First Impressions of the National Heirloom Expo

national-heirloom-expo

I made it. 2,400 miles of driving. Across Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Nebraska, Nebraska (that state never seemed to end), Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and into California. We crossed the Mighty Mississippi, ate Mexican food in the middle of nowhere Iowa, stayed with a friend and his dog in Omaha, watched tumbleweed cross the highway at the Wyoming border, walked on salt at the Bonneville Salt Flats, and navigated through the turns of Donner Pass. After all that I made it to the National Heirloom Expo in beautiful Sonoma County, California.

I stayed up in Willits, California with my wife’s grandparents, I had a 90 minute drive down to Santa Rosa, passing by vineyard after vineyard before arriving at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Got my parking spot, later realizing I could have parked a little further away (there is my frugal side coming out). As I stood in line waiting to get my pass I spotted a big celebrity for this expo – Jere Gettle – the owner and founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Seed packets, seed garlic, and much more available in the vendor hall at the National Heirloom Expo.
Seed packets, seed garlic, and much more available in the vendor hall at the National Heirloom Expo.

The first part of the expo I saw was the vendor hall. Lot of things to look at and lots of things to purchase. I was most interested in the seed companies that were there since as much I would like to, carrying bags of compost or soil amendment 2,400 miles back across the country would be hard. I enjoyed checking out the diversity of seeds available for you to grow your very own mini-expo at home.

Meet Mount Squash
Meet Mount Squash
Squash as far as the eye can see.
Squash as far as the eye can see.
Just beautiful!
Just beautiful!
All sorts of watermelon
All sorts of watermelon

Next up the exhibitor hall. Walking into this hall is a jaw dropping experience. I have seen many photos online of the exhibits in past years. They do not do it justice. The giant tower of squash greets you as you enter the door. And then there is table after table of squashes, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, watermelons…its just an all you can say is wow moment. I talked with someone from Baker Creek there and was saying how overwhelming this display would be for someone who has never read a seed catalog, never been to a farmer’s market, and only shops at the grocery store. The amount of diversity is even hard for me, who has been the last few years searching out new produce like Captain Kirk searched for new life and new civilization.

Yuxiiiangbinggua Squash. Try saying that name even once.
Yuxiiiangbinggua Squash. Try saying that name even once.

Some of the produce even came with a story. One of the more interesting ones is the Yuxiiiangbinggua (I am not even going to begin to try and say that one). As the sign indicated this squash is from China originally. They found it in Thailand being sold by a Chinese seed seller. The squash itself is sweet and is of very high quality. How amazing that seed collected in China, then found in Thailand, was able to make it to the U.S. to be grown and then appearing at the National Heirloom Expo. This squash’s journey to the expo, makes mine look like a walk down to the neighbor’s house.

Since I don’t eat raw squash I wasn’t as tempted to bite into them as I was at the table full of heirloom apples. I a huge apple connoisseur. I have reviewed over 50 varieties over on my blog, Eat Like No One Else. Here is a sampling of some of the apples on the table.

Heirloom Apples from Gold Ridge Farms
Heirloom Apples from Gold Ridge Farms
Ananas Reinette Apples
Ananas Reinette Apples
D'Ancy Spice Apples
D’Ancy Spice Apples
Sea Breeze Apples
Sea Breeze Apples

I am just beginning to touch scratch the surface to what is on display. Here are some more photos of eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. Be amazed by the rainbow of color!

Yes these are all eggplant. Different sizes, colors, and shapes!
Yes these are all eggplant. Different sizes, colors, and shapes!
Look at all the different corn seeds from Baker Creek. Way more than just the yellow and white cor you find at the grocery store.
Look at all the different corn seeds from Baker Creek. Way more than just the yellow and white corn you find at the grocery store.
Amazing selection of peppers from Full Belly farms.
Amazing selection of peppers from Full Belly farms.

Most people think garlic is just garlic. But there are many different varieties. The Garlic Guy from Los Olivos Homegrown had tables set up showing his collection of garlic. He grows about 200 different varieties!!!

The Garlic Guy shows off his wares.
The Garlic Guy shows off his wares.
No vampires at this table.
No vampires at this table.

This is just a peak of all that is available at the expo. Stay tuned for more from the expo.