Planting Historic Seeds

Planting History

About five years ago while perusing one of my favorite seed catalogs, “The Whole Seed Catalog – from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds”, a black bean named, “Cherokee Trail of Tears”, caught my eye.  I’d been wanting to grow dry beans for a few years and since I grow more heirlooms than hybrids this was a meaningful choice for several reasons.  First, I like to cook black beans because of how nutritious and delicious they are and secondly, I was intrigued with their history.

Trail of Tears

“Nu na hi du na tlo hi lu i” is the Cherokee name for the Trail of Tears translated to, “The Trail Where They Cried”.  According to, “Over 20,000 Cherokees were forced to march westward along the Trail of Tears.  About a quarter of them died along the way.  Not everyone was included in Jacksonian Democracy…Jackson, both as a military leader and as President, pursued a policy of removing Indian tribes from their ancestral lands”.

“Estimates based on tribal and military records suggest that approximately 100,000 indigenous people were forced from their homes during the 1830’s, which is sometimes known as the removal period, and that some 15,000 died during the journey west.”  (

Spiritual Ritual for me



No, I am not part American Indian, as much as I would like to be able to say that I am.  But as a human being who shares this place we call, “Earth’, I bow to those before me who either deserved better treatment than they received or paved the way for my existence.  Every year when I plant the black beans now, saved and harvested from the previous season, I silently say my own prayer of hope for peace, compassion and prosperity for all.  Including wildlife, plant life, the air we breathe and the waters we partake of.

Small spaces in my community garden plots give me more room to experiment creatively.  To keep the black beans compact and growing upward I use tomato cages as you can see here.  The soil is rich with composted material I have worked in over the past few months.  Planting in a ring around the base of the cage and tossing about five in the center, ½ “ apart and one inch deep the beans usually sprout within 7-10 days

Fairy Ring

“Life is a full circle, widening until it joins the circle motions of the infinite.” Anais Nin

While the traditional meaning of the “Fairy Circle, Elf ring or Pixie Ring” is a naturally occurring arc of mushrooms and not beans, I see the circle as completing a cycle and a return to beginnings.  And the Fairy Ring, mostly in Western Europe, in myth and folklore is considered a sign of good fortune.

Here you see the Cherokee Black Beans are now sprouted and forming nice rings around the cages.  I will take more photos of them as they grow upward into the sunshine, the light and fulfill their life cycle.  You can purchase these beans – subject to availability – from Baker Creek Rare Seeds.









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