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CN Seed Bank online distribution begins Feb. 1

CN Seed Bank online distribution begins Feb. 1
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Seed Bank is set to go live for online orders on Feb. 1.

The Heirloom Garden and Native Plant Site produces enough seeds to disperse around 2,000 to 5,000 seed packets per year, depending on growing conditions.

“We’re actually in two years of what I would considered fairly poor growing conditions. It hasn’t been catastrophic, but it wasn’t the best. We’re going to say just a little bit above average. It takes some really bad stuff for us to not be able to make a product for folks,” Environmental Resources Senior Director Pat Gwin said. 

He said the growing season is dependent on 4-inch soil temperatures. The ideal temperature for most plants to grow in is 65 degrees to 70 degrees.

“Last year, unfortunately that didn’t happen until June 1. We’ve actually put some things in the ground prior to that and it was just a disaster,” he said.

A planting guide comes with each seed order that contains information such as when to plant, soil temperatures, amount of sun exposure and germination.

The Seed Bank generally offers around 20 to 30 variations of seeds per year. However, in the Seed Bank proper there are more than 100 varieties of plants growing. Gwin said this is because some plants are not flowering every year. 

He said crops such as corn, tobaccos, and gourds are “fairly simple” to grow and are not weather dependent unlike native heirloom plants.

“The native plants are just as much, or even a little bit more so, a part of the Cherokee culture than are the crops. The native plants are harder to deal with because most of the native plants, about 99 percent of the plants that we have over there, that’s not where they want to be. A lot of very important cultural Cherokee plants are grown in an understory, wetland-cool-type environment. We’re out in the middle of a field over there so it’s pretty tough,” Gwin said.

The Heirloom Garden was started in 2006 and produces native plants and crops important in Cherokee culture. The Cherokee Language Program ensures that the Cherokee names of the plants and crops are not lost.

Most of the plants and crops are found around the CN and North Carolina. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has shared many native plants with the CN. 

To create an account and order seed packets, visit https://secure.cherokee.org/seedbank. Follow the instructions to order. Seeds are only available to CN, United Keetoowah Band and EBCI citizens. 

For more information or to submit questions, email seedbank@cherokee.org or call 918-453-5336.

Seeds Available in 2018

Heirloom Crops

Corn (Zea mays):

Cherokee Flour – a large flour corn
Colored (multi-colored)
White
Yellow
Cherokee White Eagle – a dent corn

Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)

Cherokee Long Greasy
Trail of Tears (a small jet black bean)
Turkey Gizzard
Black
Brown

Squash (Cucurbita maxima)

Georgia Candy Roaster (a long storing squash that can be prepared as squash, sweet potatoes or pumpkin)

Gourds (Lagenaria siceraria)

Basket
Dipper
Jewel
Buffalo Gourds (Cucurbita foetidissima)

Trail of Tears Beans

Indian Corn Beans (Coix lacrima)

Tobacco

Native Tobacco (Nicotiana rustica) – ceremonial tobacco, not smoking tobacco and restricted to those at least 18 years of age

Native Plants

Buttonbush
Cutleaf Coneflower
Hearts-a-bustin
Jewelweed
New Jersey Tea
Possum Grape
Purple Coneflower
Rattlesnake Master
Rivercane
Sunchoke
Wild Senna
News Source Credit: cherokeephoenix.org

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