DARKE COUNTY — Each growing season – this being the eighth one – the Heritage Garden near the log house at Shawnee Prairie Preserve features “The Three Sisters.” In other words: corn, beans and pumpkins or squash.
Again Bloody Butcher corn has been planted. It is a reliable heirloom variety which grows eight to ten feet tall and produces large ears of mottled deep red corn suitable for grinding into corn meal. Different for the garden this year is Abenaki Indian corn from the early eighteen hundreds reputed to have grown in New England during the year of little summer, 1816, following the eruption of the Mount Tambora Volcano the year before.
Lazy Housewife stringless, green pole beans will twine up the corn stalks. First available in 1810 – within the time frame of the Heritage Garden – the old reliable variety got its name because the stringless beans meant less work for the housewife. When harvested young, they make a flavorful green bean. Allowed to dry on the vine, they can be gathered for later use as shelly beans.
Long Island Cheese Pumpkin may be repeated due to its reliability from seed saved by one of the Olde Thyme Gardeners. The fruit’s flattened shape and ribbed light skin resemble a wheel of cheese which would have been a common sight in early American markets. The species, cucurbits moschata, has been featured in the Victory Garden at the Smithsonian Museum as a salute to the War of 1812. The pumpkins keep well in a cool, dry cellar if picked before frost. The deep orange, seedless flesh makes rich pie.
The garden is not all work and no play. The self-seeding spinner gourds the children used as toys made a come-back. Hollyhocks have been replanted outside the fence as ornamentals. The flowers make fanciful dolls. Purple Coneflower, a native prairie perennial which originally grew wild in the area, has been added.
Lemon cucumbers also returned. New to the garden this year is the herb Rue. Unfortunately many of the past perennial herbs did not survive the harsh winter. Perennial herbs will be replanted using funds earned from the “Herbal Reflections” spring workshop.