Uncle Jim Shutt’s Cucumber Seed
A family with deep Moravian roots in the Winston-Salem area shared their heirloom cucumber seed with Old Salem Horticulture in March 2014. A family heirloom from at least the 1870s, and likely earlier, this cucumber has been grown over multiple generations in the local area. The Shutts were early members of Friedberg Moravian Church, having bought land in Wachovia in the 1770s. “Uncle Jim,” the seed’s namesake (James Casper Shutt, 1845-1911), has ancestry including other early Friedberg families: Foltz, Boeckel, Rothrock. The origin of the seed is unknown.
The family remarked that this was the only cucumber they planted growing up (and now) and that the seeds remain viable for a long time. Seeds produce hearty plants with 3-4 inch white and green fruits on different vines. The cucumbers are delicious fresh and are also used for favorite family recipes: Icicle Pickles and grape leaf pickles. For this family, cucumber seed was saved at the end of the summer from the fruit nearest the root, and the seed cucumbers were “laid under a tree for a bit.” They didn’t realize it was special to save seed but “thought everyone did.”
During P. Allen Smith’s visit to Old Salem in May 2014, Allen helped Eric Jackson of Old Salem Horticulture to plant Uncle Jim Shutt’s cucumber seeds in the Single Brothers Garden. The family visited in late July to view the plants and were impressed with their health and growth. The cucumbers were allowed to fully mature on the vine, the fruit was harvested in late summer, and seed has been saved by Old Salem Horticulture. So the circle continues…