What does Seedy Saturday at Nana Cardoon look and sound like? A dynamic group of folks happily exchanging seed stories, history, culture, culinary usage, and growing tips. Beautiful brown seeds so tiny they could blow away, shiny black seeds large enough to reflect the sun, brittle dried pods and leaves suspended from vines filling a large bag, small neat packets displaying names like Frye’s Golden Goose and Black Star Lima … all these and more just waiting for a new garden or farm to grow in!
The inspiration for Seedy Saturday came from several trips to Sooke Harbour House to celebrate our anniversary. Owner Sinclair Phillip is very active in Slow Food Canada, and extends a special discount to Slow Food members. The cuisine at Sooke Harbour House is overseen by Sinclair and his wife Frederique, and is dedicated to local, organic, seasonal and wild foods. All items on the menus are from the Southwestern Coast of Vancouver Island.
While staying in Sooke, we attended Sooke Seedy Saturday. According to the Sooke Region Food CHI Society the event is “a family friendly day . . . featuring a seed exchange and trading table, a diverse range of seed and plant vendors, local wild harvesters and food artisans, information from local non-profits working to enhance food security and tons of educational displays featuring information on everything from composting to bees to the history of farming in the region . . .”
Started in 1990 in Vancouver, British Columbia, there are now over 100 Seedy Saturdays throughout Canada and they are spreading throughout the world. The event began as a response to the difficulty, at that time, to find heritage varieties of vegetables, fruits, flowers and grains.
What really impressed us about the Sooke event was that each of the seed companies there were represented by owners and representatives who knew the history of all the seeds they were offering. It has always been important to us to know the back-story of any seed source we might consider for the gardens and fields at Nana Cardoon, and this event provided a rich source of information in that area.
This popular Canadian event prompted us to begin an annual Seedy Saturday at Nana Cardoon, with the exchange to be held on the 3rd or 4th Saturday of February. For our event we planned to invite and share special seeds and stories from seed savers in our community and region.
Our goals are to share seeds that have a definite known history of where they have been planted, how they have been harvested, and the care that was taken with cross pollination issues. With the focus on seed history, this is how Seedy Saturday differs from a simple seed exchange.
Our second annual Seedy Saturday, held on February 21, 2015 coincided with a Slow Food Ark of Taste Oregon Committee meeting held here. The committee members enjoyed the fire pit setting for their meeting and a tasty luncheon at the outdoor table. Then the committee members were eager to meet other seed savers from the community after lunch and begin the afternoon Seedy Saturday event.
Under a cloudless bright blue sky stories were told and seeds exchanged. Interest was high and intense as one after another the history of the seeds unfolded. Locations of plantings, textures of vegetables, and where the seed originated spilled out along with the seeds. There were surprises, too. One member of the Ark Committee brought very special pepper seeds–much to the surprise of another member, who operates a well-known Seed Company, and who believed she had lost the seed source of the pepper!
Here are but a few of the seeds that were traded:
- Lupini Bean. These seeds sprouted can reach 40% protein.
- Tom Thumb Popcorn. Popular with children, the small cobs can be popped quickly in the microwave.
- Otto File Polenta Corn. This corn has been naturalized for our growing season for 12 years. You haven’t eaten polenta in you haven’t grown & ground your own.
- Black Star Pole Lima Bean. This, beautiful, smallish pole lima bean doesn’t loose its dark color when cooked.
- Tennessee Squash. A fabulous, sweet large squash propagated locally for over 30 years.
- Oregon Homestead Sweet Meat Squash. This seed heritage in nurtured by Dr. Carole Deppe.
- Yellow Cabbage Collards. During the sub freezing weather locally, these collards kept on going.
- Frye’s Golden Goose Pole Bean. This is a local (Gales Creek) heirloom bean seed purportedly from a goose’s crop.
- Makah Ozette Potato. Large fingerling shaped potatoes from the Makah Indian tribe near Ozette, Washington. This potato is on the Ark of Taste.
- Ravanello Candela di Fuoco. Fire red, candle shaped radish from Italy. This particular radish goes to seed vey quickly locally, and is a prolific producer of very tasty, crunchy, slightly spicy pods.
- Zolfini Beans. Naturalized locally for over 20 years. Bean seed originally from the Consorium Fagioli Zolfini del Prato Magno. Prolific bush variety.
Nana Cardoon Heirloom Tomato Varieties:
- Pomodorini al Piennolo
- Rio Grande
- San Marzano Piccolo
- Cuore de Toro
- Gold and Red Current
- Schimmeig Stuffing
- Principe Borghese
- Chadwick Cherry
- Sunbow Teardrop Tomato
It was a very grand Seedy Saturday!
Future Seedy Saturdays
One of the goals of future Seedy Saturdays at Nana Cardoon is to gather seed savers and their stories, and share and swap seeds with the intent of participants specializing in a crop or crops. In October, the same group would gather to barter and trade surplus and abundance. This specialization in growing would place heirloom squash in one person’s care, keeper onions in another’s, potato varieties in another’s. This annual event might be called Winter Larder Exchange.
Ideas for seed exchanges, and the sharing of growing seeds and information are endless! At Nana Cardoon we work for seed sovereignty, for supporting open pollination and heritage seeds, and for putting good seeds into the hands of farmers and gardeners to grow, eat and share long into the future.
Written by Charlene and Richard.