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Saving Seeds, Saving Stories: Sowing a New Generation of Growers: Paul Hodgson


Paul Hodgson has lived in Ashe County all of his life and farms land in the Buffalo community that has been in his family for generations. Paul primarily grows Christmas trees, but he also grows vegetables, including several heirloom varieties. He has donated seeds from two heirlooms to the Ashe Victory Garden—the Hodgson Cucumber and a white meal corn called Hodgson Two-in-the-Hill. He also grows an heirloom oxheart tomato.

The Hodgson Cucumber seed has been in his family for generations. As far as Paul is aware, the only name they go by is the Hodgson Cucumber, but he says they actually come from his grandmother on his father’s side, Lenna Bare, and she originally got them from her mother, Lucy Treadway. Paul says they are excellent cucumbers for just eating fresh, which is his favorite way to use them, but they are also good for pickling. They are dark green with a lighter skin on the underside and can grow to be about 8 inches long. But the best length to use them, in his opinion, is between 4 to 6 inches long. Like most cucumbers, they have little black spikes on the outside. He has pickled them as well, and his favorite type of pickle to make with them is a brined pickle.

“You put down a layer of grape leaves in a crock, and a layer of cucumbers, and then keep on layering like that. Then fill it up with a salt and water brine. Weight it down and let them sit a while. They don’t need to be sealed in jars."

He doesn't use dill but acknowledges that you probably could. His mother makes refrigerator pickles with them, too, but Paul’s favorite are the brined pickles.

Another heirloom vegetable that Paul likes to grow is the white meal corn called Hodgson Two-in-the-Hill (or maybe three-in-the-hill). This seed also came from his dad’s side of the family. The Hodgsons used to run a little store in the Buffalo community from the early 1940s until the mid-1970s. This store had a small mill where they ground their own two-in-a-hill corn, as well as grinding corn other farmers grew and brought to them. You could eat the smaller ears fresh, but most folks harvested it for drying and grinding. They would cut it in October and pile it in shocks, then let it sit in the field for one to two months. After that, they gathered the stalks, twisted the ears off, and stored them in the corn crib until they wanted to shuck it and use it. Nowadays, most of the small neighborhood stores are gone, and it is almost impossible, according to Paul, to find a place to grind your dried corn into meal. As far as he knows there is no place left in Ashe County to get your corn ground. 

Hodgson Two-in-the-Hill "is a dent corn and about 90% of it is solid white ears, about 7-8% is white with red speckles, and the rest could be solid red ears. When they would get together at corn-shucking parties back then, if you got a solid red ear, you could kiss the girl of your choosing.”  

An heirloom tomato that Paul likes to grow is the Oxheart. It got its name from its shape, which he explained is not shaped like a Valentine heart, but actually like a human or ox heart. It is a medium to large tomato that is pinkish in color. Paul enjoys this tomato and saves the seed so that he can grow it year after year. It is not a pretty tomato, which may be why you can’t find it in grocery stores, but it is a very tasty tomato and a popular one in Ashe County.  

Paul is also very fond of a little “Tommy-toe” tomato that he calls the C.G. Green tomato. His family got the little cherry tomato plant from the owner of the WJ Hardware Store in West Jefferson before he died. His name was Mr. C.G. Green, and according to him, it had been in his family for some time. Paul says it is ”just a small, perfectly round red tomato with the best taste. It is a pretty little plant, too, and it re-seeds itself.”

Beans are a favorite crop to grow in Ashe County, and Paul has his preferred heirloom varieties of those, too.

“All people here want are half-runners, but pole beans are the ones with the good flavor.”

He especially recommends the Turkey Craw pole beans, and he agrees that the pink tip bean is good also. His family eats the Turkey Craw as green beans, picking them while the seeds inside are still small, stringing them, and then cooking them, pods and all. But he said you can let them mature on the vine and use them dried, too, just like the pink tips.

Paul has a great respect for the heirloom varieties of vegetables, which is why he saves his seeds to plant every year. Although he admits that sometimes the heirlooms are harder to grow because they are not as disease-resistant as newer hybrids, Paul says he would hate for those varieties to be lost forever. They are part of Ashe County’s heritage and need to be preserved as part of our past.

Interview with Paul Hodgson by Brenda Smith 1/17/23

Paul Hodgson's Interview Transcript



This project is funded in part by a grant from South Arts’ In These Mountains, Central Appalachian Folk Arts and Culture initiative.

Photographer: Jay Wild

Interviewer: Brenda Smith