5 Reasons to Love Seminole Pumpkin!

Posted by on Oct 4, 2015 in Education, Recipes, Slider | 0 comments

5 Reasons to Love Seminole Pumpkin!

Ask anyone and they’ll you, we’re obsessed with Seminole Pumpkin!

1. It tastes awesome! If you haven’t tried it, it’s like a cross between a sweet potato and butternut squash. But BETTER!

2.Savory or sweet, it goes well in any recipe like cheesecake, pie, custards, curries, soups, quiches, breads…

3. It grows so well here! The native Americans in Florida were growing this squash as far back as the 1500’s maybe even longer. It’s so well adapted here that it can grow extraordinarily well in our hot summers, resisting many pests and diseases that destroy other squashes.

4. It’s beautiful and diverse. A true heirloom, it shows a lot of diversity of shapes, sizes and colors.

5. It has great storage life, lasting anywhere from 6-12 months after harvest. So you can enjoy them as a decoration a long time before you eat them.

There’s so many ways to enjoy this delightful squash, but below are a couple of our favorites. We’ll post more later.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

This recipe has a lot of room for adjustments. You can make it spicier or add meat, use curry paste or powder. We tend to add seasonally available things like lemongrass, greens, shrimp and mushrooms. The real secret is a good homemade broth if possible, and of course Seminole pumpkin. Amounts below are approximate; we rarely measure!


1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger

1 small onion chopped

4 garlic cloves chopped

2 tablespoons red curry paste

1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

4 cups broth meat or veggie

3 tablespoons fish sauce

2 cans coconut milk

3 cups cooked, pureed Seminole pumpkin

Preparing Pumpkin

Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds, saving for growing next year or eating. Place flesh side down on a baking pan and bake about 30-60min depending on size of squash until you can easily prick the skin with a fork. Remove and allow to cool enough to handle, and puree the flesh in a food processor. Any flesh not used in the recipe can be frozen.

Sauté onion in oil till translucent, then add ginger, garlic and curry paste, sauté till golden. Add to crock pot along with broth, fish sauce and pumpkin. Cook on high for a few hours or low for 6-8. At the very end, puree the soup and return to the crockpot. Then add the coconut milk and any additional spices to taste i.e. more fish sauce, curry paste or powder, salt and pepper. You can also skip the crock pot method and do on the stove top. The crock pot allows flavors to mingle more.

Pumpkin Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups sugar

1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

2 cups pureed Seminole pumpkin

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. In large bowl with an electric mixer, at medium speed, beat butter and sugar until just blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until very light and fluffy, a few minutes. Beat in pumpkin. At low speed, beat in flour mixture until combined.

Turn batter into 2 greased 8 ½” x 4 ½” loaf pans, dividing evenly, and bake for about 65 – 75 minutes at 325, or until a knife comes out clean.

How to Store Seeds

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Education, Seed Saving | 0 comments

How to Store Seeds

Once you start gardening, it’s inevitable that you start gathering a collection of seeds. If you’re like me, the collection will start taking over some serious real estate in your house! Some may be saved from your garden, others leftover from purchased seed. When carefully stored they can last for several years and maintain good viability. It’s a worthwhile endeavor to learn to properly store your precious future food source.

Think like a seed!

A seed is a living organism, a dormant embryo waiting for optimal conditions to spring to life. These embryos gather up stored energy while growing on the parent plant. Think of a seed as a baby plant that has packed a lunch for a long trip. To keep seeds as long as possible, they need to save that lunch for germination time when they need all that stored energy to produce a healthy seedling. If it’s been kept in poor conditions, the lunch will mostly be eaten and you’ll be lucky to get a pathetic seedling if anything at all. The poor buggers may have eaten all that lunch with nothing left for germination, and they starve themselves to death.

What does a seed need to germinate? Warmth, light and moisture. So applying the opposite conditions will keep it in dormancy-cool, dark and dry. These conditions also deter harmful microorganisms and insects that can colonize seeds. Variable temperatures, light and humidity can make a seed exhaust it’s lunch, so aim for providing the most constant conditions as possible.

A general rule of thumb is to observe “the 100 rule”. Aim for conditions where the air temperature in Fahrenheit plus the relative humidity percentage total less than 100. This is hard to achieve in Florida. Even a room at 70F (that’s cold!) with relative humidity of 50% is already over 100. Humidity is the worst of two evils however, and should be kept as low as possible. Never expose seeds to conditions over 95F.

Location, Location, Location!

Florida’s heat and humidity make optimal seed storage very difficult. A hygrometer is an inexpensive little device that will show relative humidity and temperature, allowing you to find the best place to store your precious seeds. Although you may discover that it’s hard to find ideal conditions in our climate, if you are using seeds within a year or two, and frequently save or purchase new seed, you don’t need to stress too much over finding or creating perfect conditions. Be sensible. Never store seed outside, in a garage, shed or other un-conditioned space. Try not to forget them outside in your garden apron either! Keep them indoors, in the best place in your house.

A home refrigerator is a good option for storage, but keep in mind they can fluctuate in temperature and humidity quite a bit, especially if they are opened and closed frequently throughout the day. Refrigeration is probably the best option however, because the temperature and humidity are lower than in your house. Place them in the very back of the fridge where the temperature is less variable.

We don’t recommend freezer storage in Florida unless you can be certain that your seeds are reeeeally dry! If there is too much moisture the cells will be damaged by ice crystals. We don’t store ours in the freezer, we’re certain even under our best attempt at drying, that they may still have too much moisture. This is especially true of larger seeds. Tiny seeds are less likely to be affected. Another downfall of storing in home freezers is that they all have an automatic defrost cycle that causes frequent temperature fluctuations.

When pulling your seeds out to use, allow them to come to room temperature before opening the lid. This way moisture is not rapidly absorbed, giving the seeds time to adapt to the change.

Finding The Right Containers

Use airtight, moisture-proof containers like glass jars with tight fitting lids, preferably with a rubber seal like a new mason jar lid. You can place your seeds directly inside, or stack all your seed packets in there. If you think they may have absorbed moisture, you can add some silica packs or beads to the jar, roughly of equal weight to the seeds.

Once the beads turn pink indicating they are saturated, you can remove the beads, re-seal the jar and put them up for storage. We buy silica beads and re-use them over and over. When they turn pink, bake them in the oven till they’re blue again. We put them in little sachet bags to contain the bouncy little things, and so we can see when they change color. This is a fairly inexpensive option that someone with a large or very important collection might consider.

With better storage practices, your seeds will last longer than they would otherwise. It may not be perfect, but finding the best possible storage options will ensure longer shelf life.

Vegetable Seed Shelf Life

Not all experts agree on how long seeds last. Of course there are many conditions that will affect longevity, going back to how well it developed on the parent plant, to how it was kept in storage. A Way to Garden is a great garden podcast I like to listen to even though they are in a totally different growing zone, and they have a good article on the topic with a snapshot of expected shelf life below from various sources.





Fall & Winter Seed Selections!

Posted by on Aug 23, 2015 in Events, Seed Saving, Slider | 0 comments

Fall & Winter Seed Selections!

Our seeds are ready to be tucked away into your gardens this fall, so come and get em! Stay awhile, enjoy the company, learn about gardening from fellow gardeners, and find out what else is growing on in our gardening community.

When you pick up your seeds and browse through our collection, we ask that you only take those seeds that you think you will actually grow, making sure there are plenty to go around for everyone. Also keep in mind they are packaged for the average small to medium sized back yard garden. Volunteers can help you decide what’s right for you if you’re having trouble. If you are a bigger sized garden and require more seeds, talk to us about how we can help. Help us all out by reading through the seed catalog and making a rough garden plan so you know what you need!

New members are always welcome! Sign up on line or at one of our three seed dispersal events. All memberships to Forage include an annual seed subscription, the base donation of $25 gets you one full year of garden seeds. What a bargain! Consider donating a little extra to help us provide seeds for those that cannot afford them, and to continue our work of developing a regional seed hub.

CHECK OUT THE SEED CATALOG, and get excited for cool weather and gorgeous greens! If you don’t see something you’re looking for, ask Melissa. It’s possible we have it. Our collection is kind of huge but we don’t bring it all out for events.



The Farm is a Sultry Jungle!

Posted by on Aug 4, 2015 in Education, Seed Saving, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Farm is a Sultry Jungle!

While it’s true that we southern farmers take the summer off, there were a few things still growing strong that we just couldn’t till in. We’ve been playing with some interesting varieties while also trying to save seed from things, so we had to let them keep ripening.

I left to travel and learn about seeds from the experts at Seed Savers Exchange, and came back three weeks later to a farm jungle! It’s been so rainy, you can feel the moisture dripping from the air, and it oozes beneath your feet in the saturated soil. It doesn’t fair well for all seed saving attempts, but things are growing like crazy! I am always amazed at vigorous plant growth in the summer months, especially with the copious amounts of rain we’ve been getting. It’s so crazy in there, you can easily lose someone. Luffah is trying to take over the world, as is the insane African Horned Melon…not sure we’ll grow that one again! Fortunately a few of our awesome friends stopped in to harvest things and make sure nothing got too out of control.

A few of the luffahs were so saturated by rain that seeds inside the sponge were germinating!

A few of the luffahs were so saturated by rain that seeds inside the sponge were germinating!

The Aji Dulce peppers were about a foot high when Sean and I decided to shade them, the day before I left. Peppers prefer about 30% shading, and we thought it could double as an isolation barrier to prevent cross pollination with the few other peppers we have sprinkled around the field.


The Aji’s under their shade hoop house are really happy. Too happy…they are trying to escape!

These peppers are little beauties with a really interesting flavor, like none I’ve ever tried. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’s website (our seed source) describes them as “Sweet, spicy, and delicious, with only a trace of heat. Highly aromatic fruits; their flavor is unusual and complex, with overtones of black pepper and coriander, and undertones of other spicy flavors.”

They look like habanero peppers up close, but don't taste like them at all.

They look like habanero peppers up close, but don’t taste like them at all.

Meanwhile, the Seminole Pumpkins have been piling up, thanks to our good pal, Val Leitner of Blue Oven Kitchens. She’s been stacking them up in the shaded barn where they are curing for about 6-8 weeks before we scoop out the seeds and devour the delicious flesh. We planted several “varieties” given to us by different folks to mix up the genetics and keep them healthy. Quite the diversity, eh?!

The beautiful diversity of Seminole Pumpkins, a true southern heirloom cultivated by the Native Americans that lived in Florida.

The beautiful diversity of Seminole Pumpkins, a true southern heirloom cultivated by the Native Americans that lived in Florida.

The heirloom cosmos are doing wonderfully, although it was a hard decision as to whether or not I should collect their dry seeds. As you can see from the photo with the beautiful Gulf Fritillary perched for the evening, they are dry seeds that are very exposed. They’ve been getting rained on a lot, ideally you collect them when they’re nice and crispy, sun-dried. I’ll dry them out really well indoors and see how they germinate. This is one of the tricky things about “dry-seeded” crops in the south.

A Gulf Fritillary hunkers down for the evening in this great spot: cosmos seeds!

A Gulf Fritillary hunkers down for the evening in this great spot: cosmos seeds!

The Dudley Farm Dent corn, which we received from our friend Angie Minnow is doing well. This is a dent corn, meaning it is best used for cornmeal, hominy and roasting ears. Some old timers prefer the more starchy dent corns over the sweet corns. We’ll try it all when it comes in, saving plenty of seed for next year to share as well. The lovely thing about this southern heirloom is that it is planted late spring where it is able to thrive off of summer rains and no supplemental irrigation. As fall approaches and our humidity finally drops, the ears dry out on their own. Supposedly. We’ll see, it’s supposed to be a wet year as we can already tell!

Huxley guards the corn from invaders.

Huxley the corn dog! Guarding against any intruders!

I’ve never grown corn before so I am a little nervous, as the seed for this variety is very rare and has not been stewarded well over the past several years. We’re probably one of the very few people who have it. Eternal gratitude to Angie for the rescue! This is my apprehensive corn face!

OMG corn! I dont' know what I'm doing!

OMG corn! I dont’ know what I’m doing!

Finally, check out these zinnias that are STILL going with no evidence of what Anna and I call the “zinnia funk”. Zinnias always get bacterial and fungal infections by summer time, at least the tall cutting kinds like Benary’s. The dwarf Mexican types are great, and we’ve been really happy with those. But the taller kinds have always disappointed. We left these ones in because they seemed to be doing really well, and the pollinators just love them. I was shocked to see them still going strong upon my return, and showing no evidence of disease. In August! We planted them outdoors as seedlings early March. These are called Gift Zinnias, and what a gift they are! Anna brought them back from Hudson Valley Seed Library in New York last year. We’ll definitely be saving seed from these hot little things and sharing them.

The Gift Zinnias are going berzerk in August. This variety is a winner!

The Gift Zinnias are going berzerk in August. This variety is a winner!

If you haven’t already joined our awesome seed collective, you really should! We are always growing out neat things that are recommended to us by local growers to learn more about them, then save the best seeds to share. We also bulk purchase seed we can’t save from companies we trust, giving the home grower a big collection to choose from twice a year. It’s only $25/year to support us and you get awesome seeds of vegetables, herbs and flowers. It’s a great cause for you, and the community because we donate lots of seed to individuals and community and school gardens that can’t afford memberships. Everyone grows!



Passing along seeds and inspiration

Posted by on Jul 20, 2015 in Education, Seed Saving, Slider | 0 comments

Passing along seeds and inspiration

I have been living here at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa for a week; the headquarters for an amazing non-profit called the Seed Savers Exchange. I am truly humbled and amazed at the dedication, passion and kindness of the people that work and volunteer here. I have learned so much from everyone and made wonderful connections and friendships that I know will live on, much like the seeds and stories we all shared.

The mission of Seed Savers Exchange is to “conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.” As they celebrate their 40th anniversary this year, we should all give thanks to the hard work they’ve devoted to a cause that affects us all.

Every year since the organization began from very humble origins, they’ve gathered their members for an annual conference and campout. The first one back in the 70’s was a small group of the original 12 who joined the founders, Diane and Kent Whealey in Missouri where they lived at the time. This year over 200 people attended; a beautiful and lively mix of long-time members and new ones (like me!) coming from all over the country to gather around our love of seeds and sharing them. It really felt more like a family reunion than a conference!

Melissa with founder Diane Whealey in front of her lush garden. Diane is a wonderful woman of great passion, generosity and vision.

Melissa with founder Diane Whealey in front of her lush garden. Diane is a wonderful woman of great passion, generosity and vision.

Seeds and the people that grow them, share a lot in common. They are both very generous, and give of themselves something that will live beyond the individual. Each plant that goes to seed bears a tremendous gift for the attentive gardener: tens, hundreds or even thousands of seeds from one plant. When we gather those seeds the generosity is passed on to our friends, neighbors and strangers through seed swaps and yearbook exchanges like the one Seed Savers offers. The generosity of gardeners has always struck me as nothing short of amazing. We are eager to share seeds, plants, tools, advice and our time with others.

The thing about people and seeds is that we need each other. Without seeds that grow into food, fiber and flowers, we could not survive. We’ve depended on agricultural crops to feed and clothe us for thousands of years, taking them with us wherever we migrated. Over time they travelled the world and diversified in different climates and cultures, embedding themselves permanently in our lives. In exchange for their use, humans must carefully save their seeds and share them, for the plant to live on. Without stewardship of these plants, they would be unlikely to flourish on their own like their wild relatives. We need them, and they need us.

A unique display at the visitors center showing heirlom seeds and the artwork that beautifully depicts their form.

A unique display at the visitors center showing heirlom seeds and the artwork that beautifully depicts their form.

Sadly, the shift of our agricultural practices to massive operations, as well as the mass exodus from the small family farm and garden to cities, has led to the permanent loss of about 90% of our crop diversity. Let that sink in for a moment. 90% of all the beautiful and varied colors, shapes and unique flavors that fed our ancestors both long ago and just yesterday, are lost forever. That repository of genetic material that took thousands of years to develop, is gone. The secrets held in those tiny seeds that may have helped us adapt to climate change, are gone.  The delicious flavors and textures that could rescue us from the tasteless produce we have easy access to now, are gone.

But not all is lost. Fortunately because of organizations and individuals fighting back around the globe, we still have a safe repository of what’s left of our heirloom vegetable heritage. There is some great work happening with organic breeding that can address the need for seed grown in certain climates under organic conditions. Organic Seed Alliance is a major player in that field. USC Canada does tremendous collaborative work to preserve genetic biodiversity in Canada and across the globe. Then there are individuals like the super cool Greg LeHoullier, aka “the NCTomatoMan” that I had the pleasure of meeting, single-handedly taking on the challenge of breeding new tomato varieties that will be heirlooms of tomorrow. In his driveway, in pots, hundreds of varieties! There are seed libraries popping up all over the world. There is still hope, I saw it and felt it in a powerful way here at the Seed Savers conference. Thank goodness!

Eager tasters at the conference line up to sample numerous carrot and bean varieties being evaluated in test fields at Seed Savers.

Eager tasters at the conference line up to sample numerous carrot and bean varieties being evaluated in test fields at Seed Savers.

Back here at home in Gainesville, Florida we hope to become a meaningful and impactful part of this growing coalition of seed saving, by focusing on the needs of our regional climate and culture. The Southern Heritage Seed Collective that we’ve developed over the past few years with tremendous community support, will take this mission very seriously over the coming years, and we hope you will join us!


Summery Seeds

Posted by on Jul 3, 2015 in Featured, Seed Saving, Slider | 0 comments

Summery Seeds

Today was a beautiful day at the farm and we were so lucky to have some lovely people to share it with! As the season winds down for us here at the farm, we are planting cover crop seeds for the summer, replacing the crops that nourished us for the last several months: tomatoes, cucumbers, patty pan squash, watermelon, cushaws, beans and so much more!

Some of our weird experiments this year are still going strong and giving us things to look forward to like the African Horned Melon, a giant 10ft. tall luffah wall, bottle gourds and a some other odds and ends in the legume family.

The Seminole squash are going nuts as they like to do (my all-time favorite thing to grow and eat!), the Everglades tomatoes are heating up now that a real Florida summer is here, and our peppers are starting to produce.

Seminole Pumpkin diversity

Seminole Pumpkin diversity


Today we harvested all kinds of goodies that we will enjoy and save seeds from, to offer to our Southern Heritage Seed Collective members next spring. Cosmos, marigolds, zinnias, cowpeas, Seminole squash, Jamaican cushaw, Ali Baba watermelon and Everglades tomato.

The great thing is that we get to share this bounty with our friends and family, empowering them to save seeds too.


The seed drying room is very busy!

Next week, I am heading off to camp out at the Seed Savers Exchange farm in Decorah, Iowa for two whole weeks! I can’t wait to live and work with some of the most dedicated seed savers in the country and bring back to the south whatever information I can. It is our mission to provide the best possible seeds for our community that thrive in our climate and nourish the body and mind!

Peas out.

School’s Out Festival – June 6th

Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Events | 0 comments

School’s Out Festival – June 6th

Join Forage and First Magnitude Brewing Company on June 6th from 11am-3pm for the Third Annual School’s Out Local Food and Music Festival, a celebration of the beginning of summer and everything that makes our community great.

Great fun for the whole family including bounce houses, arts and crafts, live music, great beer, local food vendors, activities with local organizations, and much more! Enter into the watermelon seed spitting contest to win fun prizes and test your seed-spitting skills or buy a drawing ticket to win one of the many door prizes provided by local businesses and organizations. Bring the whole family but PLEASE leave your pets at home!

Tickets on sale now – 5$ for kids, 10$ for adults, and $30 family pass (2 adults and up to 4 kids)!  Click here to purchase!

Featuring food from:
Humble Pie Gainesville
Sweet Dreams of Gainesville FL.
FED Food Company
The Cookie Parlor
ChewBox Co.
Sara’s Seasonings

Enjoy live music by:

Corporal Captain
Boiling Oil
Endless Pools
Michael Claytor
The Swamp Cats

Parking for event is on Main St – Backstage Lounge and Winn Dixie have offered up their lots.  Please park there and enter the event at the entrance to First Magnitude that is accessible from Main St. It is just South of the 11th Block, and next to Continental Imports.


Thanks to our sponsors – First magnitude Brewing Co., Bouncing Big, and Lucky’s Market!

All proceeds benefit Forage Farm’s programming and community efforts. For more information and updates, visit
Join us June 6th and take a bite out of summer!

Wildflower Field Day May 2nd 11am-2pm

Posted by on Apr 29, 2015 in Events, Featured | 0 comments

Wildflower Field Day May 2nd 11am-2pm

Join us at Forage Farm for a fun and informative day all about native wildflowers and pollinators!

10-11am: Terry Zinn from the Florida Wildflower Cooperative “10 Easy Wildflowers Presentation and Field Walk” followed by a demo of a wildflower seed harvester. Forage planted a wildflower meadow last fall and things are sprouting! See an early successional field and learn how to establish a wildflower garden at home!

11-12pm: Dr. Cory Stanley- Stahr “Wild Pollinators” talk. Learn about the importance of wild pollinators and what you can do to help support their populations.

12-1pm: Wild pollinator house building workshop. Suggested $20 fee, email melissa@foragefarm.orgto reserve your spot. On-site sign ups will be first come first serve depending on materials available.

12-1pm: DIY seed balls with native wildflowers.

Ongoing kids activities: scavenger hunt, painting and more! Wildflower seeds and plants will be for sale, all proceeds benefiting the programs of Forage!

The Farm is located on the beautiful Prairie Creek Preserve -7204 SE CR 234.  Please do not use GPS it is incorrect.  You can find it on google maps, or print the map located here.


The Conch March Theme: Gardening and Farming

Posted by on Mar 1, 2015 in Events | 0 comments

The Conch March Theme: Gardening and Farming


Come join Forage as we partner up with The Conch-Gainesville’s True-storytelling Project, Swallowtail Farm, The Porters Community Garden, and Florida Organic Growers to share our stories on the theme, “Gardening and Farming.” We know we’ve all had those funny, frightening, fun, and freeing times while we’re out doing what we love most: working with dirt and food! Come on out for a great time, some good food, and very relatable stories.

When: Tuesday, March 3rd, 7-9pm

Where: Lightnin’ Salvage (the back area of Satchel’s Pizza)

Visit our partners’ websites here:

Grow Radio

Porters Community Farm
Swallowtail Farm
Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers

Satchel’s Pizza



Farm to School to Work Program

Posted by on Feb 28, 2015 in Education, Featured, Slider | 0 comments

Farm to School to Work Program

The Alachua County Farm to School to Work Program located at Loften High School is a place where students can learn about the food system by experiencing it. What began as a joint venture between the Food and Nutrition Department (FNS) and the Exceptional Student Education Department (ESE) of the Alachua County Public Schools has grown into a vegetable-producing machine, providing 150 heads of lettuce weekly for use in school salads, as well as a number of other vegetables appearing on the weekly menus. Students are gaining horticultural skills and are able to interact with each other and the community in an empowering way. The Farm to School to Work Hub is working, and students are receiving valuable training in horticulture, food production, food safety, and nutrition.

Forage is proud to be a collaborator on this project. With the support of the community, we can continue to make it bigger, better, and impact even more students and families in an incredible way.

Click here to donate!