NPR

How A Seed Bank Helps Preserve Cherokee Culture Through Traditional Foods

The seeds are free for any Cherokee, but recipients have been limited because demand is so high. Collecting the seeds has been difficult and emotional, but the program has helped unify the community.
Cherokee Nation Cultural Biologist Feather Smith-Trevino holds an unripe Georgia Candy Roaster Squash at an educational garden in Tahlequah, Okla., where traditional native plants are grown. Source: Courtesy of the Cherokee Nation Seed Bank

Charles Gourd's garden is so big that before he installed irrigation, it could take three hours to water everything by hand. He grows beans and cucumbers that wind up archways you can walk underneath and pluck the ripe vegetables as though they're growing in thin air.

"I like the basics, the Three Sisters — corn, beans and squash," he says. "In order for it to taste right, you have to cook a bunch of it — it means you have to have your family and friends there." He describes making a pot of beans, adding a little bit of hickory nut meat, then some corn hominy and squash. "You boil that up real good, and the more times you boil it, the better it tastes."

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