clear: everyone holds it dear for the way the flavors, textures, and even the tedious plucking of leaves transports them back home.
This episode is all about the Fish Pepper, an extremely flavorful, productive, and decorative variety that makes an excellent hot sauce. The white unripe fruit were used to flavor seafood dishes in the Black catering community of Baltimore in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Horace Pippin, the now-famed painter, shared this variety (and many others) with H. Ralph Weaver in the early 1940s in exchange for bee-sting therapy. Weaver's grandson (William Woys Weaver, who you will hear from in the second half of this episode) found the seeds in a baby food jar in his grandmother's deep freezer a couple decades later, many years after his grandfather's death, and was able to reintroduce them via Seed Savers Exchange.
In this episode, you will hear from Xavier Brown from Soilful City in Washington DC who makes Pippin Sauce from fish peppers grown by black farmers and urban gardeners in the DC and Maryland areas (including Denzel Mitchell, who you will also hear from). Soilful City offers their seeds through Truelove Seeds. You will also hear from Michael Twitty, author of the Cooking Gene. See links to the work of each of the speakers below.
This episode features four interviews with Karen farmers from the mountains of the Karen state of Burma (Myanmar) who spent roughly a decade in Thai refugee camps before resettling in South Philadelphia. They now grow their traditional crops at Novick Urban Farm.
The Karen way with food plants was key to their survival and joy while living in the center of a civil war; then again while hiding in the jungle and escaping to Thailand, biding time in the tight quarters of refugee camps; and today, farming and foraging here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Their heirloom vegetables and traditional foods have become a lifeline, a heartstring, a refuge, and a delicious portal home.
Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed in Philomath, Oregon visited our Truelove Seeds farm during a cross-country road trip in July, 2019. Frank began in the early 1980s as a salad grower providing greens for grocery stores throughout the country. As you will hear in this episode, an accidental hybrid between two of his lettuces sparked a deep passion for breeding new varieties, and he has been doing so ever since, now with varieties in many seed catalogs, and even in space.
Frank has been a invaluable mentor for so many people in the organic and small regional seed company world. We are so grateful for the wisdom he shares.