We’ve broken down our planting approach into two general areas: a native mini-forest of edibles along the west side of the site and a patch of cultivated crops on the south portion of the lot. Some of the cultivated crops are also planted around the sign for visual interest and along the fence since we ran out of room on the south part of the site (and this seemed like a good place for taller crops in the sun).
Native Mini-Forest of Edibles
The trees, shrubs and groundcover in the mini-forest (still quite young of course) so far consist of:
Asimina triloba (Paw Paw), Juglans nigra (Black Walnut), Quercus macrocarpa (Bur Oak), Prunus serotina (Black Cherry), Prunus spp (Wild Plum), Carya illinoinensis (Pecan)
Sambucus canadensis (Elderberry), Ribes odoratum (Golden Currant), Rubus fruticosus (Blackberry), Rubus idaeus (Raspberry), Rhus glabra (Smooth Sumac)
Fragaria virginiana (Wild Strawberry), Viola sorona (Downy Blue Violet)
Our sources for the trees, shrubs and groundcover were Bowood Farms, Forrest Keeling Nursery, the Spring Wildflower Market at Shaw Nature Reserve (most of the plants purchased here came from Missouri Wildflowers Nursery), and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
While we learned in conversations with archaeologists and an ethnobotanist that the Mississippians did not farm the “Three Sisters,” which is a polyculture used by other Native Americans consisting of corn, beans and squash, they did cultivate a groups of plants known as the Eastern Agricultural Complex. These plants consist of Cucurbita pepo (Squash), Helianthus annus (Sunflower), Chenopodium berlandieri (Lambsquarters or Goosefoot), Hordeum pusillum (Little Barley), Polyganum erectum (Erect Knotweed), Phalaris caroliniana (Maygrass), and Iva annua (Marsh Elder). Nonetheless, we wanted to explore the Three Sisters since it is designed for the crops to mutually benefit each other, and polycultures like this represent sustainable approaches we are looking to dig into (pun intended). Also, it was difficult to find seeds for many of the plants in the Eastern Agricultural Complex, so we looked for near or distant relatives in their place, and explored some relatives more if many species were available (such as chenopodium spp), using heirloom varieties where possible. In the next couple years we would like to try to find a source for seeds of the actual species the Mississippians cultivated, if they are available.
We got most of our seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, but also from Botanical Interests, Seeds of Change, and Horizon Herbs. The following are the plants we were able to obtain seeds for and grow this season:
Helianthus annus: Sunspot, Miriam Edible Sunflower, Tarahumara White Shelled Sunflower,
Cucurbita pepo: Green Striped Cushaw Squash, Jonathan Pumpkin/Cushaw White Squash, Sugar Pie Pumpkin, Sweet Dumpling Squash, Cream of the Crop Squash
Cucurbita mixta: White Crookneck Pumpkin
Zea mays: Cherokee White Eagle Corn
Phaseolus vulgaris: Bolita Bean, Cherokee Trail of Tears, Missouri Wonder Bean
Chenopodium spp: Lambsquarters, Cherry Vanilla Quinoa,
Amaranthus spp: Hopi Red Dye Amaranth, Kerala Red Amaranth
Atriplex hortensis: Red Orach
Look for progress pictures on our Facebook page
(Also, stay tuned for more updates about events and plants on our blog and Facebook page!)