Hawaiʻi Seed Growers
Margaret Krimm Lettuce: A Story of Self-Sufficiency and Love
By Nancy Redfeather
Every seed has an amazing story that is passed down from generation to generation by those who are seed savers. Margaret Krimm, one of my Mentors and the finest Gardener I have ever known, passed away in 2016. She was born in Bavaria into a family who she said, “knew how to grow and make anything!” One of her early memories was being lifted into the large crock in the basement so she could stamp down the cabbage into sauerkraut. Growing mostly what she ate, and processing her fine Biodynamic Coffee, was a constant inspiration to me. Every time I would visit her, she would have many stories to tell about new varieties she was growing, or new agricultural ideas she was trying. I decided to name this lettuce after her to honor the legacy she left for so many gardeners that she freely mentored over the 35 years she lived in South Kona on her small organic/biodynamic farm. I am usually insistent that the variety name of something be known, honored and used, but in this case, Margaret herself couldn’t remember the name having brought the seed from Germany long ago. This is an example of how a seed can be adapted to a new environment over time, selecting the best of what came up and seeded, and saving seed over and over. This year, I grew this seed under a plastic roof, to make sure that the rain would not harm the flowers at the wrong time!
I first met Margaret in 1982 when she came into my nursery in Kona with her husband Joe. They had recently come to Kona from the high mountains of Papa New Guinea to continue farming coffee. They had purchased a fairly rocky piece of property in South Kona, had flattened the a’a lava with a D-9, and had started to create soil. This is where they would plant their coffee, build their home, and create their vegetable gardens and orchard. In order to build soil, they began dumping baskets of macadamia nut leaves from the next door farm (who was blowing all the leaves to the edges of their property) on top of the rocks, and continued to do so until hardly a rock could be seen. In later years, I would put my hand down into the composted leaf soil and marvel at this amazing feat of persistence, using the organic materials around you, and creating this partnership with Nature. Margaret made amazing compost from her coffee cherry, and her garden beds were filled with compost, no soil, only compost.
This was her favorite lettuce, which I think is a Boston Butterhead variety. It is large, fluffy, soft and lime green, and has a delicate taste. She always prepared it in the same way. She would wash the leaves separately and lay them on a towel to somewhat dry, tear them into smaller pieces over the salad bowl, add a sprinkle of a good olive oil, salt and pepper (that she grew also) toss, and eat with her lunch.
In 2016, Gingerhill Farm in Kona made a beautiful video of Margaret giving a garden tour for their Interns. You can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/171836616 As you enjoy this Margaret Krimm lettuce, consider all the amazing home gardeners that have so richly contributed to our storehouse of gardening knowledge in Hawai’i over so many generations!
By Nancy Redfeather (firstname.lastname@example.org)