Last week the harvest moon was full, advising mankind that the season for gathering has arrived.
The biggest step forward in agriculture came not with the invention of the plow or combine, but when our distant ancestors gathered what seeds they could, stored the surplus and discovered that spilled seeds reproduced. This suggested that by planting surplus seeds they could grow food for their future needs.
Today our nation’s most important harvest is corn. Technically known as maize, corn grows into many forms. Corn syrup, cooking oil, animal fodder, tortillas and grits, Southerners’ favorite breakfast, are among over 3,000 recognized uses.
American Indians, teaching European settlers how to survive, showed them how to plant the “three sisters” survival crop. First bury a fish – menhaden, alewife or shad harvested from the spring fish run – as fertilizer, and plant the seed corn, along with bean and squash seeds. The corn stalk supports the bean, whose roots provide nitrogen; the squash (or pumpkin) supplies sheltering shade for the three sisters.
This year, the nation’s corn crop is diminished by drought, but so far North Carolina growers are doing fine. However large the harvest, the seeds of agriculture will sustain us for another year.