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‘Extinct Squash’ Grown From 800-Year-Old Heirloom Seeds

'Extinct Squash' Grown From 800-Year-Old Heirloom Seeds

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A species of squash believed to be extinct has been grown from 800-year-old seeds found at an archeological dig.

A group of students in Winnipeg, Canada, proved that heirloom seeds can be viable even if they have been buried for centuries. They had a feast in September to celebrate the discovery.

“There was an archeological dig on First Nations (Native) land in Wisconsin and they found a clay vessel about the size of a tennis ball, and in that vessel they found seeds,” Brian Etkin, the coordinator of the Garden of Learning, told APTN News.

Etkin helped a group of First Nations students grow the squash from the seeds and then eat some of it.

The seeds are those of what was dubbed “Gete-okosomin,” a variety of squash no one had seen or eaten for centuries. Archeologists found the seeds during a dig on the Menominee Reservation near Green Bay, Wisconsin, in 2008, The Chicago Tribune reported.

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“They found a clay ball, (used) for storing seed,” Susan Menzel of Chicago’s American Indian Center told The Tribune. “It was carbon-dated to 850 years ago.”

‘Really Cool Old Squash’

The seeds were given to Winona LaDuke, an advocate of heritage seeds and food independence for Native people. LaDuke has been trying to supply the seeds to Native groups throughout the United States and Canada.

Gete-okosomin translates to “really cool old squash,” The Tribune reported. The planting results have been very impressive, according to gardeners.

“I planted four seeds,” Menzel said of squash she planted on Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe reservation near Hayward, Wisconsin, in 2013. “By July the vines were more than 25 feet long. … By the time we were done we had two dozen (squash). The largest was 3 feet long, 18 pounds.”

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Food independence and local food are important issues to Native Americans because of their history. During the 19th century the United States government was able to end Native American resistance on the frontier by destroying their food supplies. This forced the tribes onto reservations, where many of them were dependent on government handouts for food.

The successful cultivation of Gete-okosomin proves that heritage seeds are a viable food source that can survive centuries.

Those interested in long-term food storage and survival should learn a lesson from our Native American forefathers.

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