Squashing Our History: Can We Bring Back Species From Ancient Times?

Growing heirloom and even ancient seeds isn’t just a foodie pastime; someday, these ancient foods could save our supper.

[DIGEST: ArtNet News, Reuters, The Guardian]

Archaeologists discovered a cache of 800 year-old seeds on a dig near the Menominee reservation in Wisconsin, then successfully cultivated them to produce an oblong orange squash. The researchers named it “Gete-Okosomin”–or “really cool old squash” in Anishanaabe. The squash not only made the rounds on the Internet, it showed up at some local farmers markets. It’s real and reportedly quite tasty. (The now-famous squash is actually a hybrid of two different squash stories, according to the Mennonite World Review.)

Second Nexus
The once extinct Gete-okosomin squash. Credit: Source 

Edible Treasure

Ancient seeds from archeological digs have proved viable. In fact, seeds saved thousands of years ago have been successfully germinated. In 2009, a 4,000-year-old seed found in the Aegean city of Kütahya yielded a lentil plant with morphological differences from today’s lentils. Analyzing these differences could yield valuable scientific information, noted Professor Nejat Bilgen of Dumlupinar University.

An extinct tree also has been brought back to life, thanks to a jar of seeds found during excavations at King Herod’s palace in Israel during the 1960s. Judean date palm trees were widely cultivated in ancient Judea and appear several times in the New Testament. However, by 500 AD, the tree was wiped out. In 2005, scientists were able to successfully grow one tree, a male aptly named Methuselah. Scientists hope to be able to cross-breed the plant with another type of date plant to produce fruit.

Researchers in Israel have embarked on an attempt to recreate the wines of the Biblical era by germinating grape seeds found in the ruins of Jewish temples. Dr. Elyashiv Drori, an oenologist from Ariel University, hopes to extract DNA from these seeds, which represent

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