As you know, redmold is a fungus that attacks food crops. It spreads through windblown brick red spores and thrives in years when there is a wet winter followed by a warm, dry spring. 2573 had such a spring, and soon most of the crops on the continent were covered by a half centimeter coat of dusty red fuzz. The winter's stores were nearly depleted, and while emergency relief efforts might suffice to keep most of the villagers alive, they could not hope to all remain healthy. Redmold causes hallucinations when eaten; every day more and more people had to be restrained and brought raving to the clinics.
Georgette noted that many plants native to Creek had natural defenses against redmold, and began researching a way to breed resistance into our non-native food crops.1 Although it proved impossible to cross native and non-native plants, she did isolate the redmold deterrent produced by Creek natives and she made one other surprising discovery.
Some of the native plants classed as "poisonous" contained only small quantities of toxin in their fruit. She discovered many plants in which the leaves were deadly while the fruit was edible, with edible leaves and poisonous stems, or otherwise having part but not all of the plant edible. She shared her findings with the Grandmother of Hilltop. Grandmother Stephanie confirmed Georgette's discoveries and proposed an experiment.
Harvesters were quickly trained and sent out to gather non-poisonous native plants, volunteers requested, and one quarter of the population of Hilltop selected to participate in the experiment. The bean cake and hard cheese diet of the volunteers was supplemented with the native foods. While a vinegar nettle and dandelion salad with jazzberry dressing may not sound appetizing to you, the villagers of Hilltop were hungry enough to eat almost anything.
Although several of the volunteers experienced allergic reactions, by the end of a month it was clear that those supplementing their diets with native foods were healthier overall than those subsisting entirely on emergency rations. The Wisewomen of the continent were quickly informed, and more harvesters were trained. Recipes incorporating the new foods were written; Georgette herself is credited with the invention of jazzberry liqueur and vinegar nettle gumbo.
Thus the redmold famine of 2573 was the least and last of the great redmold famines, and thus did Grandmother Georgette Cook earn her name and title.