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By Joy Hought, NS/S Research & Education Program Manager and Melissa Kruse-Peeples, Conservation Program Manager. Published on January 23, 2015.

The earliest varieties of maize must certainly have had small kernels as hard as glass.
– Edgar Anderson & Hugh Cutler, Races of Maize

In many ways, popcorn growing in a farmer’s field today is an anachronism: an organism that stubbornly belongs to another time, a time not only centuries past, but millennia. Small, glassy kernels on compact little cobs were the first identifiable domesticants to emerge from corn’s wild ancestor, teosinte (Zea mays ssp. parviglumis) and haven’t changed all that much in 8,000 years. Right here in our own back yard in the Tucson Basin, some of the oldest archeological evidence of corn in North America was found dating to over 4,000 years ago. This ancient corn was similar to the modern caramel brown Chapalote flint corn but was only an inch or two in length with a very thin cob, about the size of your pinky finger. The Chapalote race of maize is still used today for pinole as well as for popping but the last few centuries the variety now produces much larger ears.

Cowpea Season

By Sheryl Joy, NS/S Seed Distribution Coordinator. Published on December 23, 2014.

‘Tis the season … when the humble cowpea has its moment of fame! For those with African-American or Southern roots, Hoppin’ John is the traditional meal on New Year's Day. There are many variations on the Hoppin’ John recipe, but one ingredient is absolutely necessary: black-eyed peas.

The Squash Chronicles, continued: Grow Winter Squash in the Summertime with this Crazy Old Trick!

By Sheryl Joy, NS/S Seed Distribution Coordinator. Published on October 28, 2014.

So what’s the trick?? All squash grows in the summer time! But squash terminology is undoubtedly a bit confusing. It’s not unusual for us here at NS/S to get questions like "What sort of winter squash should I plant in Phoenix in November?" But winter squash isn’t like winter wheat; even in Phoenix it doesn’t grow well in the cool of the year. All squash plants need the heat and long sunny days of summer to be productive. So why do we use this terminology?

Recovering and Reviving Our Original Diet

By Elizabeth Pantoja, NS/S Conservation Intern. Published September 25, 2014.

Recently I came across some great information put together by Aztec Stories that talked about the importance of including our original foods in our present diet. By this I mean eating foods that have originally grown here in this western hemisphere prior to European contact, prior to 1492. Both a group of Indigenous educators and myself were having a discussion with students about why these foods were important and many of the young students were not aware of some of these foods and had never tasted what was once a common staple of their Ancestors. The answer to why is clear.

Diversity in Amaranth

By Joy Hought, NS/S Research & Education Program Manager. Published on September 20, 2014.

A few days ago we harvested mature stalks from about 15 amaranth accessions at the NS/S Conservation Farm, in preparation for our workshop on October 4th. Melissa, our Conservation Program Manager, then creatively rigged them up back here at the seed bank, upside down in grain sacks to catch any mature seeds as they dry. In our work we talk about diversity all the time, but it’s delightful to see it so clearly in a community of plants that have been stewarded over millennia among different peoples and geographies. It sort of overtakes you when you’re standing amongst them in the field, each one with its own particular beauty.

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