An archaeological dig on the First Nation’s Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin yielded some unexpected results when a clay vessel about the size of a tennis ball was uncovered. After carbon dating, it was revealed that the pot was over 800 years old and contained a variety of seeds from a species of squash believed to be extinct. A group of Canadian students decided to test the viability of these ancient heirloom seeds that had been buried for centuries. The result? An ancient, extinct squash was grown!
Named “Gete-okosomin” which roughly translates into “Big Old Squash” or “Really Cool Old Squash” the largest specimen grown from the seeds was an impressive 3 feet and 18 pounds. This “cool” squash symbolizes much more than just a vegetable however–it represents a time in history and a community where food was a right of citizenship. It serves as a reminder that the vegetables and fruits seen in the grocery store today are just a fraction of the varieties that exist, and cataloguing seeds is a wonderful way to ensure that these plant varieties continue to survive. Thanks to the ancient indigenous people who put the seeds in the vessel, hundreds of years ago, this squash variety will not be lost to history.
The successful cultivation of Gete-okosomin proves that heritage seeds can survive over centuries and still remain a viable food source; we can learn a lesson in long-term food storage from Native American forefathers.