Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

History - Digging for History: Resources

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

History - Digging for History: Resources

Article excerpt

Cultivate an interest in the past by growing 'heritage seeds'.

The beans on my plate have a story to tell. They are called White Tears and are direct descendants of the beans the Cherokee people took with them when they were driven from their ancestral lands in Tennessee, US. In the winter of 1838, they were forced to march a thousand miles west to new settlements in Oklahoma. It was bitterly cold. The Cherokee had little clothing and many were barefoot. Some were given used blankets from a hospital where a smallpox epidemic had broken out. Of the 13,000 who set out, about 4,000 died. The Trail of Tears, as the march has become known, remains one of the most shameful episodes in American history.

Yet the descendants of the beans they carried are crossing continents as "heritage seeds", which would make a fascinating subject for a school gardening club.

If I were more of a scientist, I might be equally intrigued by the fact that the beans on my plate are white. The original beans were black, but 5-10 per cent of their yield is white: they are a genetic throwback, or a "sport", as they are technically called. Plants grown from the white beans have a significantly higher yield than the black and the beans are bigger. …

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