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Growing Black Beans Called Cherokee Trail of Tear Beans

Have you ever thought about growing black beans? If you live in Western North Carolina, you might enjoy growing Cherokee Trail of Tear Beans!

I am very excited about this year’s Slow Food Asheville’s Heritage Food Project ! Our whole community has been invited to grow an heirloom bean variety called the Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean. The bean gets its name comes from the forced relocation of the Cherokee Indians in the 1800’s, and has been featured in Slow Food’s Ark of Taste for its culinary value as well as its rarity and historical story. You can read more about the Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean in the Ark of Taste.

As a registered dietitian nutritionist in Asheville, NC and a former college professor who taught a course on food and culture for nearly 10 years, learning about food is right up my alley! I love the fact that this little bean came all the way from North Carolina to Oklahoma and now it is back again! I grew up in Missouri near the Oklahoma border so it is a great pleasure for me to be part of a community preserving this beans heritage in North Carolina!

Why should we worry about saving a bean? There is so much research out there pointing to the importance of saving heritage seeds in order to protect our cultural heritage but also it may be of greater importance to save it to maintain the genetic diversity in our diet. According the Rural Advancement Foundation International there has been a rapid extinction of heirloom seeds which means less genetic diverse foods for us to eat. Which means less choice in nutrition. Many varieties that are now available in most grocery stores are chosen for their ability for high yield and traveling a long distance travel and sit awhile in storage. The varieties selected are not always picked for their flavor or nutritional value and definitely not their cultural heritage or diversity. That is why it is so exciting for me when home gardeners and local farmers have such a wide variety of seeds available that has come from smaller seed companies like Asheville’s Sow True Seeds and several others out there. I also love the fact that one of Slow Food’s missions is to preserve our local food heritage and seed diversity.

Asheville Slow Food will be celebrating the Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean by inviting our community to grow them and share the experience growing and using the bean. Sometime this fall everyone who grew the bean will be invited to a “Bean Celebration”, with a potluck using these special beans!

The Slow Food Asheville’s Heritage Food Project partnered with locations across Western North Carolina to make seed available for home gardeners and farmers at no cost to them. The seeds are now to be hard to get and time to plant them is almost past but it will be exciting to hear how it all went and I hope that the Cherokee Trail of Tears Bean becomes a mainstay of my community and others across the United States. Those of us who did not get them planted can always plant them for next year now that we know about them!

taco fixins

Here is another post from when Slow Food Asheville grew Cherokee purple tomatoes for the Heritage Food Project:

3 Best Tomato Sandwiches You Will Eat! (

As a registered dietitian nutritionist in Asheville, I use food and behavior change to help people well. If you are new to the Vine Ripe Nutrition blog! Welcome and I hope that you stay tuned to more healthy tidbits. You can stay tuned to the latest by signing up for my blog and newsletter! I look forward to you coming back soon!

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