I love it when heirloom varieties are named after one of the people in the line of seed-saving gardeners who passed down the seed. It always feels like an opportunity to give thanks for all of the growers of food that came before us.
Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash (a couple of which are pictured in my grateful hands above) is such a variety. We grew this lovely winter squash this year, described by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange as a "family heirloom from Thelma Sanders in Adair County, Missouri." Southern Exposure introduced the Thelma Sanders squash in 1988, and now its available from a number of sources, including Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange.
Thelma Sanders has been our favorite squash this summer. With its lovely teardrop shape and caramel-cream colored skin that develops faint freckles as it ripens, its luscious and smooth pale orange flesh, its creamy texture and subtly sweet flavor, Thelma Sanders has stolen our hearts.
As we've savored the taste of this beautiful and delicious heirloom, I've been filled with gratitude for Thelma and all of her seed-saving predecessors who gave us this particular squash variety. With each mouthful, I imagine my circle of gratitude widening to include all of our seed-saving, plant-growing, earth-tending ancestors.
So here's to cultivating gratitude, appreciation, and thanks-giving as we cultivate our gardens: Thelma Sanders, Presente!
"Presente," which literally means "here" or "present" in Spanish is used in some parts of Latin America as an expression to invoke, honor, or celebrate the presence of someone who is not physically present. Being involved with Latin American solidarity and peace and justice movements over the years, I learned the expression "Presente!" as a way to give thanks for and honor an ancestor, a martyr, or a person whose spirit or memory is being evoked with respect and appreciation. It often seems an appropriate expression when holding a fruit or vegetable whose very existence can be traced to specific people's stewardship of living things.